Finding your dream home is an exciting adventure that, at times, can also feel all-consuming. On a good day, it’s fun to swipe through listings and whiz through every open house in your area, but after umpteen hours of it—and perhaps a lost bidding war or two—it can almost drive you mad.
If you sometimes feel like you’re spinning your wheels and wandering aimlessly from property to property, we get it. House hunt burnout is real. Yet there are also plenty of smart ways to keep your stress levels and sanity on even keel.
Get pre-approved for a mortgage before you even start
Do not pass Go, do not even look at online listings until you have your mortgage pre-approval lined up.
“Not only will a pre-approval make it easier to eventually make an offer as a serious buyer, but it will also help you narrow down your property search criteria so you can focus better,” notes Jackie Hinton, a real estate broker for Center Coast Realty in Chicago.
That’s because the pre-approval letter will detail the maximum mortgage loan you’re approved for, or your instant housing budget!
Make a must-have list and stick to it
This is not as easy as it sounds, says Hinton. “Before you start looking, write down the non-negotiable features your new home needs. Then if a place doesn’t have everything on the list, don’t go see it, no matter how curious you are,” she advises.
And the more specific the criteria, the better, contends Kate Herzig, an agent with Golston Real Estate in Arlington, VA. “For example, where I live, garages are really hard to come by, so if a garage is an absolute must-have, that is an easy way to narrow down your list of potential homes,” she says.
Focusing your list has a complementary benefit, in addition to saving time: It can help prevent “list creep,” which typically occurs when you see shiny objects in each new house. If you’re not careful, all of a sudden you might find your “must-have” list has grown from “3BR/2BA and a decent commute” to a new lust for a chef’s kitchen when you barely cook.