Below I've listed a summary of the 10 tips, tricks and lessons that my husband and I learned while looking for a house after we decided to move during the early spring of 2020, or the very beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic. In case you missed my last post, click to read BUYING A HOME DURING COVID, Part 1 - Why We Decided to Move & House-Hunting Experiences.
We may have been shopping during a pandemic, but the following info applies to house-hunting at any time.
1. First, find an agent. Ask friends or relatives for recommendations or just head to the internet. Make sure that you are comfortable with them and that they have excellent communication skills and are ready, willing and able to be your headhunter and spokesperson.
2. Second, get your pre-approval and ALL of your numbers in order after you contact an agent and BEFORE you do anything else! We learned this too late and the hard way. Don’t be like us. Be better, haha. This is probably one of the first topics your agent will want to discuss with you anyway.
3. Get your list of locations (cities, suburbs, townships, etc) together that you are considering moving to and if you need to, research the neighborhoods, school systems, etc in those areas. Also, get your list of needs and wants in a home in order. All three of these lists may or may not change and you’ll discover that there will be some deal-breakers and some things that you’re either willing or unwilling to compromise on if you fall in love with a particular house.
4. Your real estate agent can set you up on their website with alerts for homes that are in the areas that you are searching and within your budget. Also sign up for various Zillow alerts and look at the websites often, as new homes pop up all the time. Also, keep in mind that Zillow may be fun but is not the most accurate site overall!
5. Look at every house online in your alerts but also look at a lot of houses in person. A lot of houses. This will become your new full-time job for a while. Schedule appointments for houses (if and when time allows of course) that don’t necessarily meet most of your wants and needs, since you’ll be able to hone your skills of assessing what a house is worth, different things to look for as far as foundations, possible repairs, etc, AND you’ll be able to cut things or add things from your wants/needs list the more experience you have and the more styles, structures, and architecture you see.
6. Don’t be swayed against OR for a house based on décor, paint colors, carpet, wallpaper, etc. These are cosmetic and can be changed a lot easier than neighborhoods, structures and room layouts or sizes. Unless you’re looking for something easy and move-in ready (or a “turn-key” home), enter every home with an open mind and remember that a fresh coat of paint can work wonders.
7. Ask a lot of questions about every house. There is no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to buying a home – you might just end up living here for decades and spending a lot of money on payments along the way! Some good questions to ask would be how old things like the HVAC system and roof are, what are some of the more recent updates or repairs that were made, are there any monthly or yearly neighborhood or HOA (home owner association) fees and what services are included in exchange for those fees, and also what is included in the sale of the home (home warranties, appliances, fixtures). If time allows, interview some of the neighbors about the neighborhood or what they like or don’t like about living there. Unfortunately we were unable to do this at the time due to the pandemic!
8. Stick to your numbers. Make sure that once you get your pre-approval that you come up with a price cap that is doable for your budget AND has a good safety net. Don’t shop for houses that are over your cap price or even anywhere near it. Keep in mind that there will be a lot of other expenses that can and will come up either with moving, listing your own home, or repairing, remodeling, or furnishing your new home.
9. It’s always a good idea to get a home inspection done, and along with the standard inspection consider adding tests for mold, radon and pests since these can lead to very costly repairs in the future if left untreated…they’ll just either do more damage to the house or cause more danger to your health.
10. And finally, don’t settle. Don’t do it. While I was devastated that we lost the first house that we made an offer on, I ended up being happy that we didn’t get it because we eventually found the home that we’re in now and we love THIS one even more. My in-laws were also looking for a new home in 2020-2021 and I remember going to their house for dinner and my mother-in-law pulling up a listing of a house to show me that they were going to put in an offer on. She then proceeded to go through each photo of the listing and tell me what she DIDN’T like about the house. Every photo. I kept my mouth shut until the end and then I shared my observation that it was pretty obvious that she didn’t actually LOVE the house – she just thought that she could make it work. Granted, most houses that you’ll see COULD work, but that isn’t the point. You need to absolutely love the house, so don’t settle for anything less!
Hopefully you found some of these tips useful! What about you – did you purchase a home during the pandemic? Tell us your experience or share some of your tips in the comments!
Also, keep an eye out for my next post in this series where I'll be sharing tips & tricks for getting your home ready to list on the market, plus what it was like to move during a pandemic.
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