How a ‘Dry January’ Mindset Can Get You Closer to Buying a Home in 2024
The “dry January” challenge of giving up alcohol for a month got us thinking about kicking some other bad habits that might be holding us back.
We’re not talking about giving up carbs for a month or an afternoon latte, but the not-so-great things you might be doing as a wannabe homebuyer. Not to point fingers here, but many home shoppers fall prey to a faux pas or two when making what’s likely the most significant purchase of their lives, especially in today’s brutal housing market.
To help you get closer to your homebuying dreams, consider taking the month of January to hit the reset button and think about the strategies that aren’t working in your favor. Ready for a homebuying reset?
Bad habit No. 1: Shopping for a home above your price range
We know how tempting it is to wistfully eye houses above your price range, especially if you’re not finding anything in your budget on the listing pages. Still, wondering how you just might be able to swing a higher homebuying fund is a bad habit that could create a cash flow crisis for your budget.
Vestuto says there are additional upfront costs when buying a home. In addition to the sales price, you will pay for inspections, appraisals, homeowners insurance, utility deposits, and closing costs, which could add thousands to your bottom line.
So kick the habit of browsing homes beyond your budget by challenging yourself to discover hidden gems within your financial comfort zone.
Bad habit No. 2: Taking on new debt while house hunting
Finding a home can be extremely tiresome and stressful. Who can blame you for wanting to treat yourself with a little somethin’ somethin’ to lift your spirits?
Yet splurging on certain things can get homebuyers into hot water. A new pair of kicks? Go for it. A new set of wheels? Not so much.
“It is a good idea not to take on any new debt during the homebuying process,” says Brie Schmidt, owner and managing broker at Second City Real Estate in Chicago. “If you add a monthly payment of $325 to your budget, you will lower your loan approval amount by $50,000. So hold off on buying that new car or financing that new furniture until after the closing date.”
Stay accountable by sharing your house hunting and financial goals with a trusted friend or family member. They can support and remind you of your commitment to avoid new debt until after closing.
Bad habit No. 3: Nixing a home for minor issues
Fact: Finding a home with no cosmetic issues is extremely rare. Instead of perfection, you’ll likely step into a bedroom with an off-putting mural from the ’70s that makes you cringe, or tour a house with icky carpet. And these gut reactions might make you immediately scratch a property off your list.
Instead, try visualizing what the house would look like with your decorative effort—or grab a friend who can see the potential and upsides of a home needing TLC.
“Part of the excitement with purchasing a home is handling some of the personal touches to making the home your own and unique to you,” says Vestuto.
If the home issues are a bit more complex, get a contractor to give you an estimate on fixing what you dislike.
“If the item affects the home’s functionality or the ability to enjoy the home, then ask the seller to remedy it,” says Vestuto. “If the item is small and cosmetic, remedy it on your own after taking possession.”
Bad habit No. 4: Buying a home to fit furniture
You keep finding almost perfect houses, with one exception—your beloved soft and roomy sectional where you spent many nights cozied up with your pup watching Netflix doesn’t fit.
But please don’t nix the house and keep looking. You might want to consider a new way to handle this hurdle, as unique or sentimental as the furniture is.
“If everything else checks the box, I would consider buying a new sofa,” says Vickey Barron, a licensed associate real estate broker at Compass in New York City. The same goes for replacing your oversized dining table or king-sized bed.
“After all, you purchased the furniture for an existing layout of a home,” says Barron. “It may never look good in the new space, no matter how hard you try to make it fit—so marry the house and divorce the sofa.”
Bad habit No. 5: Insulting the seller
Buying or selling a house can be highly emotional for both parties.
Buyers fall hard and fast for a house and become attached to the house. Meanwhile, sellers might have a hard time parting with their beloved home.
“Don’t insult the owner on the home or decor, thinking you will get a better price,” says Barron. “It is an emotional sale on both sides of the deal. Emotional intelligence will win every time.”
By cultivating an atmosphere of respect and consideration, you improve the chances of successful negotiations and build trust and goodwill with the seller, which can be invaluable when addressing any potential concerns and conducting inspections.
Bad habit No. 6: Using multiple agents
Working with a few agents to scope out as many houses as possible in a competitive market might seem like a genius idea to beat the system.
Yet while working with multiple agents is legal (unless you sign a buyer’s agent agreement), having an agent or three on speed dial doesn’t put you ahead of the curve. All real estate agents have access to the same multiple listing services, meaning you might have different agents showing you the same property.
Instead of creating headaches for yourself, interview a few agents and then choose one.
“Trust your professional, and be as honest and detailed as possible about what you are looking for,” says Vestuto. “The more details you can share on what you will accept and not accept for your home, the better. You can always go separate ways if you don’t feel you are being served properly.”