It’s time to look for the perfect home that meets your lifestyle and budget. In this step we will help you determine your wants vs. your needs, the importance of setting priorities, and explore the various ways you can search available homes as a serious homebuyer.
Although your upcoming home purchase is one of the largest financial decisions you’ll make, your home choice affects more than your pocketbook. Aspects of the home you choose, such as location, type, and included amenities will directly affect elements of your day-to day-life like your commute or how often you cook vs. eat out.
Will you be spending your Saturdays mowing and maintaining 5 acres of rural land or dodging splashes at the neighborhood pool?
Now is the time to define what is most important to you. If you are moving with a partner and/or your family, a family meeting is in order! Sit down and get crystal clear on your top priorities together. Remember, you’re agent isn’t a marriage counselor 🙂
The average buyer will tour just 5-10 homes during their search. If you need to see more than that, then you likely haven’t set clear parameters and need to go back to clarify exactly what you’re looking for.
Home showing can present various logistical challenges for sellers. Perhaps they have to leave work early to remove their pets, spend time cleaning, or eat dinner out while you poke around their place. Throughout the buying process you want to insure you are respectful and mindful of buyer etiquette rules by not inconveniencing your agent or sellers unnecessarily.
Let’s say you fall in love with a home that 3 other buyers love too. In fear of losing the house you submit an offer much higher than the budget you set for you and your family, making it difficult to afford your monthly house payments. Setting clear priorities and adhering to them helps prevent you from making hasty decisions you may later regret.
Your agent has direct access to the Northwest Arkansas MLS (Multiple Listing Service) which has many more search fields than what you can search for yourself on Zillow or Realtor.com etc.
For example, if one of your “must-haves” is a creek on your property, or a boat dock, or two-stories, your agent can create a property search for you that yields only homes that include this very specific criteria. You’ll no longer have to spend hours sifting through pictures of countless listings to see if the properties have what you want.
Now that you’re pre-approved and have your list of must-haves, you can evaluate if the two line up. In other words, search the inventory of homes currently on the market and determine if your list is realistic for your price point.
If the answer is no, then you either need to reevaluate and sacrifice some of your priorities to purchase a home now, or revisit your finances and develop a new plan to purchase a home at a later time when you can afford what you need.
As a buyer, you’re no longer looking at properties for fun or for research purposes. You have specific criteria and want to be the first to know about new listings that hit the market so you can act quickly and place an offer on your dream home before anyone else grabs it.
To do this, you need to know how listings are distributed to the public, the benefits and restrictions to various search methods, and tips to beat “the system”.
While this is not the best way to search for homes (we’ll get to why later), it is the most common way homebuyers search for homes, so we’ll start here. National real estate sites, like Zillow or Realtor.com, make it easy to access listing information and set up alerts for newly available homes. These companies receive these home listings by paying for a subscription feed from the Northwest Arkansas MLS system.
The main drawback to sites with subscription feeds is timing. These sites pull feeds from the MLS at different times throughout the day. Therefore information about a home could potentially be 4, 8 or even 12 hours old before it is updated.
This can be very frustrating in a competitive market where you want to know as soon as a new listing comes available. There were many times last summer in NWA where homes where sold before the listings even hit national feeds. Similarly, a house may be under contract but still show up as active on these sites until the feed is updated.
Therefore, when searching national sites for homes it is best to mark your favorites and ask your agent to look these homes up on the MLS to make sure the information is accurate.
Since you are working with an agent now, use him! Agents in NWA have direct access to the Northwest Arkansas MLS which means listing alerts set up by your agent will be instantaneous. With both you and your agent’s eyes on the market, you’ll be able to ensure you don’t miss anything – and will be prepared to jump on an opportunity when it arises.
We mentioned previously how direct access to the MLS allows agents to narrow your home search by very specific criteria, but it’s also possible for them to set up multiple searches for you or make your search as broad as you like. Additionally, you can custom tailor your new listing alerts to come to you immediately, or only on certain days of the week or certain times of day. A search set up by your agent will give you access to a portal where you can see all current and past listings sent to you and mark your favorites.
Agents are also able to access information from MLS listings that are not public like showing instructions, special list agent remarks about the property, the days on market, and attachments like the Seller’s Property Disclosure or a survey they can share with you.
MLS listings do have some shortcomings as there are restrictions placed on agents, such as word limits and the number and types of pictures they can use. Therefore, agents find alternative ways to market properties so you can get see home listings in a different light, often with videos and more detailed information.
For example, you can subscribe to email newsletters and follow the social media accounts of local real estate firms and agents who showcase their listings through these methods.