Home Buying Guide

The Ups and Downs of Home Buying

Buying a new home is one of the most exhilarating life decisions. Those who've purchased homes before understand that the process is a bit like having a baby: moments of thrill and delight interspersed with panic, confusion, anticipation and worry. Once the baby is safely in your arms (or the key in hand), all of those tumultuous feelings go away. You barely remember anything before this bundle of joy.

Unfortunately there's no way to completely avoid the emotional ups and downs of the home buying process. It's just part of the experience, says Phoenix-area Realtor ® Heather Binder, an Associate Broker with GRI HomeSmart Elite and instructor at Arizona Academy of Real Estate. "Honestly, I don't suggest you write an offer on a house that you don't have some emotional investment in," says Binder. "At what point do you know you have the house for sure? When your agent tells you your loan has funded and the deed is recorded." The best way to deal with the roller coaster of home buying before that point is to be aware of the highs and lows you may experience along the initial stages of the journey.

High: New Beginnings

Whether you're a first-time buyer, upgrading your starter home to something big enough for your growing family, or downsizing as an empty-nester, the idea of a fresh start is exciting. This is the time to dream big. Tip: Make a list. Start with must-haves, followed by desired (but not required) qualities in a home, and lastly items that would be a bonus.

Low: Reality Check

You may not find a 5-bedroom, 4-bath house with multiple garages and tons of outdoor space in your price range. Or the trendy neighborhood you're coveting may be out of reach. Now is an excellent time to get pre-qualified for a loan so you know how large of a loan you may be eligible for. [Note that pre-qualification isn't a guarantee, just an estimate of how much money you might qualify for given your current employment and credit circumstances.]

You may experience sticker shock if home prices in your target neighborhood are currently high and/or there's a shortage of homes on the market. If this happens, look for lower pricing in nearby areas. Sometimes, you only need cross the border between suburbs to instantly see a huge drop.

High: Let's Go Shopping!

For many potential buyers, touring homes is the fun part of the process. This is also where you'll likely find a licensed real estate agent or Realtor® to aid you in your search. "A good, experienced buyer's agent will meet and have a buyer consultation prior to showing you homes and explain more about the process," Binder explains. Your agent will help you select homes to visit and set up appointments; he or she may also offer you e-mailed or printed lists of available housing through the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) database. Tip: Visit open houses during this period, and continue to look online through real estate sites such as Trulia, Zillow and MLS.com.

Low: Shop Till You Drop (from exhaustion)

Finding the perfect bathing suit can take multiple trips to the store, so you can imagine how intense buyers get when shopping for a house, condo or townhome they are likely going to reside in for many years. If you find yourself picking apart your 40th bathroom or hundredth carport, don't get discouraged. It's worth waiting for the right place.

High: Paradise Found

You've finally found the home that meets your needs. You love the layout, and your kids adore the grassy backyard with its sparkling pool. Now it's time to make an offer! Tip: Try to temper your attachment to a property before the deal is finalized. Continue looking at other homes so you have something to focus on if this offer doesn't pan out.

Low: Waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

While many sellers take just a day or two to respond to a competitive offer, that 24 hours seems like a lifetime when you're waiting to hear if you landed your dream home. Responses on bank-owned properties may take months. Be patient, an answer will come.

Low: Paradise Lost

Not every offer on a property will be accepted. Some owners decline outright, while many respond with a counter offer to your initial dollar amount. While waiting for a response from the seller or financial institution (in the case of a bank-owned property), consider how much you are willing to go up on your initial offer.

High: The Big Win

Your adrenaline rush will peak the moment you hear four little words: You. Got. The. House. You'll still need to deal with home inspections, financing and escrow, but the emotional tumult of the selection process has come to a close. It's time to start thinking about this slice of real estate as your new home.

Luckily, it doesn't take most homebuyers nine months to seal the deal on a new place. According to homes.com, the average home purchaser spends one to two months shopping around, and up to 30 days closing on the property. Granted, that's not everyone. Some buyers can easily pinpoint the perfect home, while others will look at 100+ houses over the course of months or years before pushing the proverbial button on a sale.

There may also be issues to contend with that are outside of the buyer's control: for example short sales, lender delays and bidding wars. By understanding the emotional highs and lows you may experience on the road to homeownership, you can stay focused on the end goal of moving into a home you love.