Every realtor I have ever seen on House Hunters and Property Virgins has always hammered home the one cardinal rule of house buying: Don’t rush it. It has to feel right; this is the biggest investment most people will ever make.
So, of course, my husband and I had a 72-hour deadline when we went house hunting. Nothing like the good ol' military to speed up major milestones in your life that are meant to be savored. With base housing having an estimated year waiting list, and rent houses for a family of four in a good school district ridiculously priced, we had no alternatives.
We were lucky, as we had a full year’s notice before our stateside move, so as soon as the husband came home and said those three little words (“I got orders.”), I kicked it into high gear and started researching. Trust me on this, when you don’t have the luxury to leisurely house hunt, the amount of prep you do beforehand is vital to the process.
9 Steps to Buying a House in 3 Days Without Going Crazy
Step One: Learn the area.I joined three spouse groups on social media at our future duty station (seriously, how did military families do it before the internet?!). From there, I asked question after question. Where are the best schools? Where are the best neighborhoods? What areas should I avoid? I looked up crime statistics, and school ratings and proximity to emergency services, and read reviews of the area. I’d never set foot in the state before, yet I was already familiar with the city.
Step Two: Find a VA capable mortgage lender.VA housing loans differ in many ways from traditional housing loans, and having someone on the financial side that understands those nuances will go a long way in preventing unnecessary headaches. Bonus: Find a local lender. Often times local banks don’t have certain fees national banks do, which can reduce the amount of closing costs—which is ALWAYS something you want. Getting pre-approved for a loan is incredibly important, too. This will give you your loan limit and help set up expectations.
Step Three: Download house hunting apps and find your style.For a full year, my husband and I would send each other houses back and forth, commenting on different aspects of each one. “I like the way the laundry room is off the garage and away from all bedrooms,” or “I think we want to avoid houses with pools.” By the time we actually started house hunting with a realtor, we knew each other’s likes and dislikes enough that compromising was fairly easy.
Step Four: Find a realtor you trust.This is probably the most difficult thing to do from far away. You want someone who is going to invest their time in you, and have your best interest at heart. The best way is to ask for recommendations from fellow military members and spouses who have been through the process before. When I asked for a good realtor to work with on Facebook, I received comment after comment of, “Oh my gosh, so-and-so was amazing to work with and made everything so convenient and easy for us.” That’s what you want. Then, call each one up, explain your wants and needs and see what they can do for you. If you know an approximate date range you will be house hunting, they can pencil you in and set aside time early.
Step Five: Make lists of your favorite houses.A few days before meeting the realtor for your whirlwind house hunting weekend, send her a list of links to houses you like. She should also be finding properties that match your criteria, so you end up with a substantial list.
Step Six: Searching.As you go from house to house, you will learn what you can and can’t live with. Our expectations were high, but as we continued to look, to be in the better neighborhood, we had to concede it might require finishing out a basement, or redoing a kitchen down the road.
Step Seven: Don’t let the pressure get to you.House hunting is stressful no matter if you have three months to look or three days. But there’s a house out there with your name on it. For us, after three days of looking at over 25 houses, we started getting discouraged. We didn’t want to settle, but we needed to find something! And, then, we found it.
Step Eight: Fall in love.When we pulled up to the house, it felt right. The curb appeal was stunning. As we walked through the front door and began exploring, I felt my heart start pounding a little faster. It ticked off every box my husband and I had wanted. We didn’t even have to compromise, even though we had fully planned to. It was our house; it had been waiting for us.
Step Nine: When it feels right, take the plunge.We put an offer in on our house after only walking through it for 15 minutes; we were that confident it was perfect for us. It’s a good thing we did, too, because they had another offer as well, and after a small bidding war, in which we upped our offer by a couple thousand, we got the call: They had accepted, and we were on our way to becoming homeowners for the first time.
The amount of time and research that went into our house hunt before we ever set foot in our new city was by far the most important part of the search. We knew our monetary limitations, we knew the areas we desired and which ones to avoid and we knew what our personal styles were and how we would merge and compromise, if necessary.
Would I recommend buying a house within a 72-hour period? Not if you can help it.
But, for military, time is a luxury we’re not always afforded. Thankfully, I can attest, you can still find the house of your dreams, with a little bit of prep, research and luck.
Photo courtesy of AAG.com.