The time has come when you have decided that it’s time to put down roots – permanent ones. You’ve been actively house hunting on your favorite real estate website and have made a list of the ones that look promising. So when do you reach out to a real estate agent and begin looking in person? And how many properties should you view before making an offer?
How many houses you see is usually a function of the kind of buyer you are when it comes to three pieces of criteria:
- How clearly you explain what you're looking for.
- Your flexibility when it comes to details outside a must-have list.
- The current state of the housing market.
Clarity in Your Vision
If you know what you want, it will be easier for an agent to identify and propose properties. But if everything sounds good and your list of details you want in a home covers a wide range of possibilities, then more time will need to be devoted to the education process.
Limited time can help narrow down your search more than you may think. That was the case for a couple from overseas returning to the town that they had left two years earlier. They were extremely detailed in determining their wish list, including the geographic location within the town, square footage of house, style and age of home, minimum and maximum acreage and amount of work that they were willing to take on. This specificity made it very easy to identify properties, and in two house tours they found something they were excited about.
There are also buyers at the other end of the spectrum, with a rather hazy sense about their criteria in a home. With these buyers, it's important that they take the time to educate themselves on the market and the community if they're new to the area.
Your Fussiness Factor
There are varying degrees of compromise that buyers are willing to make in finding a home. Some want everything that they have articulated in their list of priorities and some are more flexible, managing to see the potential in a number of different options. The more committed you are to a specific vision for your home, the longer it will likely take to find the right home for you.
Here’s a secret that can take years to sink in: Rarely, if ever, do you find a home that 100% meets your criteria. Regardless of your price range, there are trade-offs to be made.
The Hotness of The Market
If you're looking in a geographic location or a price segment that is considered to be a buyer’s market – with low housing inventory levels and properties selling quickly – be careful of adopting a “grass is always greener” mentality, figuring that something better is probably going to come to the market. You don't want to let a property you like quite a bit pass you by, only to reference it with every other property that you later consider.
Falling in property love aside, the three elements reviewed can influence how many homes you end up seeing before you decide to make an offer on a property.
Having said all this, there is a situation that trumps everything. That is: “I love it and I want it.” Sometimes, it can happen when you drive up the driveway or walk through the front door. A previous homebuyer told her husband that she knew it was the house for them only seeing one other in the town and not even getting out of the car. It’s rare, but it happens. In this case, it doesn’t matter if you’ve seen one, 10 or 100 properties, you just know this is where you are meant to be.
So, what’s the magic number of homes to see before you make an offer? The honest truth is, there isn’t one. See as many properties that you need to in order to feel comfortable and confident that you have thought through what you want and what you need, and that you feel educated on the community and the current real estate market there. While you want to be thoughtful and careful in your decision, it is a home as well as an asset. Being excited about the place that you choose is also something that helps you know you are making the right decision.
Are these must-haves on your list?
One of the first steps you take when deciding you want a new home is determining what you need in order to be happy there. The list of your must-haves can get long, and you reasonably can’t expect to find a house that perfectly matches all your criteria. “Someone has a list of 10 things – if they can find a house that has seven or eight of those, they’re doing pretty good,” says Jeff Plotkin, a Texas-licensed Realtor, attorney, certified public accountant and vice president of Habitat Hunters Inc. in Austin, Texas. Deciding what needs win out in your next home search can be tough, but there are a few key features and amenities many buyers seem unwilling to live without.Right in your price range
Right in your price range
Being able to afford your new home is a given, but buyers are often faced with having to choose between stretching their budget to have the master suite they want or having more reasonable monthly mortgage payments. Price often wins out in the end – you’re less likely to enjoy that master suite if you’re eating soup and foregoing vacations for the next five to 10 years to pay it off. In the 2018 National Association of Realtors Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report, home affordability was one of the three most important factors for respondents who recently purchased a home – behind only quality of the neighborhood and a location's convenience to work.In your preferred location
In your preferred location
Homebuyers care a lot about being able to get from point A to point B – as well as points C, D and E. Your future neighborhood can dictate what school your kids go to, how long it takes to get to work and how easy it is to stop at the grocery store when you forgot an ingredient for dinner. Plotkin says buyers put a lot of stress on where the house is, rather than what’s in the house itself. They’re looking for “proximity to schools, shopping, entertainment, public transportation,” he says.Interior over curb appeal
Interior over curb appeal
A handsome exterior keeps potential buyers from quickly driving away, but insight from new construction marketing site HomLuv.com reveals that it’s the interior that most often serves as the deal-maker. HomLuv’s website allows homebuyers to begin their search for a new home from the room they care about most, whether that’s the kitchen, living room or master bathroom. The one part of the house people don’t seem too worried about? Outside. In the roughly two months since HomLuv launched, “no one has chosen to look at exteriors first,” says Mark Law, vice president of product management for BDX, a home builder marketing company and parent company of HomLuv.The right number of bedrooms
The right number of bedrooms
While the interior of the home allows more wiggle room to compromise on your needs, there are some details that buyers must have. The right number of bedrooms would be the big one. Family expansion is often a primary reason homeowners start looking for a new house, so leaving out that extra room would defeat the entire purpose of the sale. According to the NAR report, 85 percent of homes purchased by respondents in 2017 had three bedrooms or more.Window treatments for reference
Window treatments for reference
Staging matters in a home. As much as we think we can picture how a vacant house will look with our own furnishings and decor, at the end of the day we need some suggestions. Law says builders will include big picture windows in bedrooms or over the tub in a master bathroom to let in natural light, but if the photos show the space without curtains or blinds, house hunters will inevitably see a design flaw. “They’ll say, ‘I’m not an exhibitionist,’” he explains. To avoid turning homebuyers off, window treatments should be included in listing photos and for home tours.Move-in ready
The condition of the home you shop for often goes hand in hand with your budget and the neighborhood you hope to live in. If your budget is at the lower end of the price range in the hottest community in town, you’ll likely find yourself buying a house that needs a little love. If your budget doesn’t restrict it, chances are you’ll have your pick of properties that have been turned by real estate investors. “The [buyer] demand is for 100 percent move-in ready condition,” says Bobby Montagne, CEO of Walnut Street Finance, a private money lender focused on home flipping in markets in Virginia, North Carolina and the District of Columbia metro area.Possible to picture your vision
Possible to picture your vision
Even if you’re one of the detractors who prefers a fixer-upper, it’s still necessary to be able to envision how the space will look once you’ve added your personal touches. Based on reactions from HomLuv users, details as small as the cabinet color in a photo can change the way a person thinks about a house. Law says he’s found preferences differ from region to region – darker cabinets may see more love in the South, while in California the preference is for white kitchen cabinets. “You could offer a free puppy and free pots and pans with the house, but if the cabinets are dark they still don’t want it,” he says.Warranty available
For newly built homes and those that have been recently flipped with significant work, you want to know that the professionals involved stand by their work. New construction homes often come with a warranty from the builder or the option to get a third-party warranty, and you should ask the investors involved with a flip for the same level of protection. “A good builder [or] a good flipper does not have a problem with that,” Montagne says. If an issue arises within the life of the warranty related to the workmanship, you can rest easy knowing you’re covered financially for the repairs.Potential for value growth
Potential for value growth
Your home isn’t just where you’ll live – it’s also an investment. There are a few easy decisions you can make that reduce the chances of losing out on potential growth in value over time, whether that means buying in a neighborhood where home values are steadily growing, finding a home in a desirable school district or avoiding living next to a strip mall. “When you’re buying a house, you’re not only buying it for yourself, you’re buying it for resale,” Plotkin says. “So most people are not going to want to back up to commercial [property] or a busy road.”Read More
Kencel's deep roots in the worlds of interior design and historic preservation give her a unique perspective on every home, whether preparing their homes for sale or evaluating the strength of a home under consideration.
As a six-time national ballroom champion, Kencel is chair of the Greenwich Historical Society’s Landmark Recognition Program, a member of the First Selectman’s Economic Advisory Council, and board member of the Town’s public relations campaign, Think Greenwich.