As a military family, you may recognize the following scenario: a looming report date, an unknown housing situation and the clock ticking. You need a place to live, and you need it fast. Spending a weekend house hunting can be stressful. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you search for your next home.
1) Time is of the essence
You have limited time, so know what you want and what you’re willing to compromise on ahead of time.
Plan your route. You won’t want to be driving back and forth across town all weekend. You should also consider staying near the area where you’re most interested in looking at homes to allow for a shorter travel time.
See as many houses as possible. Then, once you narrow down your selection, be quick with an offer. Be sure your realtor knows you only have a set amount of time to house hunt in person. If possible, make sure they can dedicate the weekend you are in town to you.
2) Maintain realistic expectations
Realtor and former military spouse Jeneen Deshong knows house hunting under a time crunch takes planning as well as a heavy dose of realistic expectations.
“Be as flexible as possible on house hunting days; tour schedules and a listed home’s availability may change at the last minute. Keep in mind most homes will not look the same in person as in the listing pictures. You cannot see details in pictures, like chipping paint or a sagging floor,” DeShong said.
She added that a home might look nice online but have an unpleasant smell. Or pictures may show you a house but won’t give you a feel for the street or neighborhood. Stay positive but realistic.
Decide on priorities like a specific school district ahead of time and understand how this may affect your choice.
“Our number one concern is schools, and then we find a house based on the school. If we opt for public schools, we increase our housing budget. If we opt for private schools, we know our budget would be less.” Air Force spouse and teacher Tessa Fulmer shared.
3) Preparation is key
Plan to search for homes yourself before your house hunting weekend, but don’t forget the valuable resource a good realtor can be. Realtors often have access to homes before they are listed. Call around to find a realtor that best suits you and your needs. Once you’ve zeroed in on a realtor, be specific when sharing what you are looking for in a home and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
“Give your Realtor a list of homes you are interested in within 48 hours of your arrival date,” DeShong says. “Even then, some homes may go under contract before or upon your arrival. Inform your agent of your arrival and departure times/days or other times that you want to set aside to do things on your own.”
It’s wise to find a lender and get pre-approved before your house hunting trip. This will save time when placing an offer on a home you like.
“The lender will inform the buyer of any potential issues that need to be addressed from the lending side. The pre-qualified letter gives the buyer the purchasing power needed to make an offer when ready,” says DeShong.
Before you’ve walked into a single home be sure to know your budget and discuss anything that might be a deal-breaker. Don’t let the first conversation you have about these important details be inside a home you’re viewing!
4) Trust your instincts
Above all, trust your instincts. While so much in the military is temporary, buying a home is a huge decision. Don’t settle. Keep in mind that a house you fell in love with online may not check all the boxes once you’re actually in it. Don’t be afraid to move on.
If you don’t find your perfect home after looking through the houses on your list, walk through your favorites again.
When asked what the biggest mistake people looking for a home under a time crunch make, DeShong replied, “Feeling pressured to offer on a home they would ‘settle’ for because of a looming time deadline. Have a backup plan for temporary lodging if possible, leaving a little more time to close on a home or to be moving in.”
Other helpful tips:
- Take pictures, videos and notes at each home you see (it’s easy to mix up so many viewings!).
- After you see a home, jot down some pros and cons.
- Leave time at the end of your weekend to return to any homes again.
- Utilize Google Earth to view streets and surrounding areas.
Finding and buying a home in a short amount of time is a whirlwind experience. It can be overwhelming and stressful, but it’s possible. Know your priorities, plan ahead, find a respected realtor and trust your instincts!