Take a minute to fall into the daydream of finding and buying that one perfect home. The one that checks every box on your wish list. The one that’s in the exact right location and has every little detail you want, right down to the subway tiles and farm sink.

Now shake it off. When you’re buying a home—especially if it’s your first—it’s easy to slip into that dream. It’s nice to imagine that the house hunting and buying process will be a snap, that you’ll find that perfect home with no trouble at all and it’ll be smooth sailing from there on out. Time for a reality check. Take your head out of the clouds, plant your feet firmly on the ground, and take our advice on how to bring your homebuying expectations back down to Earth.

As a homebuyer, it’s important to be realistic about:

Finding a Home

House hunting shows make it look so easy, don’t they? The buyers see three or so houses, choose which one they like best, and suddenly they’re happy homeowners. In reality, you could very well spend months searching for the place you want to call home. In our current market, inventory and competition are tight, and buyers have to act quickly. You might lose out on one or two homes before a seller accepts your offer. Just realize that the timeline here isn’t fixed by any means. It could take days, or it could take months.

Getting Approved

Many buyers underestimate the time it can take to get fully approved for a mortgage. To speed up the process, get the ball rolling before you even start your home search. Consult with your mortgage broker and make sure they have all the documents and information they need in order to get started on your approval letter. As a bonus, having that pre-approval letter in hand could give you an edge over other buyers who haven’t started the approval process yet. It will also help you set a realistic budget before you start to dream too big.

Wants vs. Needs

As we’ve already said, it’s extremely rare that you’ll find a home that checks off every box on your wish list. The earlier you come to terms with the fact that you might not get every single thing you want, the better off you’ll be. Take a long, hard look at your list and decide which items are absolute must-haves and what items are just nice to have. Don’t get too discouraged if you can’t find a house that fulfills all of your wishes. You can always put in granite countertops or build a covered patio later on.

Submitting an Offer

If you’ve never bought a home during a seller’s market, you might be in for a shock. In the current market, sellers have the upper hand, which means they won’t be bending over backwards for any buyers. You’ll need to be competitive, which usually means writing a full-price offer or sometimes going over the asking price by a few thousand dollars, and not including too many contingencies. Multiple-offer situations aren’t uncommon these days. Just be ready to move quickly to get that offer in, and be confident in paying the asking price or more.

Getting To the Closing Table

Once your initial offer turns into a ratified contract, lots of “stuff” goes on in the background that you might not see. Your mortgage broker will be working hard to get your final approval. Your real estate agent will be helping to coordinate inspectors, appraisers, attorneys, and other such appointments. A typical time frame for getting from a signed contract to the closing table is about 30 days, though some take more or less time to close. During this time, you might be going back and forth to ask for repairs on issues found during the inspection, renegotiating other items, getting documents to your loan officer, etc.

Timing

One last thing you may have to come to terms with. It might not be the right time for you to buy a home. There are many issues that can arise during the homebuying process. The right home for you might not be out there just yet, which means you’ll need to come back to the drawing board in a couple of months. Or maybe you need some time to repair your credit, decrease your debt, or gather funds for a down payment. If you do need some down time, make sure to keep in touch with your agent, just in case they find something that might be perfect for you.

The last thing we want to do is take the fun out of your homebuying experience. Feel free to dream big, but be realistic about the above points so unwelcome surprises don’t pop up along the way.

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