How to fast-track your home buying: 6 steps

StaircaseHome buying is challenging for everyone in Silicon Valley: prices are high, inventory is low, and homes sell fast and usually with multiple offers, so decisions must be made quickly.  Additionally, all the information on properties for sale is given up front, so San Jose area real estate consumers must read and digest hundreds of pages of inspections, disclosures, and reports for each house which is a serious contender.  Most of the time, prospective buyers don’t get the first home on which they bid, so it’s a painful process which may be repeated a few times before success is had.

If you are someone who wants to be decisive without taking 6 months and 5 offers to get into a home, there are ways to wisely shorten the learning curve and the process generally.   Sometimes people relocating here for work don’t want to rent and then buy – they want to buy quickly so that they can get kids into schools, establish neighborhood ties and generally begin their life here fully without having to prolong the house hunt.  Sometimes that is not the case, it’s just a buyer who doesn’t want to make house hunting his or her main hobby for the forseeable future.  No matter the reason, here are some ways you can speed up the process.

First, list your priorities: things you must have, things you’d like to have, things you do not want, things you absolutely will not accept.

Second, rank them in order.  (Often certain things will tend to go together, such as better schools and lower crime.)  This part can be difficult but is extremely important. Every home purchase involves compromise on something, whether it’s size, condition, location, walkability, price, schools, etc. Home buyers may find themselves with tradeoffs, so this is where you must have your ranking of priorities set.  For instance, perhaps

  • you can get one more bedroom if you’re willing to buy on a slightly busier street OR
  • that same home might be remodeled from top to bottom if it backs to high voltage power lines OR
  • you could buy a 1200 SF house in downtown Los Gatos that needs to be rehabbed or you could get 1800 SF of livable home for the same amount 4 miles away
  • you could have a short commute and buy a condo or a 45 minute commute and get a house

Frequently, people struggle with ranking.  I have often heard people say “I want everything on my priorities list”.  For almost everyone, eventually, something will have to give, so the sooner you know where you will compromise, the better.  Often home buyers who want to purchase in Cupertino, Sunnyvale, or Mountain View recoil in horror when they find what their money can buy there – and end up purchasing in Los Gatos, Cambrian, or Almaden instead, resulting in the longer commute but nicer home for the money. To be successful, it is crucial to rank, so the sooner you can do it, the better.

Third, hire a good Realtor early on.  A lot of home buyers in the South Bay are running around, looking at open houses but getting no personal, professional guidance.  They may not understand what a good buyer’s agent can do for them.  They may incorrectly believe that a Realtor working with a buyer is just a glorified driver, taking them from home to home and then getting a commission when something is bought.  I’ve written about this misperception (and the idea that some buyers have that “everything is on the web” so a buyer’s agent isn’t needed) but would like to simply state that this is an expensive and time-wasting misperception. (more…)