3 Tips for a Smoother Home Search

by Maurie Backman | Published on Sept. 24, 2021

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A man and woman sitting on a couch and talking with their realtor while holding paperwork.

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It's a tough time to be buying a home. Here's how to make things easier on yourself.

Finding the right home can be challenging even in the best of times. But in today's housing market, it can be really difficult.

Right now, there aren't a lot of available homes on the market. So while you might normally have a few dozen options to choose from in your target neighborhoods, these days, your choices may be limited to just three or four homes instead.

That's why it pays to be exceptionally strategic if you're trying to buy a home today. Here are three tips that could make your home search a lot easier.

1. Don't have too extensive a wish list

When homes are plentiful, you can afford to be choosy about the one you buy. But since that's not the case today, it might help you to whittle down your wish list. Rather than go in with a list of 12 different must-haves for your home, land on three or four essential features and tell yourself you're willing to compromise on some of the other things you may have wanted.

For example, if you have a larger family, a finished basement and a spacious backyard may be more important than a newly renovated kitchen with top-tier appliances. Besides, a kitchen is the sort of thing you can always upgrade after you buy.

2. Set solid expectations with your real estate agent

You may have a certain budget you want to stick to when buying a home, or you may have your heart set on certain features that just aren't negotiable. Be sure to communicate all of that to your real estate agent so that they can help you embark on a more efficient search.

When figuring out how much house you can afford, if the highest amount you're willing to spend on a home is $400,000, your agent should not be taking you to see homes listed at $405,000. It's that simple. And if your real estate agent repeatedly tries to push you to see homes that won't work, then it may be time to sign up with a new one.

3. Get a mortgage pre-approval letter

A mortgage pre-approval letter won't guarantee you a home loan. But what it will do is give you a solid framework for your home search.

During the pre-approval process, a mortgage lender looks into your finances and determines how much money you're in a position to borrow. That, in turn, will help you figure out how much of a house you can afford.

Having that letter in hand could spare you from looking at properties that aren't financially attainable for you. Just as importantly, if you come across a home you like, having a pre-approval letter could help you get your offer accepted. That's because that letter tells sellers that you're a serious buyer in a strong financial position to get a mortgage.

Finding the right home is rarely a quick, easy process. Even when there's plenty of inventory to go around, it's not uncommon for buyers to spend weeks or even months hunting for homes. But if you want to make the process easier on yourself, take these tips to heart. They could help you avoid a fair deal of hassle and stress on the road to becoming a homeowner.

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