How to be Successful as a Buyer


More contracts were written on properties this January than in the past nine Januaries. We’re still a few months away from spring, {or maybe not since it was 70 degrees in Chicago this weekend!} and it’s already very busy… I don’t know for sure, but right now it feels like there are even fewer places on the market than last year, or maybe there are just more early year buyers… either way, it means it’s even more competitive for buyers.

That’s great for property values which continue to climb, but it can be really discouraging for people who want to buy a property and keep missing out, either because it goes under contract too fast, or they lose in a multiple offer situation.

So how can you set yourself up to succeed and really get a new house that you’ll really love? Especially when there’s so much competition?! Here are my top five tips. Some are kind of simple, and some you might not have even thought of, so if you are in the market, make sure to cross these off your list before you hit the next open houses!

1. Work with an Agent

Of course this is number one on my list. Duh. No, but really, it’s a legitimate one, and it’s free for buyers so why wouldn’t you work with someone?! Right now many places are sold before they even hit the market, without an agent you literally aren’t seeing everything that’s available. If you have to wait until you see something on Redfin or Zillow, you are at least a day behind everyone who has an agent, and that delay could cost you even being able to submit an offer on a property you are interested in.

Real estate agents know every step of the process, from contracts to contingencies, what rights you have as a buyer and everything in between. How can you effectively advocate for yourself if you aren’t familiar with the process? How do you know what questions to ask during a showing, whether you are filling out the contract correctly, or how to effectively negotiate your offer or items that come up during the inspection? The list agent is not going to be looking out for your best interests, that’s what they are doing for their own client. Get an agent!

2. Make buying a house a priority

Only looking at new houses on the weekends or the one evening during the week that is convenient for you just isn’t going to cut it right now. When you see something you really like {especially if it’s priced well}, you need to make plans to go see it immediately. A good place at a good price will go under contract very quickly. It’s not surprising to see places go under contract in one week, often times even within a few days. If your house search is not a priority, you won’t be able to find and get something you really love. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this, but if you  can’t make time to see things right away, it might make more sense for you to wait until the fall/winter when the pace isn’t so intense.

3. Work with a Good Lender

In a competitive market, even the lender you are using impacts how your offer is received. It might seem easy to go to your big bank that also does mortgages, but a bank is not a mortgage lender. If you are using a bank that has a reputation for taking too long, or not being able to get the loan approved on time {or at all}, your offer might not be accepted. Work with a reputable mortgage lender {your agent should be able to give you a good recommendation, because you are amazing and listened to my #1 tip so you have one}. They also have access to many more loan options and will have better knowledge about different incentives {for example if you buy property in certain areas in Chicago right now you can qualify for a down payment grant {that’s FREE money!} available to you as a buyer, which might increase your buying power.

4. No Big Purchases or Life Changes. 

This is a big one. Even before you are under contract – no big purchases and no big life changes. Don’t do anything! If you do, you could have to put off your search for a certain amount of time because of different lender requirements. Keep everything the same if at all possible. Lenders like stability! Once under contract your lender checks your credit multiple times before that final ‘clear to close’. It’s crucial that during the process of buying a house you don’t make any big changes. Don’t change jobs. Don’t buy a new car. No big trips, nothing.

But that’s so stupid you say. I’m going to pay my mortgage whether I have a new car or my old car. Or, this is a better job, isn’t that better?! Well, that lender is getting ready to write a really huge check, and any big change can make your loan seem like a bigger risk. I’ve heard many stories about buyers who’ve done things even just a few days before their closing, and the whole deal falls apart. Is that new car worth potentially being homeless? Don’t risk it.

5. Have Certainty

It might be at the end of my list, but it’s really the most important thing you need to have as a buyer. How much certainty you have determines how much you can have in every area of your life. If you are uncertain, you literally cannot make a decision. You are stuck, and unable to have…. anything. Or you end up just picking something so that you can move on, even if you aren’t excited about it. That’s not a good thing as a buyer right now. You need to know exactly what you need, what you like, what will work for you and what won’t, so that when you see a place, you will know whether it’s your place or not. You’ll be able to fall in love with it right then and be able to write an offer quickly.

With all other factors in place, certainty is something that will make or break a buyer right now. If you need days to think over something before you can submit an offer, you will miss out.

If you aren’t sure what uncertainty feels like, just pay attention to what you experience on a day when you are standing in front of your closet full of clothes incapable of picking something… not liking anything you see,  or looking at a menu full of amazing options completely unable to choose. That’s it, and it’s not the best feeling! So get certain, so that you can get your place!


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