Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. We may receive a small commission from our partners, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.
When I left Seattle in June to buy a house in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, I had no idea that it’d be September before I had the keys to a house in my hands.
It took me about four months to find the right place. As a first-time homebuyer, I had no idea what to really expect from the process until I was in it. And shopping in a newly hot market during a pandemic certainly added to the timeline. I didn’t expect it to take months, and the fact that it took so long made it difficult to plan my living situation and budget while I looked.
As a first-time homebuyer, I had very little idea of what the process would entail. While it all worked out in the end, I had expected something quite different, and I wish that I’d had different expectations going into it.
I figured it’d be like it is on TV, but it was far from it
I watch reality TV more than I’d like to admit — find me any given weeknight watching “House Hunters” or “Fixer Upper.” I know that shows like this are farther from the truth than the name of the genre implies. But since I didn’t have any other experiences with the process of finding and buying a home, I was expecting something at least sort of like what I saw on TV.
Much to my chagrin, finding the right house was nothing like the first 10 minutes of “Fixer Upper.” On the show, buyers see three homes and choose from those before Chip and Joanna Gaines work their magic. The buyers always get the house that they choose. It’s a whole process condensed into just a few minutes, but it always seemed so easy and simple.
Given that, I hadn’t expected to need my patience as much as I did — I visited probably 15 houses in my search, and apparently, that’s relatively few. Several times when I tried to make an offer, the house was already pending sale by the time I got to it.
I’m not sure how the TV magic works, but there must be some behind the scenes. In my experience, it was simply not that easy. From my hours of binge-watching, I can’t recall ever seeing buyers lose a house to a bidding war or not being quick enough to make an offer. But, in my process, that was the reality. It made me realize that my expectations were tied to experiences that are far from typical.
A global pandemic made an already-complicated process more complicated
Needless to say, I’ve since learned that homebuying is a complicated process that takes a long time. But looking back on my experience, having a global pandemic in the mix didn’t help the process along, either.
To start, it made my pre-approval process more difficult, as one of the banks I’d been planning to work with suddenly tightened their lending standards. It meant more work on my end, and added a few days to the pre-approval process.
On top of that, the demand for homes in the area where I was searching was much higher than usual. Prices were higher than normal, and bidding wars weren’t uncommon. On top of that, homes were being snatched off the market in mere hours. The home I ended up buying was only on the market for a few hours before I made a last-minute appointment to see it on a Saturday morning, and made an offer on it that afternoon.
The housing market started to have an unlikely moment during the coronavirus pandemic. Mortgage applications hit an 11-year high during the pandemic, Business Insider’s Carmen Reinicke reports. Additionally, more buyers are competing for a smaller inventory of homes.
The pandemic and the increased homebuying demand it’s created ultimately lengthened my search. It meant many cancelled appointments due to pending offers, and missing out on homes I liked.
I wish I could go back in time and tell my past self what to expect. I’d tell myself to be more patient, and lay off the homebuying TV, too.
In the beginning, my expectations were pretty far off. But in the end, it all worked out — I got a house I’m obsessed with, and that fits my budget comfortably. I certainly don’t regret my purchase. Despite the long process, the end result is exactly what I hoped for.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.