Let's Get Real: Buying a Home in Today's Market

Addicted to HGTV? You're not alone. But buying a home in a reality show and buying a home in real life are two very different things. So if you're entering the home buying process with ideas of seeing three great options, narrowing it down to one and then - voila! - being happily moved in.... well, let's just say you've got another thing coming.  

I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but home buying just isn't that easy.  Especially not in Houston's low-inventory, high demand market.  If you're looking for homes in the Greater Heights, Montrose, Timbergrove, Oak Forest, Garden Oaks or other other "hot" areas, it's even trickier.  Here's what to expect:

Bidding Wars

In real estate, you're likely to hear the phrase "while you're sleeping on it, someone will be sleeping in it." It's just another way to say, "you snooze, you loose".  Nice homes that are priced right and marketed correctly are flying off the shelves.  Multiple offers and final sales prices over the listen price are happening more and more.  

This might be a surprise to you if your parents are colleagues or someone who hasn't bought a house in Houston in the last two years has given you any advice.  Stop listening to anyone who tells you to start by offering under listing price.  Yes, there are exceptions to this, but if you are looking for a move-in ready home in a desirable location, expect to pay full price then some.  

"But wait," you just said to yourself. "I thought I hired a Realtor to help me get the best price.  Think again my friend. You should be hiring a Realtor to help you GET the home at a FAIR price.  Before starting to work with any real estate agent to buy a home, ask her how she helps her clients write winning offers.  (Hint: throwing money at the sellers isn't the only way to secure a home.)

Turn Your Head and Cough

Before you can even make an offer on a home in Houston, you're going to need a pre-qualification letter from a reputable lender.  (Or, if you're a cash buyer, proof of funds.)  Here's the deal: getting pre-qualified can feel a little invasive.  This is even more true after you get into contract and are trying to nail down the loan.  Loan officers and underwriters want to see EVERYTHING.  That $50 check from grandma you got for Christmas? They want to know all about it.  The money that you OBVIOUSLY moved out of your savings account to cover the earnest money check and downpayment.  They want to follow every penny.  The reality is that this is not just because they are trying to be a pain in the rear.  A whole bunch of legislation resulting from terrorism and money laundering to the financial crisis means that they have to be super diligent...and annoying.  Brace yourself.

The Terrifying Home Inspection

Here's how it's gonna be: you're FINALLY in contract on your dream home. (Well, your third dream home.) Now you've got only a few days to get the house thoroughly checked out and figure out if you still want to buy it or if you want to re-negotiate your deal.  You show up the day of the inspection excited, but by the time you leave you are literally crying out of frustration, fear and that weird sinking feeling in your stomach.  

Inspections can be super difficult.  It's the inspector's job to find and document every little thing that isn't exactly the way that it should be.  What's worse, once you get the list of "imperfections" there's little council on what's a big deal and what's not.  Your Realtor isn't a licensed inspector nor a contractor and shouldn't give a lot of advice on what needs repair and what doesn't.  The sellers have been living in the house and think things are just fine.  The inspector may also be a little vague about what's a simple fix and what should make you go running for the streets.  

What to do? Expect that there will be a laundry list of items that need repair.  And then know that you'll need to look at the list and determine what would be a deal breaker - items you just aren't buying the house until they are completed - and things you are willing to address yourself.  In this seller's market, it's often necessary to make concessions that aren't your first choice to stay in contract.  However, with that said, it's important to remember that the sellers and their agents are obligated to disclose the inspections to subsequent buyers if you were to terminate your agreement.  That means that, for the BIG problems, the seller is incentivized to work with you instead of having to solve the same problem with a new buyer.  


While I know the home buying process can be frustrating and scary, I think it's the job of a good Realtor to make the adventure as seamless and even keeled as possible.  Look for an agent who is upfront about what you should expect from the beginning and who is solution oriented and your journey to find and secure a new home will be more like Hollywood than you might have thought possible.  

Want to get started on your search? Call me at (713) 240-9671 or email me and let's set an appointment to talk about what you're looking for, how to get it and what to expect.