Home > Buying a home, Supply and Demand > TOO MANY CHOICES — How do I pick a home?

TOO MANY CHOICES — How do I pick a home?

There are, indeed, far more choices for home buyers today than there were just a year or so ago. Real Estate is an intensely local market so the increase in available homes for sale is going to vary widely based on exactly where you are looking to purchase. Bottom line, though is that in most places, the choices are greater — in some areas there may be 3 or 4 times as many houses on the market that fit your needs than there were in the very recent past.

The good news for you as a buyer is that the law of supply and demand turns these increased choices into an opportunity to purchase a home for less. The bad news is that so many options can be overwhelming.

Recently, I had a client looking for home in order to complete her relocation from a town about an hour away. By the time we found each other, she had already sold her home and would be ready to move within about 30 days. To a Realtor, a situation like this is usually where our job becomes much easier. By doing some intelligent research, we were able, in a different market, find a client like this a home in a few days, or at most a few weeks.

In this situation, it took 2 months of showing no less than 50 homes. The challenge for the buyer and the Realtor, is to find something that meets your needs and also to know that you are getting the most value for your money.

In a normal, house-shopping day, you can expect a realtor to show you 4 – 6 homes. Any more than that in a single day can tend to make the homes blur together, which means that you’ll have to re-visit any homes you might be interested in. With so many homes to choose from, the Realtor and the client feel pressure to see as as many as possible in a single day so that they don’t “miss” anytyhing.

First do a Ben Franklin chart. A Ben Franklin chart is created by simply taking a piece of paper and drawing a line down the middle, creating 2 columns. This is a simple method used to compare two sets of data. In this instance one column is headed “GOTTA HAVE” and the other column is headed “NICE TO HAVE”. You initially fill this out prior to looking at any homes. Here is an example:

3 Bedrooms 1 Acre lot
2.5 Bathrooms Fireplace
Attached garage (at least 1 car) Laundry Area near bedrooms
Max 5 minute drive to Interstate Gas Heat
Formal Dining Room Cedar Closet
On Cul De Sac
Kitchen with Island

As you begin to look at houses, stay within the 4 – 6 homes per day limit. Then go home and compare the notes you’ve taken on each house (you should always take detailed notes when you see a house) to your Ben Franklin chart. You’ll find that as you move through the process you’ll likely change some of the reuquirements. Some GOTTA HAVEs may become NICE TO HAVEs and there will be some GOTTA HAVEs that you hadn’t even thought of before.

Once you have seen 10 – 15 houses and modified your chart to represent your final requirments, eliminate the homes that don’t have all of your GOTTA HAVES, and score the remaining ones on how many of the NICE TO HAVEs are showing up. Rank the NICE TO HAVES in order of importance. A fireplace might be something you would like along with an island in your kitchen, but which one is more important to you.

Once you do that, pick the top 3 homes that are still on your list and have your Realtor take you back to them in one day. Don’t look at any other listings – just your top 3.

What you’re looking for at this point is the undefinable feel that you get when you walk through the homes. Now that you’ve narrowed them down to 3 houses that all meet your needs on paper – which one of them feels the most like “home”. That’s the one you should buy.

One important note: Typically I advise against putting price in as a “Gotta Have”. This process is simply about identifying the features of your ideal home. The price overlays it all. A Realtor should not be showing you homes that are out of yor price range. I strongly recommend that prior to looking at homes, you speak with a lender and get a mortgage pre-approval.

By having this approval upfront, it will be much easier to focus on the right homes. Looking at homes that are beyond what you can afford may be a fun activity but when there are so many choices, it only tends to confuse things even further.

So to recap.

  1. Find your price range
  2. Identify your needs and wants
  3. Chart the features on 10 – 15 homes
  4. Narrow it down to the top 3
  5. Pick the one that makes you feel the best
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