5 Strategies to Know Before Buying a House

Strategies before buying a house

Sell First, Then Buy

If you have to sell your house before purchasing a new one, don’t go house hunting until your current property is Under Contract. Let’s suppose you find the perfect home. You love it and make an offer, asking them to hold it for you while you try to sell your own house (a contingency offer). A wise Seller knows it’s a risk to possibly lose a different Buyer who doesn’t have a house to sell, so if he agrees to hold it for you for a limited time, he’ll want you to pay full asking price. You end up offering more than you might have because of the contingency.

Now your house is on the market and has to be sold quickly because you don’t want to lose your dream home. You either cut your asking price or accept an offer lower than what you might have if you’d had more time. These two scenarios might end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars.

If you’re concerned there won’t be a house you want when yours sells, look at a few places and identify possible locations and homes without falling in love. You might also add a phrase to a contract when someone offers on your current home that says something like, “Sale subject to Seller finding suitable housing,” but put a time limit on it.

Don’t Get Pre-Qualified

Strategies to Buying a HomeA Pre-Qualification letter is not worth the paper it’s written on. A Lender will take information you give them, run numbers, and let you know the likelihood of whether you might qualify for a loan, and for how much. Any Lender can issue a Pre-Qual letter within a few minutes, but no reputable Realtor will consider that a legitimate confirmation of your ability to purchase a home.

Rather, you should have a Pre-Approval letter from a credible Lender that shows your income and debt have been verified. During this process, many undisclosed problems (judgments, glitches on credit, seasoned money for a down payment, etc.) can be addressed so that when the time comes to make an offer, you can be in the strongest negotiating position possible. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on your particular situation. If you qualify, then documents you’ve provided will be verified and your loan can be ‘pre-approved.’ Don’t lose out on a home you want because you haven’t taken care of this important detail before you start looking.

Play the Game of Nines

Make a list of nine things you’d like in your new place, and a list of nine things you don’t want. Or put another way, Nine of This and None of That. Use this as a scorecard for each property you visit and it will cut down on the confusion as your brain tries to compare homes whose details you can’t necessarily remember. The houses with the highest scores rise to the top of your list, the ones with low scores can be discounted.

When looking for your new home, imagine the house you’re viewing as vacant. Look for its underlying merits, not the decorating skills of the current owner. Differentiate between skin and bones. Bones are things that can’t be changed – location, view, size of the lot, noise in the area, the school district, the floor plan, etc. Skin represents surface finishes that can be changed – carpet, wallpaper, paint, window coverings, countertops, etc. Buy the house with the good bones.

Make a Timely Decision

Home buying is seasonal in every area of the country. Not just with the changing seasons, but also with changing real estate markets. If it’s a season favorable to Buyers (a Buyer’s market), then there’s not as much of an urgency to make an immediate offer on a home you think you might like to own (unless a particular property is considerably underpriced). Don’t hesitate to ask your Realtor to show a house to you again, and even a third and fourth time if it’s going to help make your decision.

In a Seller’s market, you may have to make an offer on the spot, sometimes even offering more than asking price. If you’re working with a reputable, knowledgeable Realtor, let them guide you on current market trends. Don’t rush into buying before you’re sure it’s the house you want, but don’t lose out because you’re afraid to make a decision.

Stop Calling Ads!

If you’re planning on buying a house, I can’t emphasize strongly enough how important it is to work with a Buyer Agent. Find a Realtor you respect, one you trust can be your advocate in the legal maze of purchasing a home. As a Buyer, in most markets it’s FREE to use the services of a professional Real Estate Agent, someone who knows your specifications, your likes and dislikes, and who has immediate access to homes as they come on the market.

If you’re ‘chasing’ ads, they’re written by the Seller or the Seller’s agent, and many Buyers disclose too much information about themselves and their situation when they talk to someone who doesn’t have the Buyer’s best interest at heart. Feel free to pass on potential properties you find to your agent, but when it comes to interacting with the Seller or their representatives, let your Realtor speak for you.

By Mimi Foster

About the Author

Mimi has received the honor of being voted Best Realtor in Colorado Springs in one of the top three positions for five years in a row. With over two decades of experience, she is committed to making the home buying/selling process as painless and fulfilling as possible. Read Full Bio…

Helping buy and sell homes throughout Colorado Springs, Old Colorado City, Manitou Springs, and surrounding areas





38 thoughts on “5 Strategies to Know Before Buying a House”

  1. After much deliberation, my husband and I have decided we want to buy our first home! We’re excited, but we also have no idea how to go about doing it and prepare for it. I like how you suggest to imagine the houses you look at as vacant and look beyond the decorations already there. It will make it easier to imagine our own family in the home and make the decisions much more logical.

  2. I really like the idea of making a list of nine things you want and nine things you don’t in a potential home. My wife and I have been having trouble finding a home that feels like ours. That could be a good way for us to have a scorecard that lets us decide which house would work best. Thanks for the tips!

  3. Thanks for bringing to my attention the value of getting pre-approved when buying a house. My husband and I have decided that we’re ready to move out of our apartment and purchase our first house. We want to make sure we go about this the right way, so maybe we could get pre-approved to show sellers that we’re serious.

  4. I think if you want to buy a house then it is super helpful to work with a realtor, not the newspapers ads. Realtors know the areas and what is available and they can give you the best options. They are literally paid to help you so you know that they will get the job done!

  5. I want to make sure that I do everything right when I buy my new home. It makes sense that I would want to sell my home first before buying a new one! That way I can use that money to pay for my new home.

  6. I really like the suggestion the article gives to play the game of nines and use it as a scorecard when looking for homes to buy. My wife and I have been wanting to move into our first home together for quite some time now, but we’ve been having trouble deciding which one is right for us. I think making a prioritized list would be beneficial in helping us see what we should or shouldn’t look for and make the buying process go quicker.

  7. I like that you said that we could make a list of nine things that we liked about the home. If I was going to buy a new home I would want to have specific things that I would be looking for. Maybe I should speak with a professional beforehand so I can learn about different types of things that people look for in a new home.

  8. I have been telling my clients about the same thing for a while. Buyers have to understand that we Realtors don’t cost them a dime, the seller pays all our fees.

  9. I always tell my clients to not make a major purchase before finalizing their new home purchase. You will still be able to get that car loan after buying the home but that car loan will kill your home loan if you get the car first. Same goes for credit card applications. Wait until after you move in to your new home before applying for any credit purchases.

  10. Wow! Thank you for these awesome tips. I especially love the game you mentioned “Nine of This and None of That.” I think if I played that game while I viewed houses it would help me make clearer decisions when choosing a home.

  11. This is some really good information about buying a home. I have been thinking about buying a home recently. I liked that you talked about how you should make a decision quickly. I am very bad at making quick decisions and big decisions as well. So, it seems like I should be prepared for that when I start looking for a home.

  12. My husband and I are looking to buy a home, and we want to make sure we make the right decision. We want to find something that is affordable but will be suitable for our family. I didn’t realize that there were seasons to the home buying market, but we’ll be sure to discuss this with our realtor.

  13. It’s great to know some home buying tips. The game of nines sounds like it could be helpful for narrowing down homes on the market. How did you decide on the number nine? That does seem like a lot of things to look for.

  14. I like that you mentioned to make sure you pay attention to the season. It makes sense that certain times would be better for somebody looking to buy than others. My wife and I really want to buy a home this year so we can have a place to start a family. I will be sure to ask our agent if we are in a buyer’s season or a seller’s season.

  15. I loved what you said about how you should try looking at the the bones of the home and not just the decor of it, as that is where the real value lies. My brother and his wife are looking to get a home and they could use all the tips they can get. I’ll be sure to advise they look at square footage, and functionality of the systems, as those are the practical things that will matter with a house in the long run. Thank you for the read.

  16. Me and my wife are looking to sell our home this summer so we can move into something bigger. I like your advice to sell your home before purchasing a new one. Like you mention it can be a good idea to have a few homes in mind you like just in case the one you want sells before you sell your home. Thanks for the great advice.

  17. My husband and I are planning on selling our house soon, and are researching tips. Before reading this article, I had no idea that it’s a good idea to sell your current house before looking for a new one. It’s so true that it is so important to work with an agent instead of chasing ads. These tips will be very helpful to us as we move!

  18. I totally agree with you in that it is important to make sure you don’t buy a house before you are totally sure it is the one you want. We are looking for a townhouse and want to make sure it has all the features we want and that it has the right price for us. Personally, I would want to make sure I take the time to assess my needs before entering the market and sharing them with the agent I choose so they know how to help me.

  19. Yes, I completely agree with the strategies “Stop Calling Ads!” and work with a Realtor, because they know the marketing condition better and give the best advice. Currently, I am looking to find a real estate agent because I am going to be leaving next month. It is good to me to find one that I can connect with and will choose.

  20. My husband and I are wanting to move our family into a much larger home. Thanks for the tip of making sure the time is right when making the decision. It’s great to know that we don’t have to rush into anything, that we will be able to take everything into consideration first.

  21. I never knew that getting pre-qualified can help you make sure that your search for real estate ends successfully by showing sellers you have the ability to buy. My sister will be entering the house market for the first time soon. Hopefully, these tips can help her navigate the process successfully and efficiently.

  22. I like how you say that you would want to know when to buy before you start looking for a home. It would make sense to consider when the market is the best to buy before you do. I would imagine that having an experienced realtor help you could probably allow you to know when the best time to buy is.

  23. Ever since we got married my husband and I have been wanting to buy our own real estate. We have never tried it before and this article was really helpful for advice and tips. You mentioned making a list of nine things you’d like in your new place and a list of nine things you don’t want. This is a great idea to keep the property hunting fun and useful. Thanks for the awesome tips.

  24. Thanks for the great tips for buying a home. I like the idea of listing nine things we want, and nine things we won’t deal with. That would definitely help us sort out our ideas, and make house hunting a lot easier.

  25. I like that you mentioned to make sure you make a list of nine things you want in a home and nine things you don’t. That way, you can easily eliminate homes that don’t meet your needs without spending too much time on them. I am planning to buy a home with my wife for the first time this year, and we want to make sure we do it right. I will keep these tips in mind, thanks for sharing them.

  26. Thank you so much for mentioning that it is a great idea to make lists of nine things you do want and nine things you don’t want in your new home. My husband and I are planning on buying a new home now for the future kids we will be having. So it is a great tip to know that if we make those lists, we will be able to focus and remember the details of each house we liked.

  27. Great post! Buying and selling a house can be a stressful process so it is always nice to stumble across useful information on the internet. I love how you mentioned avoiding the ads. Most people don’t realize how much better working with a buyer agent is. Thanks for sharing!

  28. I like that you mention that you shouldn’t look to buy a home until your current home is under contract. My parents are looking to buy a home near a golf course because my dad loves golf, but they have not put their current home on the market. These are great tips that I should show them before they sell their home.

  29. Thanks for the great tips for buying a home. My wife and I want to buy a new one next year, so this is perfect for us right now. I hope that next year will be a buyer’s market, if it’s more favorable to buyers.

  30. Mimi, thanks for your comment about how you should start to look for houses when all the houses aren’t super pricey. I like how you said that a realtor can help you since they are skilled and knowledgeable in this area. My husband and I are considering looking into homes for sale near us that are being sold for a fair price.

  31. My wife and I are getting tired of living in an apartment and we’re wanting to move into a newer home. I liked that you had mentioned that it can be important to make the decision at the time home buying will be best in your area. We’ll have to start figuring out what season will be best to purchase in, and then we can start looking at new homes in the area.

  32. I have been planning to buy a home with my sister for a while now, but we haven’t actually started searching because we do not know what we need to consider. I have been thinking for a while now, but it was until I found this article that it became clear. I really liked how you pointed out the idea of listing down the nine things that we want and the nine things that we don’t want in a house and use that as a basis for when we go house hunting. I am pretty sure my sister already has a few ideas so I’ll incorporate mine. Thank you for the idea.

  33. We are looking now and it’s definetly a sellers market. Houses are going faster then we can blink. It’s making me nervous that we may never find a house in this market and I don’t want to be hasty and settle. I’m told that spring will bring more homes. Any advice for a worried buyer?

  34. I liked that you had mentioned that it can be important to take your time and make a decision to avoid making a choice too soon. My wife and I have been wanting to get into real estate and we haven’t been sure where to start. We’ll have to start thinking about what we want, and we’ll be making sure that we take our time to make a choice.

  35. It sure got my attention when you suggested making a list of the nice things that I would like the potential house to have and that nine things that I do not like and use it as a scorecard and basis of whether or not I will purchase the house. I will definitely mention that to my brother because I plan on taking him with me when I begin looking for a new house for us. However, I am pretty sure that he already has it figured out and written down considering how meticulous he is. Thank you for sharing!

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