1. DIY REAL ESTATE. We all know that in today’s world you can get pretty much whatever you want online.  Real estate is no different.  There are many apps and websites that offer multiple photos, virtual tours, videos, and historical data.  You consider yourself pretty sharp.  How hard could it be to find the perfect house for a reasonable buyer you know very well (YOU!)?  So you start a casual search on a few websites and before you know it, you’ve been sitting at your computer for 10 hours straight browsing through thousands of houses.  BE WARNED.  Many websites are third party websites that troll through the internet gathering data on homes for sale.  Countless are fee-based or lead-generating websites where their sole purpose is to collect your information to pass along to a real estate agent that has likely paid to receive your information.  Additionally, many of these homes are inaccurately listed for sale when in fact they are sold, under contract, or were never even for sale to begin with.  It is always best to use a real estate agent that you know and trust; but if you want to venture out in to the internet on your own be mindful of the following: never pay for any information and always look for the fine print which will tell you who really has the accurate information about the house (i.e.: “listing courtesy of”, “listing agent”, “provided by”, etc.).  Finally, remember that most of your buyer competition out there is using a real estate agent to search for homes for them.  By the time you navigate through several websites to actually get to the correct listing agent for the house you really want, your competition’s agent may have found it days or weeks before and put an accepted offer on it for them.    It may be time to hang up your DIY real estate agent hat.
  2. STAY IN YOUR BUDGET. Are those granite countertops, 42” cabinets, jetted tub, and commercial appliances!?  You can’t help it.  You’re in love.  But starting out at the high-end of your price range is only setting you up for disappointment.  In a hot market, homes are typically selling above the list price.  If you are searching in your top price range, you have no way to be competitive with your offer price.  Instead, start in your low range so that you can be competitive; and keep in mind that you can always add those stainless steel appliances later because you saved money on your purchase price.
  3. REMEMBER YOUR BLACKJACK RULES. That’s right.  Don’t get caught up in the hype of bidding just to bid.  Saying “Hit me!” more than you should could mean you’ve just agreed to buy a house for way more than you wanted to.  Remember Rule 2 when counter offering or presenting your highest and best offer.  If you are on the lower end of your price range, you can gamble up on your price more than you can if you’re already at your top dollar amount.   Stay out of the high-stakes bidding games because you won’t walk away feeling good about it either way.
  4. THERE’S MORE FISH IN THE SEA. Okay, so you didn’t listen to us about Rule 3 and now you’ve had to call your real estate agent and withdraw your offer once you realized you may have to get a second job to pay the mortgage on the house you just won.  You’re despondent.  Your dream home has just slipped through your fingers.  Not true!  Unless you are on the very, very high end of luxury, custom homes, the truth is there are likely many other homes that are very similar to your dream home.  So dry those teary eyes and get back to your home search and be grateful you don’t have to start that night-shift job!
  5. READ THE WRITING ON THE WALL. Now you’re motivated again and you’re determined to stick to the lower end of your budget – just as we advised in Rule 2 (just sayin’). You’ve found a steal in your dream neighborhood!  The problem is, to put it nicely, it needs work.  Not just paint and flooring, we’re talking a new roof, drilling a new well, and the real estate agent mentioned something about foundation cracks that might need to be looked at by a structural engineer.  Further, she mumbles something about sinkholes in the area.  Walk away.  Let someone else overcome the difficult, expensive, and/or impossible.
  6. BOB THE BUILDER IS A CARTOON. Don’t get caught up in the flashy home improvement store commercials. “You can do it and we can help!” Mmmm, maybe, but probably not.  Not if you want it done the right way that lasts.  DIY is all the rage, but save that for quilts and peg boards, not the biggest investment of your life!  If the house needs more than some cosmetic repairs, you need to factor in an honest-to-goodness contractor for the big stuff.  Remember, fixer-uppers can be a great buy but you’ll need the trained professionals for the work so be sure to factor that cost in when considering your offer price.
  7. ONLY FOOLS RUSH IN. So you’ve lost a few bidding wars on some houses and now you’re determined not to lose this one.  Sure, you’ve only seen it online but it looks fine.  You’re all in – $5,000 above the asking price.  Really?!?  Your realtor calls you back to let you know the house is yours!  But then you see it.  Wow, it doesn’t look anything like the photos.  This home definitely is NOT for you.  Another cancelled contract. Your real estate agent is starting to look at you funny . . . Lesson learned here – don’t get over excited.  Carefully view every home!
  8. MAKE A COMMITMENT ALREADY! Your realtor has left 3 messages for you today.  She’s found the perfect home in your price range!  It only needs minor cosmetic work.  Call that woman back!!!  We know you’ve been burned a few times, but your real estate agent is your BFF!  (Well, in your new real estate world anyway.)  Sometimes it comes down to trusting the person that’s getting paid to help you.  Sure, there are bad apples in every industry, but fewer in the state-regulated real estate profession.  And besides, you chose this agent, and everyone knows you’re a fine judge of character!  Put your trust in your agent and when she says take the plunge – do it!
  9. YOUR LENDER HAS TO LOVE IT TOO. Well every party has a party pooper and in this case, it’s your lender.  Oh they love giving loans – on that million dollar home with your 850 credit score and the 40% you’re putting down.  Oh wait, is that not you?  Well then hold on, stop the home search and start gathering all of your original paycheck stubs, bank statements, tax returns, credit card statements, car loan statement, etc., etc., etc. Got all of that already?  Great! Now you need to call your lender to discuss the condition and price of the home you are considering and let them tell you if you and the house qualify for the loan they are willing to offer you.  That’s right, they have veto power.
  10. COME ARMED. In a hot market, buying a home is much like trying to land a lucrative job. Come prepared to show the seller you are serious and not only willing, but able, to prove at that very moment you are the right person for the house.  Bring your checkbook so that you can write a check for a deposit onsite and also bring your pre-approval letter.  A pre-approval letter says that you’ve already provided all of the necessary and required information/documents to your lender who has approved you contingent upon finding the right property that meets the criteria of what you are approved for.  Also be prepared to agree to a short inspection period and quick closing (without being unrealistic of course).  Present these items/terms with your offer, and you will be a hard buyer to turn away.