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Real estate madness: Isn’t there one decent house available for sale out there?

Real estate search engines are short on inventory as houses sell as fast as they're listed.
Real estate search engines are short on inventory as houses sell as fast as they're listed.

The real estate market is making me appreciate that certain charm my home has more and more each day.

That charm – besides it being cute and cozy – is that I already own it and live there.

My husband and I have been casually looking for a new, slightly larger home for a few months and we’re finding that the real estate “feeding frenzy” that an agent termed the market in a recent Lehigh Valley Business article is a formula for self-torture.

FIRST-TIME BUYER

I like to think that I’m a smart shopper, but buying a home is never easy.

When I bought my first home in 1997, I had the same problem that many first-time buyers have. I had what one might call “champagne tastes on a beer budget.”

Since this was before real estate websites made home-browsing from home a viable hobby, I must have schlepped through a hundred homes trying to find the right one.

If it was in my price range, it was ugly or in an undesirable neighborhood.

If it was cute, it was out of my price range.

If it was cute and in my price range, it had structural damage or had been the scene of a brutal murder.

My real estate agent seemed ready to give up.

But, before she did, she struck gold. There was a house in a reasonably safe neighborhood. It was small but cute and in decent shape.

The owner had inherited it and was eager to find a buyer, so she was willing to sell the house for a fairly low price.

Playing the waiting game, finding the perfect home and the perfect deal in a slow real estate market when there was plenty of inventory was the right move, and I lived nearly eight years in the small but sturdy home.

SECOND TIME AROUND

By the time I was looking for a second home, I was married, in my 30s and had a better job. My house was nice enough, though, so we stayed put and saved our money so we’d have a nice chunk of change to put down for a deposit. Again, smart.

When I stumbled upon the cutest little Cape Cod we had ever seen, we had money to negotiate.

The market was heating up, but it was still before the housing bubble kicked in.

There were a number of people looking at the property, but with money in hand and a willingness to settle quickly, they accepted our offer and we got a great deal.

I was thrilled and proud of my real estate savvy.

MY POINT

I’m proud of my ability to keep a calm business mind and make sound financial decisions while buying a home. It’s the biggest purchase you make in life, and it should be a good one.

I saw too many people buy during last decade’s real estate bubble and left underwater on their mortgage. (They owe more than they can sell it for.)

So my heart breaks for those in serious need of a new or first home. It’s crazy out there.

Realtors are advising clients to make an offer as soon as they see a house they like if they want a chance to get it.

There’s no chance to kick the tires, negotiate for improvements or a better price.

If there are any negotiations, it’s the buyer offering the seller more money than the list price, just so they don’t lose the property.

One agent told me he took buyers to an open house in Coopersburg because he thought it would be a perfect fit for them.

It turned out it was. But when they got to the open house, the selling agent said he had already received 11 offers.

Undaunted, his buyers still made an offer -- $15,000 above asking price.

They still didn’t get the house.

This is a market that isn’t buyer friendly – savvy business mind or not.

DREAMING BIGGER

Fifteen years have gone by since my husband and I bought our home, and again I’ve got the itch.

I still love my house, but it is on the (ah-hem) “cozy” side, and my husband and I are feeling crowded. There may only be two of us, but our fur-babies take up a lot of room.

We’ve been saving our pennies and looking for something bigger, maybe with a pool or a fireplace – not too big, just bigger.

This is how a typical day goes:

I search the online real estate listings … nothing … nothing … nothing.

Once every few weeks, I have an “a-ha” moment and see a house we like. It’s kind of in our price range. I want to see it.

I call the agent with the listing. I haven’t even bothered any of my agent friends because I don’t want to drag them into my nightmare. I go right to the source. Besides, it’s quicker and you have to get up pretty early to catch any real estate worms right now.

The agent calls me back and says: “Oh, that house. I already have two offers, but you can put a bid in, if you like.”

Nope, I’m not getting into a bidding war for a house that is already overpriced. My business brain just won’t let me do it.

So for now, home sweet home is staying home sweet home, and I’m trying to give up real estate websites like they’re a bad habit.

It’s hard, but I’m determined to buy with my head not just my heart.

And for those without a choice who are surfing the rough real estate seas – Godspeed!

May you find the home of your dreams for the reality of your bank account.

 

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