Real estate markets are red-hot for many home sellers across the nation. But frustrated and outbid, some wannabe buyers are moving to the sidelines. Still others remain unwavering in their pursuit and ultimately prevail.
Take the case of a married couple of engineers in their early 30s who teleworked from their rented apartment through much of the pandemic. Their dogged determination to buy a detached house with a yard in suburban Boston was rewarded one recent Sunday.
“This couple persevered through a torrential downpour and high winds to reach an open house for a nice three-bedroom colonial that had just hit the market. They were desperate to move and refused to let terrible weather stop them,” says Richard Rosa, the real estate broker who represented the pair.
By seizing the day and writing a generous offer immediately, the engineers beat out other would-be purchasers unwilling to make the trek through the storm.
“Due to historically low inventory, many properties in our area are getting up to 15 or more offers above list price. But because of the bad weather, this couple had to outdo only two other bidders to get the place they wanted,” Rosa says.
According to the National Association of Realtors (nar.realtor), home sales slipped slightly for the fourth straight month in May. Some young couples are expecting housing price increases to slow in coming months, while others have tired of the relationship stress that comes with trying to buy a home in an ultra-competitive market.
But Rosa, the president-elect of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (naeba.org), questions whether it makes sense for renters to wait out the current home-buying market.
“Even as more inventory becomes available, the most you can expect is a leveling off of prices. This isn’t like the Great Recession, when so many homes were available that buyers used spreadsheets to compare their options,” Rosa says.
He contends that most couples who are steadfast in their quest to buy a home will eventually reach their goal, assuming they’re patient and attempt to stay calm and focused.
Here are a few pointers for couples facing tough home-buying trade-offs:
-- Yield on the notion that either partner has all the right answers.
Real estate agents often observe battles fought between spouses trying to agree on home selection. And often, amidst the bickering, they hear one partner assert that the other is mistaken in expressing his or her preferences.
“A lot of times clients don’t realize how stubborn and self-righteous they can get about what they consider the best place to live,” says Mark Nash, a real estate analyst and author of “1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home.”
Nash urges couples planning a purchase to go through a methodical process of setting priorities before they venture into house-hunting.
“As a first step, each partner should sit down alone to draft a list of their own wishes in a home. Only then should they get together to create a joint list -- one that reflects the factors most valued by each person,” Nash says.
But what if both spouses are unclear about what they’re seeking in a home? One method of gaining focus is to “go negative.” List all the things you dislike about the place where you now live; then flip these to reveal what you want most.
For instance, suppose you abhor the noise and fumes associated with the traffic that rumbles through your neighborhood. Reverse that and see how important it is that you choose a home on a quiet, dead-end street or a cul-de-sac.
-- Seek help from your agent to iron out differences.
Some would-be purchasers, especially those planning to buy in high-cost areas, struggle to reach agreement on how best to allocate their scarce dollars. In such situations, each partner should focus not only on their priorities but also the trade-offs they could accept, says Merrill Ottwein, a broker who specializes in relocation.
Agents aren’t marriage counselors, and they can’t be expected to resolve irreconcilable differences between spouses. But they can help mediate conversations that help couples settle minor disputes.
“A good agent will ask penetrating questions, encouraging the buyers to reach their own conclusions,” Ottwein says.
-- Give yourselves extra home shopping time if your marriage is young.
Obviously, people who’ve been married for many years know a lot more about each other than do those who began living together just a few weeks or months. Therefore, they’ll need to deliberate longer to ensure that both partners’ views are taken into account when a home is chosen.
“People who’ve just gotten remarried after many years of living alone should be extra wary about misjudging a partner. Your spouse may have developed some very strong predilections through the years,” Ottwein says.
You may need several long conversations—or perhaps even a getaway weekend -- to reach agreement on the best housing choice for both of you.
“It’s vastly better to hash out your differences before picking a property than to make a choice your spouse despises, which could lead to many quarrels later,” he says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)