Why Buying a Home Isn’t as Easy as Seen on HGTV

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How do you find your dream home? If you play by HGTV’s “House Hunters” rules, then all you need is to look at three houses, put in an offer, and move in. But real life rarely fits neatly into a 30-minute episode, and it is likely that you are in for a house hunt that’s more complicated than as seen on reality TV.

There are many factors that affect your house hunt – from your budget to your wish list – so before you commit your calendar to open houses for the foreseeable future, here are some things to consider:

How Many Houses Should You See?

Kellie Tinnin of ERA Sellers & Buyers Real Estate in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says there’s “no magic number” when it comes to house hunting.

“Some buyers need to see 50 homes before they can make a decision and some can see 5,” Tinnin says. The number of open houses is relative to how well she knows her clients needs. “It helps to have buyers outline their needs and wants on paper so they can visualize their home desires,” she says.

Having a wish list can definitely help you make the most of your home search. Sites like Real Scout allow you to save your favorite listings in one place, so you can keep your real estate agent in the loop with what you’re specifically looking for in a home.

Kathryn Bishop, a REALTOR® in Los Angeles, says discussing her clients’ needs and wants helps separate the “looky-loos” from the serious house hunters. According to Bishop, a real estate agent “can advise you about the odds of finding that dream house in the area you want for the price you want.” By knowing what clients want–and what they don’t want–Bishop says that a good real estate agent can suggest other possibilities, as well help you “sort out your emotions about each of the items on your wish list.”

Is There Love at First “Site”?

Perhaps you’re thrilled by the prospect of browsing dozens of houses. So what happens when you fall in love with the very first house you see? This is a house you’re buying, not a pair of shoes, so we’re talking serious buyer’s remorse if this isn’t the best house for your needs and budget. What’s a house hunter to do?

Katie Messenger, a REALTOR® with The Bello Dimora Real Estate Network of Keller Williams Realty in Louisville, KY, tells house hunters not to worry.

“If the first home you walk into is truly ‘the one,’ and there’s a fear about ‘what if I like something else?’ or ‘I shouldn’t buy the first house I look at,’ then your agent failed to normalize that feeling that it’s OK to love the first home you see,” says Messenger,

Kelly J. Joyner, a Real Estate Broker and REALTOR® from Charlotte, NC, would agree. If you hit the jackpot with the first house you visit, Joyner says, “then your real estate agent has listened, and you have communicated your wants and needs appropriately.”

When to Call off the Hunt

On the flip side, what if you’re not finding a property that says “home” to you? At what point do you decide to put your house hunt on hold?

Bishop says, “If you are only going to buy a certain type of house in a certain type of neighborhood at a certain price limit, and there are none available, quit looking,” she says, explaining that it could take years for the market to adjust to your price point. Of course, if you must relocate for a job, a growing family, or other pressing purpose, it’s a good idea to revisit your wish list with your real estate agent in order to revise and expand your house-hunting parameters.

HGTV has a way of making house hunting look easy. In real life, your house hunt is likely to take longer, but that doesn’t mean you have to look at a hundred homes, either. By conducting a realistic search based on your needs and budget, you could be moving into your new home sooner rather than later.


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