California cottage home with white picket fence
image: Florence Gray


Question: Marsha, I’ve been house Santa Barbara house hunting for over a year. I’m pre-approved with a lender and ready to purchase. I work with a great realtor, who I’m afraid is getting tired of me. I go to open houses, research the internet and know all the new listings. I’ve have made several offers, but was outbid on each one. This is my first purchase and I have a specific set of items I want in a house. What’s going on?

Answer: Are you being too picky? Only you can answer that question. It certainly seems to have dawned on you that perhaps you’re being too choosy and restrictive in your house hunting. What are your “must have” items versus your “like to have”? You went to a lender and got pre-approved. You know your value range. That’s a good thing and keeps you from looking at homes you can’t afford. If location is a must have item, be realistic. Are there homes in your desired location in your price range?

Here are telltale signs you may be too confining in your house hunting. First, you said you made offers and lost out. Are you making reasonable offers or are your offers in the low ball range? I’ve worked with buyers who felt everything I showed them was overpriced, even fabulous deals. They had the “used to be’s”. Prices used to be less in that neighborhood. The longer you take to purchase, especially in a rising market, the stronger the “used to be’s” become. Stay focused in the present. Understand what true prices are in the current market.

Second sign of too picky is looking for your forever home. As this is your first purchase expand your vision to include the possibility that you won’t to be in this house forever. This could be a starter home and it’s all right to settle for less than perfect. Purchase what you can afford, in the location, school or walkability area you want. If real estate trends continue in a few years, sell the home and purchase up. If prices go down, you have a home and can wait out the downturn.

A third sign is confusing cosmetic work with structural problems. You walk into the house and hate the carpet, the paint color, light fixtures, window treatments or landscaping. So what? All of this is fixable. If it has the location or other features you want then purchase the house! People pay a premium to have picture perfect homes.

A fourth sign is you’ve been looking too long. How long is that? I’d say that since even you are becoming frustrated with the process you’ve reach that point.
This may not have occurred to you, but perhaps you are sabotaging your own house hunting efforts. A first time purchase is scary. It’s a huge financial commitment. On the other hand house hunting is fun. You go to open houses, look on line and really get to know the Santa Barbara market. Plus everyone is super friendly and interested in you. Be honest and question whether the process has become the focus and not the actually purchase.

I suggest you utilize a version of the 80/20 rule. If a house you like has 80% of your desired items then you can live with the other 20%. Be flexible and embrace the “C” word, compromise. Make the purchase and let me know how it goes.

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