As I mentioned in my post last week, I’m house hunting. While buying a house is certainly an exciting adventure for me, I didn’t think of it as being relevant to the blog. However, last week I reached out to all of you via Facebook for some content ideas. In the comments, someone suggested sharing the process of buying a house. I thought it was a such a smart idea so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Now, before we start, I must mention that I’m not a home buying expert. Today’s post and future posts about this adventure are meant to be more for your enjoyment rather than the ultimate how-to guide for buying a home. However, I hope that through this process, you’ll be able to pick up a few tips, discover new resources, and learn from my mistakes. With that disclaimer out there, let’s get going on this fun journey!

Buying a House - Inspired by Charm's House Hunting Adventure

FIND A REALTOR

I thought it would be smart to go back to the very beginning. To get my home buying process started, I first found a realtor. As you probably know, there are plenty of realtors. I suggest asking friends for recommendations or doing some online research to find someone who’s a good fit for you. Odds are you’ll be working closely with that person or team throughout the process so it’s essential that you like and trust them.

I found my realtor through social media. I was following a few developers in the Pittsburgh area on Instagram and several of them tagged Lifespace Pittsburgh as their real estate agency. After looking through some of the agency’s listings and doing a bit more research online, I set up an appointment and met with an agent to discuss my budget and what I was looking for in a home.

GET PRE-APPROVAL

While finding a realtor is an important first step, you’ll also want to take care of a few other details early in the home-buying process. If you need to finance your purchase (that is, get a loan), I strongly recommend first getting pre-approval. Pre-approval will determine how much you can spend on a home. That is to say, there’s no point in looking at $500K homes if you can only afford something closer to $300K.

There are many options for loans whether you work through a bank or other lender. I suggest starting with your personal bank. Your realtor may also be able to point you to lenders. Because I’m self-employed, my process of getting pre-approval was a bit more challenging. A standard pre-approval is fairly easy and straightforward. You should be able to get your number in a day or two.

I made the mistake of assuming what my budget could handle and simply started looking for houses in that price range. Skipping the pre-approval process was not wise. I could have avoided lots of unnecessary stress and frustration by first getting pre-approval. Trust me, you don’t want to fall in love with a home only to find out it’s beyond what the bank will loan you.

ENVISION YOUR PERFECT HOME

In my next “Buying a House with IBC” post, I’m going to walk you through in more detail what I’m looking for in a home. This is another crucial step before starting your search.

This means you have to decide where in the country you want to live. Is your perfect home in the city or the suburbs? Do you want a big backyard or are you dreaming of a large front porch? Do you want a single-family home or condo? If you’re planning on or have kids? How’s the school district? How many bedrooms/bathrooms do you need? Do you want a fixer-upper or new construction?…

Tips for Buying a House - House Hunting with Inspired by Charm

When I was thinking about what I wanted in a home, I made three lists: “Must Have,” “Would Be Nice,” and “Icing on the Cake.” Anything on my “Must-Have” List is non-negotiable. Things on my “Would-Be-Nice” List give the realtor a clearer picture of what my perfect home would have. They include the style of home, flooring type, specific features I like, and so on. My “Icing-on-the-Cake” List is for things I don’t need but would love to have, such as high ceilings, a clawfoot tub, and a functional fireplace.

While it’s important to know what you want, it’s equally important to be flexible. Be sure to make mental (or actual) notes about what you can and cannot change in a particular property. For example, you can replace carpet with hardwood, but you can’t change the school district the home is in. In addition, you can paint walls and add a front porch, but you can’t change the fact that the house is on a busy and noisy street. I hope that makes sense.

START THE HUNT

Your realtor can use all of this information and help you find the perfect home. Ideally, your agent should present you with some options based on what’s on the market and offer you new options as different properties become available.

However, thanks to the internet, you can also so your own home search. Websites like Zillow and Realtor provide a list of homes on the market. You can create custom searches to fit your budget, desired location, home size, etc.

Buying a House using Zillow

In addition to my realtor’s search, I chose to set up a few custom searches on Zillow. (I’ll talk more about what I’m looking for and why I have multiple searches in my next post.) I defined these searches to certain areas, set my price range, and chose the option to have new listings emailed to me once a day. I like this because every morning I get an email with any new listings which I can quickly go through. Now, because I’m a bit paranoid, I also check my custom search listings directly on the site in the evening. What’s especially nice is that you can be as involved as you’d like. If you prefer a more hands-off approach when looking for a house, let your realtor do the work for you.

And that brings me to where I am today: the hunt. Unfortunately, the market in Pittsburgh is rather slow at the moment, so the number of houses that fit my wants and needs is limited. Thankfully, I have a few months left on my apartment lease. I also have the flexibility to extend my lease by a few months, if needed. This is important because I would much rather find a house that suits me rather than rush into something based on time. Now, if I could just decide exactly where in Pittsburgh I want to live and what my ideal home looks like … but we’ll save that until next time.

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Comments

  • Erin at

    Good luck with your house hunt! We purchased a new home last spring and your pointers are spot on. We honestly looked casually for a year and got more serious around this time last year. We ended up finding our home at the end of March. It’s definitely worth the wait to find the right one, so I’m glad you have some flexibility!

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Yes! I’m SO anxious to get into a home, but I’m really doing my best to wait it out until I find “the one”. So glad you found a home and are settling in!

      xo Michael

  • Judy at

    This is a grand idea for everyone who has not brought a house before. Your pointers are very helpful and very true. Even though I am not in the market for a another home, I will enjoy your journey. Good luck and I hope you find what you are looking for.

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Thank you!

      xo Michael

  • nancy at

    I’m looking forward to your posts. We are looking to downsize and I’m finding the process a bit challenging as well as there are also limited listings. You’re smart to get a realtor because in this market I think many if not all of the really good ones are snatched up before they hit the multiple listings.Having said that it’s still very helpful to see what is and isn’t out there to help narrow the focus.

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Yes! Agreed. They often have insights on great properties before they hit the market. Love that!

      xo Michael

  • Deb at

    How fun! Thanks for taking us along on your home buying adventure.

  • Daphne at

    Love your tips. Looking forward to seeing what you get. Exciting times!

  • Barb Feidler at

    As a Realtor for decades, I wanted you to know that I wish all buyers could read what you wrote Michael. Your advice is exactly the advice I have been giving for years! I certainly want to wish you much success in your home search. I know you’ll do well. We are all looking forward to the photos and your amazing transformation of your new home!

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      I love hearing that, Barb! Thanks! Too bad you weren’t closer – you could have been my Realtor!

      xo Michael

  • LindaB at

    You are right on for preparing for your purchase! I’m a realtor in central Indiana. Although I do administrative work now, I still love the home buying process. Wishing you all the best and looking forward to watching your progress! BTW, your realtor has probably already told you this, but Zillow is great as a starter tool, but in our area valuation is not super accurate. 🙂

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Thank you! And yes – Zillow is just one tool of many.

      Thanks!
      xo Michael

  • Marya at

    I look forward to reading about your journey. We too are looking to move in the spring and seem to be at the same point you’re at. We locked down our realtors and are now waiting for more inventory. We’ve lived in our home for 15 years in a very hot market so the sell will be fast but finding something at the same point will be challenging. Good luck and please keep sending tips.

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      We are in this together! Wishing you all the best! Here’s to happy home hunting!

      xo Michael

  • Sandra at

    Good luck on the search. And yes, don’t rush into a purchase because of time constraints. I know you will eventually find something that is perfect for you. Then we can all have more fun while you put your spin on the decorating. Have fun.

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Yes! That’s what I’m most excited about!

      xo Michael

  • Mary C at

    As a Escrow Closer, I wanted people to know that buyers do not pay the Realtor, the commissions come from Seller. Therefore you have nothing to lose getting an agent.

    • Galen at

      That’s not necessarily true. Every time an agent is involved, you are going to pay more for the property. It may be the sellers who “pay” the agent, but the agent’s commission is baked into the price of the property.
      When people are able to purchase property directly from the seller, they can save thousands of dollars because the seller is willing to list at a lower price. A real estate attorney can handle escrow and contracts. Unfortunately, most people are conditioned to believe that only real estate agents are “qualified” to handle these services and they end up paying thousands of dollars needlessly.

  • Jennifer Leeman at

    I’m so excited that you’re sharing this process with us! The realtor in me loves this post. I think the process is scary and can definitely be stressful for most people and hearing from someone as eloquent as you each step of the way will be reassuring. I love the way you’re breaking it down into steps and I’ll be sharing on my real estate business page!

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Get out!? Thanks so much for sharing! I appreciate it!

      xo Michael

  • Laura Kissel at

    HI, and good luck with your home search! I’m a REALTOR in the Columbus, Ohio area, and your tips are excellent. A couple things to add: many REALTORS now have websites that you can use to create your own searches, similar to Zillow. Zillow is handy, but does not always present the most up-to-date information, and the “zestimate” isn’t necessarily accurate. And last but not least – don’t discount newer REALTORS! They may be willing to spend more time showing homes and getting to know their clients! Good luck in your home search.

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Thanks so much for your input, Laura! I really appreciate it!

      xo Michael

  • MICHELLE CORBO at

    Love the little tree decor.. where did you find it?
    Good luck on the hunt!

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      I found it on Etsy several years ago.

      xo Michael

  • sydney85 at

    From my experience having a real estate agent that you work well with is everything. I had used the same agent while in Texas without any problems but when we moved to Chicago had to find another agent. The agent in Chicago was so superior in every way that it was a shock. We came to trust our agent with our decisions and we could not be happier. We continue to sing his praises whenever we can because I know he will do amazing for everyone.

  • SMailloux at

    Oh, the possibilities! It’s like a superior version of House Hunters.

  • Babette at

    I’m really excited to see that you are sharing this journey with your readers! We live in South Florida and are planning on moving to the Panhandle to be closer to our daughter, husband, and our new grandbaby! We are casually looking right now, because our twins have to graduate and then we have to put our house on the market! We also have some updating to do! I’m really interested to see how it goes for you and I hope that you find a house that can be just right for you!
    Blessings!

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Thank you! And best of luck to you on your new adventures!

      xo Michael

  • susan at

    This is going to be fun! Hope you’ll share all you look at and what you like and don’t like about each one. Your own “House Hunters”! And of course another whole episode of the move and fix up and decorating!

  • laura nuss at

    I’m a realtor in Denver and I agree with agent from Columbus. I loved your pre-approval process point! Good Luck! How does home buying work on the east coast with ALL THE SNOW? Denver has 55 degree days after snow so it’s just sloppy! congrats!

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Well, it’s REALLY slow right now. Hopefully the market will pick up as the weather warms up. I need options. Lol.

      xo Michael

  • Delores Clark at

    Thank you for this Michael, I am a REALTOR in Carrollton, Ga., and thought it was so good that I shared it on my business facebook page. DeloresClarkGeorgiaWestRealty.

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Glad you found it helpful! Thanks for sharing.

      xo Michael

  • Carol at

    One thing I would like to mention when looking for a house that was hugh for me was the direction the house sits toward the sun. When we were looking for a house I refused to look at a house that sat towards the north. They always seem so dark and lacking in natural light. With that said I wish you the best with your journey.

    • SoCalLynn at

      I agree with checking which way the house faces! I live in inland southern California. We still live in the first house we bought 22 years ago. Now that I know, I would NEVER buy a house where the two main rooms face west ever again. Too much heat!

      • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

        So interesting! I never thought much about the way the house faces, but I’ll definitely take note. Thanks to you both!

        xo Michael

  • Amanda at

    Good luck on the hunt! It can be so overwhelming, but it’s all so exciting! We just moved into a new home in November, and it’s just so fun to be settling in and getting used to the new home. Can’t wait to see what you find!

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Thank you! I’m really trying to look pass the stress and enjoy the process. Congrats on YOUR new home!

      xo Michael

  • Wendy at

    Loving that you are taking on this journey with you! I think this is going to be YOUR year! It will exciting to watch! Thanks so much for including us!

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Thank you, Wendy!

      xo Michael

  • Hannah at

    Yay!! This is so fun! I LOVE all things houses!! I can’t wait for more posts! I’m always dreaming and scheming about buying cool houses and fixing them up! I “browse” Realtor.com weekly even tho we aren’t at all in the market to buy another house right now! Haha!

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Right!? It’s so fun! Just a tad more stressful when it’s “real life”. Haha!

      xo Michael

  • Whoer at

    Hey thanks for sharing your experience and tips in buying a house with IBC. I bought a house but I can’t imagine the price over the house I got. It’s like too expensive.

  • Jordan at

    Thanks so much! This has been really helpful and relatable. I’m hoping to start the process this summer 🙂 Best of luck to you in your search! I’m sure whatever you find you will make it even more amazing!

  • homeia at

    Thanks so much for your tips!

  • Deb at

    We are planning a move at the beginning of next year. The town we are interested in had bad flooding in some areas last year. I made it a point to research flood plains and also just searching by town name and street name. Eliminated many areas right off the bat. Good luck with your search!

  • Brocanteuserose at

    Love this post, everything is spot on! We just bought our first home 6 months ago, after several bidding wars, and not getting what we thought we wanted we ended up in the perfect neighborhood and perfect house for us. Not to say we aren’t making some cosmetic changes, but overall all our “musts” were meet, along with several “would be nice to haves”. Don’t lose hope!

    The only point I will make is once you (anyone) is pre approved, keep in mind you don’t have to spend all your preapproved for. Our rule of thumb was even though we are a two income family buy as though we are one income. We didn’t want to be “house poor”. Our mantra was… what is the point of a huge house if we can’t afford to eat? It was tempting to go above our comfort level especially after the bidding wars and losing several houses we feel in love with. But this way IF something should happen job wise in the next 20 plus years we don’t have to worry about losing our home. Also now we can afford to pay our 30 year loan down like a 15 year loan saving us tons in interest since we do have 2 incomes and bought like a one income family. Sorry this got a little long winded, and may not apply to you, but maybe will assist someone.

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Yes! Yes! Yes! I’m so thankful you made this point and should adjust my post. Maybe I’ll mention it in the next one. Yes. I actually have three pre-approvals. Lol. In case the “dream house” comes along the max is doable, but I would like to spend less (in my case) to avoid higher interest, less money down, and to pay it off quicker.

      I really appreciate you making this comment! Thank you!
      xo Michael

  • Derek Dewitt at

    My wife and I are thinking about getting a new home soon, so thanks for these helpful tips. I like that you suggest getting pre-approved first so you know how much you can spend on the home. We’ll have to do this so we can start choosing neighborhoods that fall in our price range.

  • Jeff at

    Yay! That’s so exciting! I can’t wait to see what you find and how you transform it into something that’s amazing!

  • Linda Ridlon at

    My husband and I have been married forty-six years. We have purchased six homes. Very wise real estate agent had us make a list of “requireds” and “desireds”. Any house we looked at had to meet our list of requireds or we didn’t consider it. After sorting by requireds, we considered the desireds available with each house. This saves time by only looking at houses that met our criteria. Yes, you’re free to look at other houses but this sorting process was a great help.

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Love that idea, Linda! I basically did the same thing but made three categories. Maybe a bit more confusing, but it works.

      xo Michael

  • Cyd at

    I can’t wait to follow along! I am super excited for you. I have a feeling you’re going to find an absolute gem and turn into something amazing. Have fun, friend! xoxo

  • Tim at

    Michael… I can relate as I am the process of buying a home ( my first) as well. Wow…what a roller coaster ride. I am really looking forward to being able to follow along as our journeys progress! Thank you for all the continued inspiration! PS… have you been keeping up with Home Town? 🙂

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Thank you so much! And yes, I WOULDN’T miss it! It’s the highlight of my Monday!

      xo Michael

  • Derek Dewitt at

    My wife and I are wanting to buy a new home this year, so thanks for the helpful tips. I like that you suggest getting pre-approved so you know how much you can spend on a home. We’ll be sure to do this before we start looking at neighborhoods so we know we can afford it.

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