The home-buying process can take some interesting twists and turns. If you find yourself missing out on homes when they hit the market, or you can't find the exact home you want, you might need to adjust your criteria.
Here are some areas to troubleshoot and pivot your search.
Rethink the neighborhood
Just not seeing what you want in your first choice area for the price you can afford to pay? If you’ve been looking in a neighborhood for a while without success, it's unlikely that the perfect home will suddenly appear in your price range - and if it does, you’ll likely face stiff competition.
The smart move is to explore a different neighborhood. You may find that $300,000 in one area will get you a bigger house or a more recently renovated one. Do the research on nearby areas, and see if they will suit your needs.
Be open to some light cosmetic work
Today's buyers often look for move-in-ready renovated homes. They don't want to undertake a kitchen or bath renovation or other updates. Who has time for that?
As a result, the well-located home that looks like a 1970s throwback won't get the same attention as the updated one down the block.
But go tour the home that needs a little TLC. Sometimes a fresh coat of paint, refinished hardwood floors, new appliances, and painted cabinets can make a world of difference. Take the equity the sellers leave behind and put it in your pocket.
Have a heart-to-heart
One of the hardest things for couples to do is compromise on wants and needs when it comes to home requirements. Often, half of the couple won't back down on a feature like an extra half bath, additional bedroom or full basement.
Think long and hard about your short-term and long-term needs. Can you come together as a couple to find a meaningful compromise that will suit both of you?
Look for a little extra cash
No one should get in over their heads, but be open to creative financing or down payment assistance. Sometimes it’s the last five percent of the down payment or the monthly carrying cost that holds buyers back from hitting their target price point, house, and neighborhood.
You may be able to use gift funds from family members to go toward the down payment. Or find a lender that can offer a low-down payment mortgage or special loan products that benefit a well-employed borrower with stellar credit history.
Just ask your bank or shop around. Don't take what one bank tells you to be the final word. A small change to financing can make the difference in scoring a home in your preferred location or getting that finished basement you dreamed of.
Rent for another year
First-time buyers may feel the pressure of low interest rates or the busy market. But nobody should ever feel pressured into purchasing a home. You must buy the right home at the right time.
If things aren’t working out for you, consider putting the home search on the back burner. Don't let an expiring lease pressure you into a purchase. Sometimes holding off will allow time to save for a larger down payment or improve your credit score. Though we can't predict the market, time can often be on your side.
The home search isn't linear. Sometimes it needs to be tweaked or changed up along the way. If you find yourself hitting a wall, take a step back and troubleshoot. Maintain close contact with your real estate agent and keep the dialogue open. Ask questions of yourself, and be open to making minor - or even major - changes to your search criteria.
Shopping for a home? Check out our Buyers Guide.
- 3 Reasons to Live in a New Home Before Renovating
- Mortgage Rates: You’d Better Shop Around
- Home Buyer’s Guide to Choosing a Neighborhood
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.