Home buyers often set themselves up for a stressful situation: Too loose of criteria equaling too many homes to see. With foreclosures, short sales and traditional sellers with houses on the market, there are hundreds of homes on the proverbial real estate shelves! As a REALTOR® in the Twin Cities north metro (Forest Lake, Ham Lake, Blaine and Lino Lakes areas), I have had a number of overwhelmed potential buyers approach me with some very loose home selection criteria. Our first conversation might sound a little like this: "Teri, I am willing to go anywhere for a single family home under $250,000. I just need a couple of bedrooms and a garage anywhere between Anoka and Lindstrom. Heck, I would even consider one of those townhomes, if the price was right."
The problem here is that with this type of open-mindedness, homebuyers could have literally dozens of homes available to choose from. While this might sound like a good thing, when faced with a plethora of choices, the amount of homes will be overwhelming to the buyer going it alone.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website, the average buyer sees 15 homes before writing an offer on a home. In my experience this is a fairly accurate estimate. Most buyers begin to tire of the whole process after seeing a dozen homes. All of the homes start to look alike and become a jumble in their mind.
As we start to enter a more balanced market, how do you narrow down the list and focus on the best homes for YOU?
- Write down what you must have in a home. Need a 3 car garage? Want a gas fireplace and hardwood floors? Can't live without a full finished basement? Would die without central air conditioning? Write down those must haves and weed out the homes that don't fit.
- Select a neighborhood, area or school district. If you must be within 10 miles of work or your kids want to be in the same school district, use this parameter to define your search area.
- Work with a knowledgeable agent. By working with an experienced agent, my clients are able to get that list of homes down to a manageable level in short order. Although many internet searches have become very detailed, they are still not as detailed as the ones used by licensed agents. The closest public internet home search that will allow you to search like a REALTOR® is Listingbook. But in order to use the Twin Cities version of Listingbook, you must sign up through a licensed agent. This search allows you to set up your very own detailed searches that meet specific wants and needs.
It doesn't cost buyers anything to work with an agent. Our fees are traditionally paid for by the seller. But a REALTOR®'s service can be invaluable by saving the homebuyer time and frustration.
As a case in point, I had a client that was looking for homes in vast area of Anoka County. She originally told me that she wanted to be in Elk River but Wyoming and Stacy in Chisago County would also be considered. She was willing to spend up to $250,000 and do some work on the home. She was needed at least three bedrooms, two baths and a garage but getting a good deal was paramount.
When we set the initial search using a map search, price point and bedrooms alone, she had nearly a hundred homes to choose from. After a first day showing homes, I learned from this client that a master suite was a "must have" and any foreclosure home in severe disrepair was not to be considered. She really didn't want to be anywhere near Elk River or Anoka County. She wanted to be within minutes of Forest Lake and 35 and have a wooded backyard. After re-setting the search and reviewing the homes, I emailed my client 6 single family homes that met her needs. We saw all six for showings. After one day of viewing homes, she was ready to write an offer on one of the homes we saw. It met her needs perfectly!
Had this client chose to go it alone, she would have been overwhelmed, distracted and frustrated running to several homes that she really didn't want to buy. By setting specific criteria and using my expertise as an experienced agent, the number of homes quickly became a manageable amount. The buyer remained focused and was able to define her concept of an ideal home.
So what happens to the homebuyer that feels there are no homes that are meeting all of the required criteria? Remember, no home will ever be 100% perfect. If too many wants are specified, there may not be a home that will ever measure up. If the list of homes available is too short, see if any of the "must haves" are really necessary.