There’s an unspoken rule in homebuying that you should look at six homes, minimum, before ever thinking about submitting an offer. When I submitted my offer, it was probably the sixth home… possibly the fifth or earlier, I can’t remember. They say that you can’t really know what you want until after the sixth home and you won’t get a feel for the market until that point. I wholeheartedly agree. If you buy before six (I think the rule should be extended to least ten homes), you will probably overpay for a home or possibly buy a home that you really only find mediocre. To avoid this, don’t put in an offer even if it looks like your dream home because it might not be.
Check out what I sent my real estate agent about the important aspects of a house the first time she asked:
I’m interested in a townhome in the 230-310k range with ideally 3br, 2+ baths and built after 1985ish in Howard County, though not limited to that county. I was thinking of like Columbia, Elkridge, Laurel in Howard County…
Parking – Garage is not important, though it’d be nice. Two spaces is all we’ll need.
Basement – No preference on finish/unfinished; walk-in living room, etc; are no preferences for me.
I prefer brick over siding; end unit over middle, cathedral over attic.
That was before looking at a single house. It does look quite informative and many of the things did carry over, but look at what I recently sent her in an email:
I want a master bedroom greater than 130 sq ft. 10×10 sucks.
A basement is nice, finished.
3bedroom, 2bath minimum
if the house is greater than 280k, one of the bedrooms has to be at least 10×10
0.04 acres minimum, greater than 1600 sq. ft
1980 or newer home
A decent backyard and deck.
Basement doesn’t need to be walkout – though it’s a plus
Which do you think is more informative for her and a huge timesaver for the both of us? That’s right…
Also, when looking at homes, look at those that are under your price window and over your price window. That way you know what you can get with that amount of money and adjust your strategy accordingly. I saw a lot of homes I’d love to live in outside my price range. Conversely, I saw a $245k built in 1969 that hadn’t been updated and looked ahead of its time (the walls had technicolor wallpaper).
Visiting lots of places also gives you a sense of the market. I know that in Columbia, under $300k means I’ll have to go to the older area west of the mall for a good deal. It’s this constant learning that helps you make an informed decision you simply cannot make before visiting six homes. If nothing else, you can get ideas for renovations (I saw this sick deck setup) when you do get a home.