Buying a home has become incredibly difficult as most of the country has become a seller’s market.
Selling prices rose, forcing some people out of the market and pushing others to spend more than they wanted.
It’s a grim situation for anyone buying a home and it’s a market that has trapped people who might be willing to sell because they don’t see any place they could move to.
There are, however, ways to find a good (relative) bargain even in times when prices are higher and stocks are very limited.
To do this, you have to be willing to be flexible and maybe a little bold.
These steps don’t guarantee you’ll find your dream home – or even the home for now – but they do give you a much better chance.
1. Have a great real estate agent
At the start of the pandemic, my wife and I sold our downtown West Palm Beach condo, bought a Disney-area resort property with a portion of the profits, and moved into a larger rental a few miles downtown. -town.
We needed to stay in roughly the same area so my son could finish high school, which he did last May.
Renting wasn’t a long-term plan for us and with a six-month lease, shortly before graduation, we contacted our longtime realtor.
Having worked with the same person on multiple transactions, we had a high level of trust and she usually knows what we would do without us having to pass it on.
You can’t build that trust quickly – we had bought and sold two properties and purchased our resort property with this real estate agent – but you should find a buyer’s agent that you feel comfortable with overall.
Ideally, look for someone who is ready to communicate, responds quickly, and is ready to listen to what you want.
2. Keep your finances in order
We lined up a real mortgage pre-approval before we started looking.
I spoke to potential lenders because I had only held a full-time job for less than a year after a decade of freelance work.
It’s a complicated mortgage approval to get, so we made sure to remove most of the hurdles and know exactly what we could afford before we started looking.
Additionally, we have taken a few small steps to make ourselves more attractive to the lender.
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This included paying off a small car loan, maintaining our credit card balances, and making sure we didn’t have big expenses.
We also collected documents to show where the funds came from for some non-wage income we had and we sold a small property.
3. Look at a lot of houses and be flexible
We wanted a single family home after years of living in condos and townhouses.
It became apparent pretty much immediately that we couldn’t afford anything decent anywhere in Palm Beach County, so we started looking for condos/townhouses.
Most of the properties we saw ticked most of our boxes, but lacked the amenities I wanted – a resort-style pool and gym – and were in less desirable areas.
With no kids in school, we had a lot of flexibility, so I opened our search to see if we could afford a single-family home that suited our needs anywhere in South or even Central Florida.
We found that the Orlando area had plenty to choose from, but since we owned property there anyway, moving there would require selling that condo and buying a tiny house in South Florida.
It was more moves than I wanted to do.
This led us to Port St. Lucie, or more specifically the Tradition section of Port St. Lucie, which is sort of a city within a city.
Tradition had a very small amount of three-bedroom homes in our price range in developments that offered the amenities we – really I – wanted.
Moving to Port St. Lucie meant sacrificing location.
We’ll be about 40 minutes further from family and less convenient to airports, but we could conceivably afford a single family home on a nice lot in a development with pool, gym, walking paths and clubhouse.
4. Confront a problem house
When we opened our search at Tradition/Port St. Lucie, exactly three homes were available in our price range, all in the same complex.
One only had two bedrooms and we needed three, but the other two seemed like prospects so we went to see them.
The second house we saw was messy and in need of a complete overhaul.
The owner had also recently lowered the asking price, so we immediately decided to make an offer.
Our agent called his agent and we made a slightly lower offer than the request.
As the communication continued over the next few days we increased our offer a few times until finally after they thought we had a deal they told us they had accepted a cash offer of someone else.
While this was happening – literally while I was on the phone with my real estate agent – another house in this complex became available at a lower asking price.
There were very few pictures and a tenant lived there who was entitled to stay for 90 days after being notified of a pending sale.
My agent hardly needed to ask if we were going to make an offer out of the blue.
We did just that knowing it couldn’t be in worse shape than the previous house we had bid on.
Our offer was too demanding and we fixed it compared to the previous house.
It was accepted and we were able to accommodate the sellers request for a 30 day closing as we had already prepared our mortgage.
When we started the home buying process, buying a repairman 40 minutes from our chosen area wasn’t even a vague consideration.
But once we saw the reality of the market, we made the choice to sacrifice location and being ready to move in rather than sacrificing buying a single family home.
To buy a house or a condo on the market, most people will have to make sacrifices, but eventually we have a house that, with hard work, we will be happy to live in.
Additionally, we stayed on the bottom of our budget and maintained the flexibility to be able to make the house the home we want.