This post may contain affiliate links - this just means that if you chose to purchase a product I mention here, I may get a small commission from your purhcase.
Last Fall, we moved to San Antonio, courtesy of the Army. Which means that last Fall, I got to have my first IRL “House Hunting” experience. After hundreds of episodes of House Hunters and Fixer Upper, I felt that I was up to the task. And it ended up going smoothly with no major disagreements between my husband and me before the final commercial break.
Ok, so there were no commercial breaks. But we did have a very busy, but fruitful weekend full of seeing tons of crappy houses. And a few good ones too.
This was my husband’s second time to purchase a house, so he gladly handled the technical side, while I was able to provide my TV watching expertise (and personal taste) to the outing. That being said, this is not a technical guide to buying a house – just a few things to keep in mind when you are in the process of searching for the “perfect” house.
1. Have an open mind
When we were shopping for our house, we were sure we wanted to own an older house in an established neighborhood with big trees. After living in El Paso for a while, big trees was a huge selling point for us. But once we actually looked at homes, we found a lot of issues with the older homes. Many of them had great yards and lots of square footage but were literally falling apart inside. A fixer-upper was not an option for us, (sorry Chip and Jo) so most of the older homes we looked at were crossed off the list almost immediately. And it was fine. We still ended up with a house we love. It’s in a new neighborhood and the trees aren’t big, but it met all of our other requirements. The trees will grow. Maybe not in the time we live there. But still.
2. Do your research
Before you show up to house hunt, have an idea of what you want. Which areas/neighborhoods are you interested in looking at? What commute time do you want to live within? What is traffic like in the area you’re looking at? How does pricing in this area compared to other cities? Are property values increasing or decreasing?
There are a lot of technical factors to consider when buying a house, so this is not an exhaustive list by any means. The point here is simply to know what you’re getting into BEFORE you fall in love with something totally impractical.
3. Take notes and photos
Since we were moving fairly long-distance, all of our house hunting was confined to one weekend. We were so thankful to be able to house hunt in person (a luxury my husband didn’t have when buying our first house.) But that meant we saw a LOT of houses in that one weekend.
If you see a lot of houses at one time, it can get very confusing very fast. Trust me. So take notes. After you visit a house, write down all the things that stood out to you about it. What you liked, what you didn’t like, and what you’d definitely want to change. And if possible, snap a few pictures to help you out. This can be super helpful in sorting your thoughts out later.
4. Don’t succumb to pushy salespeople
I know, I know, salespeople get a bad rap, and it’s their job to be a little pushy – but I can’t stand being pushed into making major decisions. When we were looking at some of the new home builders, we ran into a few salespeople who were a bit pushier than I would have liked. The builder we ended up buying from also happened to be the most laid-back salesperson we met with.
It’s ok to tell a pushy person you don’t want to make a decision today, or you want to check out all your options. They may be disappointed or try to back you into a corner, but don’t succumb. Don’t feel pressured to make a decision RIGHT THIS SECOND. Given, some housing markets move super fast, so you may not have a week to make up your mind, but never feel like you have to make a split second decision on such a major purchase. Take a few hours. Talk it over with your spouse. Sleep on it. Whatever you need to do to be confident in making a final decision. I promise the salesperson will not be offended by a level-headed response.
5. Go with your gut
In the end, you do just have to make a decision about what you think is best given your options. Again, this is after the research, shopping around, and taking notes. But you probably won’t find your dream house readymade. And that’s ok. Just pick the house you feel like ticks the most boxes on your list and suits your needs at this moment.
We didn’t end up in exactly the area we thought – but we ended up somewhere with a shorter commute for my husband. We didn’t end up in an established neighborhood with big trees – but we did get a house with a greenbelt behind it.
As I said, this is not meant to be an exhaustive or technical guide to the home-buying process. But I do hope this has given you some things to think about as you approach shopping around for your next home. Whether it will be your forever home or your for-the-next-year-until-the-military-moves-us-again-home. I’m sure I will continue to learn a lot about the house-hunting process over the next million years while we are in the military.
What are some of your best house-hunting tips?