04/11 Life

Restarting Our House Hunt

Remember a while ago when I mentioned we were looking for a house and then I never talked about it again?  That about sums up how it’s been going!  No real updates- haven’t been too motivated about it, and it can all be pretty frustrating.  We never graduated from casually looking at listings because the intimidation was overwhelming and we simply didn’t know what we were doing or how to get started.  But we’re picking it back up again because we painted a picture of how we want our future in married life to look and home ownership would be pretty darn nice- agreed!  We’re excited to be starting back up from the beginning and partnering with Realtor.com to share the details on what we’re looking for, what we’ve learned, and what our house hunting journey has been like so far.

Like with any goal, we must decide what exactly we want, prioritize what’s important and from there use that list to guide us.  This itself can be an ordeal, I know, like sure everyone wants to be in a good neighborhood but what does that specifically mean?  How do you determine what factors are non-negotiable?  Does what you want in a home even exist?  Realtor.com has the most comprehensive and accurate information and updates more than any other national home buying website or app, so if it does exist, they can help us find it.

As we’re jumping back in on the hunt, here’s what we came up with for our first house ideals:

1. Good neighborhood- We’ve defined this as safe, good walking score, decent commute for O, and close proximity to a Trader Joe’s (not a joke).
2. Three bedroom minimum- One room would be a place for me to work, which would also require lots of natural light and storage capacity.
3. Washer and dryer- I never want to have to go to the bank for quarters or get into a laundry war with a neighbor again.
4. Outdoor space- This could be as small as a little balcony, just somewhere we can grill.
5. Central air- No more A/C units and plug-in heaters, please.
6. Not a fixer upper- Good bones and something we won’t have to gut and completely redo.

This list gave us a good starting point, and as we searched for listings we quickly learned our biggest lesson so far: compromises must be made, and our first home may not be our perfect dream home.  Given our budget, how crazy expensive LA is, and the highly competitive market, we needed to get down even further into what our absolute minimum requirements for our first home are.  We did this by asking each other questions like, “If a home had #1-5 but not #6 from our list, is that a deal breaker?”  Each time we asked this question we’d change up which item on our list was being compromised.  The conclusion was pretty easy because we found that the only thing we’re not at all willing to compromise is a good neighborhood.

In using Realtor.com and their intuitive map feature, our searches from that point have primarily been by location and searching by map is the only way we do it.  We move around the map on Realtor.com and the app to areas around LA we like and use the filter to input criteria like bedrooms, square feet, and price.  Square feet became another non-negotiable once we were seeing that there are a lot of homes in LA the size of a broom closet and we absolutely need more space than that.

One of the things I like using the Realtor.com app for is circling locations on the map that I want to zero in on to see the listings just in that area.  This is something I do more-so when I’m outside walking around a neighborhood we don’t frequent but we notice is nice and think hmm, wonder what listings are around here?  This is for sure the main way we’ve expanded our consideration for different neighborhoods and locations as well as map out what specific areas are within our budgetary reach.

One afternoon I came across a miracle listing that was near perfect, recently renovated so beautifully that we wouldn’t have had to change a thing, fulfilled the majority of our requirements, and I knew there was no way a listing this good was going to last but I tried to schedule a viewing anyway.  I requested the viewing directly through Realtor.com and got a quick response from the agent explaining exactly what I expected, that there were already a lot of interested buyers and offers were due midnight same day, to which I embarrassingly responded that we weren’t at all prepared for this and don’t know what we’re doing.

Two things I learned from this: one, we need to get pre-approved so that we can act fast with a realtor when these kind of miracles come up, and two, competitive is an understatement.  It reminded me of when we showed up early to the open house of our current apartment and ten other people did too.  I wrote a check and filled out the application on the spot because the urgency and competition was so heavy (and hey, we got it!)  Missing out on the only house listing we’ve ever liked a lot reminded me of that experience.  So, the good news is we are on our way to getting pre-approved, connected with a realtor through Realtor.com, and are shopping for a mortgage lender to get our competitive edge on next time we are seriously considering a listing.

Truthfully the single most frustrating thing about all of this is how much these tiny, outdated, and poor condition LA homes are asking for.  It’s dumbfounding, yet we remember here is the best place we want to be, and many others feel the same.  Ultimately, we’re only leaving if we find a house that we like more than our current apartment, and we like our current apartment a LOT.  In a way that’s both grateful and sad (weird?), it feels like we could stay at this apartment forever because it’s been so tough to find a house, but I’m hopeful we can be patient and get lucky.  Luck must be a big part of all this, I learned that too!  Having a tool like Realtor.com has certainly eased frustrations and got us going in the right direction, making us way more confident about going on this home buying adventure.  Excited to share more on this as we continue.

Are you in the midst of a house hunt as well?  How has your experience been?  Have you used Realtor.com or downloaded their app?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me and brought to you by Realtor.com®.

13 comments on “Restarting Our House Hunt”

  1. So funny because I’ve also been apartment hunting and the first thing I do after liking a place is Maps search on my phone how close Trader Joes and Target is.

    1. That is me. We find something we might like and then I go “Wait, look up where the nearest Trader Joe’s is.”

  2. Hi Amy!

    My husband and I just bought a condo in West LA back in November and luck definitely played a big role in our search! When we first saw the condo, it was already out of our price range but we checked it out anyway. We thought about submitting an offer but after we found out that the seller received multiple cash offers way above listing price, we knew we didn’t stand a chance. But then about a month later, we found out that 2 buyers had back out during escrow and it was relisted. After finding out why the other buyers backed out, we quickly submitted a low offer explaining that we were ok with everything the other buyers weren’t ok with. After one or two counter offers, we agreed on a price that was below the original listing price.

    Wishing you guys the best of luck in finding your first home together :D!

    <3 Annie

    1. Sounds like a lucky outcome and so happy for you that it worked out! Thanks for sharing, your story gives me HOPE!

  3. Please consider waiting. You don’t want to be underwater on your first home like so many people in 2007-2009, the housing market is crazy, even here in Dallas, but you can just wait until the market turns in your favor. It’s a 15 year cycle typically, and I’m spending the time (in an apartment that I love) paying off my student loans and then saving up for a solid downpayment (or more). I think buying a house is one of those things that may feel right for this point in your life, but that can’t be the driving reason. If you’re going to pay an extra $100,000 to buy a home now versus 3 years, you’re just hurting yourself, and your equity. That said, I’ve been looking at real estate since I was 8 and I stole my parents Architectural Digests. I think constantly checking in on the housing stock in the areas you’re interested can really give you an education in the market cycles. Keep looking, but watch the numbers first of all. Good luck!

    1. Sound advice, and I totally agree with you. O has been on top of keeping an eye on stock and he’s thinking as well it’s going to pop soon… Could so use a home and bigger space soon but we’re going to be careful not to rush it! Great points and I really appreciate your insight, forreal. Thanks, Jillian!

  4. LA is rough. In fact, all of California is rough in regards to the housing market and trying to snag a good home! Everyone jumps on them so quick and it’s definitely a highly competitive market. I wish you both much luck! I’m sure something great will come up soon!

    xo, Sofia

    1. Thank you, Sofia! I think we’re going to be in this for a long time… thoughts of leaving CA are present too but I just don’t see myself having the strength to do that haha.

  5. I am looking in NYC and its crazy here i am sure something will turn up soon for your guys! Good luck

  6. LA is absolutely the worst as far as pricing on dilapidated houses you’re going to have to put a ton of money into. And Trader Joe’s proximity in LA is also super important (in my book, too) because you need to be able to run out to get what you forgot and not need it to take an hour there and an hour back.

    Ah the joys of LA.


    1. Yup, we’ll come across houses that are a little bit of a stretch on price and think ok we can maybe make that work… Then we see that we’re going to have to re-do everything and it’s nowhere near worth it.
      I seriously appreciate the reciprocated seriousness of TJ’s proximity. It can really be an ordeal with LA traffic!

  7. Hey there,

    I can tell you from our experience that sometimes it takes long and you will go through highs and lows. I live with my husband in Montreal (Canada) and we did some intense house hunting for 3 years. The prices kept on increasing in those three years so we did not even consider our area of choice in the first place – too expensive.

    However, 15 offers later, multiple bidding wars, some crazy counter offers – some where we did back out because our “gut” feeling was telling us to wait on the “perfect” home, we finally got our home in the area we wanted most. It’s a fixer upper but the location is in the top two within the city.

    Everybody were telling us we were crazy, that we were too picky. We had three agents quit on us. But, in the end, we hung in there strongly and got what we wanted. It was a mix of extreme patience and luck (and some tears at times lol).

    This is just some encouragements I am sending you and to let you know to never never give up on a good location. It is key and you will never lose with your investment in a prime area.

    By the way, I’d like to share this about our home. Totally random but it’s worth it. The old lady that passed away at 96 that lived in that home all of her life (since 1923) didn’t have any family or relatives. So when she died, all of what she had, including the proceeds for the sale of the house (which we bought) went as a donation to a dog rescue center. To me, that is one fun fact I love about our home :-)

    Good luck !

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