First time buyers are used to scrolling through hundreds of options on Zillow, Trulia and Some think that they need to see every home on the market to make a decision. They form a wish list from houses online, and by visiting a few open houses. There is a better way.

Searching for homes has gotten easier, but still requires a little due diligence. In the late 1990s, buyers were sure that they knew everything about a house from a 1” square photo online. After seeing a few homes in person, they quickly discovered that one small photo didn’t tell them that there were electric lines overhead, that the basement looks like Cellblock D, or that it was squeezed in next to a gas station.

Now we have a multitude of photos online, floor plans, and are fast approaching 3-D tours. But, that still doesn’t tell the whole story. When you buy a house, you buy a neighborhood, the school system, and the city where you live. An MLS listing has information about the house, room sizes, garage, and the lot, but there’re other resources to check as well. Google maps is more than just directions, it lets us drill down to a bird’s eye view of the neighborhood, the backyard, the garage, besides just checking commute routes. Trulia and Zillow show walk scores, crime maps, school info, sales history, estimated monthly payment, and local restaurants. It’s worth taking three minutes to research online to see if the yard backs into a major freeway, or if deer are grazing there. 

The average buyer looks at 12 homes before making a decision. It’s possible that they find ‘the one’ during the first tour of homes, but they wouldn’t recognize it. A deck or a sunroom becomes a priority once they’ve seen light streaming across gleaming wood floors. It takes seeing five or six homes for buyers to get a handle for what is on the market in their price range, they are building criteria. Sometimes they buy a home opposite from the original Wish List, criteria evolves.

When a buyer sees more than 20 homes and isn’t close to finding the right one, they’re chasing a unicorn. Everyone wants more than their budget allows regardless of price point. My job is to keep them up on what’s available to them, help them make decisions that lead them to YES.

A young couple once told me that they wanted 1920s charm, new construction condition, and a deeply discounted price. Although that might have been possible in 2010, it’s not happening now. Well priced homes in good condition are selling in multiple offers within a couple days on market. We saw over 50 homes, nothing made them happy. Mrs. Buyer would open the front door and say,” Well, what’s wrong with this one?” That’s a, “I’m afraid to buy anything” signal. Maybe it’s fear of making a decision, of spending too much, or making a mistake. Those people think that they want to buy, but they will not be satisfied regardless of price or condition, they’ll find a reason to say no.

No one should buy a home that they don’t love, but there is no perfect home. There are homes that meet your wish list on paper, yet you don’t love them. There is the market, and there are expectations. They have to come together. Having a clear idea of what is going on with the market, finances, and open mind make finding a new home easier. There are tools that you can use in your pajamas to make you smarter, and the road easier. It is always a journey, but having a map points to your new front door.