House Hunting in an Out of Control Market: How We Got the First Place We Bid On

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We recently sold our townhouse without having another place lined up. No, we weren’t leaving town. Yes, we were worried about it. As the days ticked on, the stress mounted.

It was what we had to do in this market. Most average families don’t have tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars they can use to cover appraisal gaps or come up with a down payment without selling their current home. In this climate, sellers aren’t motivated to accept contingencies.

So we decided to sell our home with the understanding that we’d lease it back from our buyers for two months. Then we’d have more leverage to compete in the market. This was a risk, but it was one we were willing to take.

My husband and I debated whether or not this was the right time to buy. Our personal factors won out. I’ve been working partially from home during the pandemic. This meant teaching, planning, and grading from a tiny desk I bought off Amazon. With no home office space, I was stuck moving this tiny desk around the house trying to avoid the kiddos. Like many moms, I’ve found myself wishing I had a bit more living space while cooped up.

Both of our families have to travel to visit, but we don’t have a guest room. The pandemic has made us value that family time even more. We’ve also missed our out of town friends.

Our son is starting Kindergarten soon. He already lost the school he had attended since six weeks old. The thought of having to move him again in a year or two hurt to think about. If we moved this summer, we could help rebuild some stability for him.

We recognized that even though we didn’t have lots of extra money, we were in a very privileged position. We had property to sell, we had jobs we could count on, and we had a realtor we trusted. Jumping into the unknown might work.

House hunting after selling our home wasn’t easy on our marriage. We didn’t have much time to figure out a house hunting communication strategy. At times we thought we were on the same page, but we weren’t. House hunting requires dreaming the same dream to a certain extent, including similar thoughts about size, budget, age of the home, style, and location. There are so many opportunities to agree or disagree. Adding a ticking clock to the situation ups the ante.

After looking at over a dozen homes we finally ironed out what our shared dream could be. We ended up putting down an offer on a house that same day, and it was accepted.

Here are 10 tips I have for folks who are thinking of taking a similar chance:

  1. Find a realtor you trust and that has lots of professional experience. It helps if they can understand where you are coming from.
  2. Talk with your lender and go in knowing your budget and your financial goals.
  3. Mentally add thousands of dollars to the list price. If you are looking at homes towards the top of your budget, you might not have room to win a bidding war.
  4. Get on the same page with your partner, or anyone you’re buying the property with.
  5. Take calculated risks. They might pay off.
  6. Speaking of, consider an escalation clause if you really love a property.
  7. Bid fast. Don’t wait around debating about whether or not to bid on a house in this market. You may likely have to fight for it, so if you don’t feel strongly you should probably just move on.
  8. Get advice. There’s a feeling lately online that no one should ever give anyone advice. Some people, especially relatively young people, want to prove that they can figure things out on their own. I get it. Maybe you won’t follow the advice, but why not listen to the folks you trust? I’m not saying ask every person you know for their home buying stories, but you never know what strategies they might share that could help you out.
  9. Walk around every neighborhood you are considering. Try to imagine your life not just inside the house, but also outside it.
  10. Use your community resources. I didn’t end up buying a house that wasn’t on the market yet, but I was told about several. Your friends probably want to help you. Post online that you’re looking. Take that help!

Does anyone else have more home buying tips to share? I wish you all happy hunting!

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