When it comes to going to open homes, how many is too many? Well, in my opinion, there’s no such thing as seeing too many open homes. I know I’m a little bit biased on the subject, but seriously, I can go shopping for property the same way my other half can go shopping for shoes. If you think that sounds a little sexist, you should see our wardrobe – my clothes get one small section in the corner, and the rest is ladies’ shoes and clothes. There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy obsession – mine just happens to be in real estate.
While you don’t need to have the house-buying obsession that I do, I still believe the more properties you look at, the better you get to understand the market. But how do you stay away from over-searching, or falling into “paralysis by analysis”?
To make sure you don’t end up with the same real estate addiction I have, I feel it’s best to give you a solid number of homes to view. In my opinion, your average open viewings per house purchase should be about 12.
There are two main reasons I’ve put this number as a safe amount of properties to look at:
- It keeps your search concise, limiting you to about three to six weeks of searching (assuming you look at two to four open homes per weekend).
- It gives you a good, varied look of the market without overloading your memory.
That said, if you walk through the door of a home and instantly fall 100% in love with it, don’t just keep looking until you’ve reached the magic number of 12 at the risk of losing your dream home.
Or, if you end up looking at 15 or 20 properties before you find the right home, don’t beat yourself up. The guideline of 12 is there merely as a flexible number to follow to stop you looking at 100 properties over the next two years and getting stuck in the searching process.
Looking at about a dozen properties will also help you spot the tricks some agents use in online ads. I’ve seen listings online before that have featured Photoshopped gardens that don’t actually exist. The pictures showed perfect green lawns and flowers, then I arrived at the property only to see dirt and weeds.
It’s the agent’s job to offer their advice and expertise on how the vendor should present the home in the best possible light. A quality agent will do everything they can to make every property shine and stand out from all the other homes on the market, but at the end of the day, they can only give their advice; the final choice rests with the vendor. This is all the more reason to keep looking at more homes in real life; you may be pleasantly surprised how different they look in person.
How do you know when enough’s enough?
There’s another extreme I see buyers go through. It does not seem to matter if it’s a first home buyer in their mid-20s or a 65-year-old couple downsizing, or even a young family in their late 30s looking at upsizing into a bigger home. This extreme is known as paralysis by analysis and it’s not a state you want to find yourself in. Symptoms include:
- Continually missing out on properties that have been on the market for more than three weeks.
- Walking away from every property saying, “If that one thing were different, I’d buy it.”
- Reluctance to put in an offer, even when all of your boxes are ticked.
- Only letting yourself really love a property once you see it’s under contract (to someone else).
- Going to open homes at the same property more than three times and still refusing to put in an offer.
As well as witnessing this as an agent, I’ve been in this place as a buyer – and I know it’s not fun.
I was in my early 20s, and I was looking at buying an investment property in the US. This was not long after the global financial crisis (GFC), when the housing market in the US was at an all-time low. I did my research, and all the numbers checked out – the economy was in the perfect position to invest.
However, for no apparent reason, I just kept stalling. Every time the opportunity presented itself to get into a deal, I backed off. This happened several times, and I was at a point where I was even beginning to get mad with myself, unable to understand why I was doing this.
A few years later, after having an accident on a drill rig and being unable to walk correctly for almost four years, I found out what was holding me back by speaking with a psychologist who was helping me put my life back together.
In the middle of working through the psychological issues related to dealing with my injury, we stumbled across the fact that at the time, I had a massive fear of failure. If I put all of my efforts into something and then it went wrong (like my former career did) it was terrifying for my subconscious. This held me back from committing to anything new. For too long, I let opportunity after opportunity pass me by and I couldn’t work out why until I uncovered this.
I’m not going to pretend to be a psychologist; I can’t claim to know how to smooth out anyone’s emotional speed bumps. But, if you have any of these symptoms of paralysis by analysis, it might be worth having an honest conversation with yourself about what you may be scared of and what’s really holding you back from committing to a property.
The reason I’m sharing this very personal part of my history with you is that sometimes, you don’t know what’s holding you back from getting where you want to go – all you know is that something feels wrong or scares you. What I know now is that the quicker you can figure out what’s holding you back, the faster you can move forward and get to where you want to be.
I know this might feel like we’re way off the topic of buying property, but I can assure you, we’re not. The property market is at the whim of people’s emotional reactions to situations. The better understanding you can have of your own emotions, the better a buyer you will be.
Once I realised the thing that was holding me back, I put a plan in place to fix it and made myself feel comfortable with what was standing in the way of where I wanted to be.
For me, it was all about understanding what could go wrong and then asking the question: “What will I do if it happens?”
This simple exercise can help cut through the fear that may be holding you back from where you want to be. If you feel this could be an issue for you, next time you face paralysis by analysis, sit down and ask yourself this question: “If I buy this house, what could go wrong?”
Make a list of all the possible problems that come to mind, no matter how strange some of them might sound. Then, next to each of these problems, write down a solution as to how you could fix it if it happened.
Having a problem without seeing a direct solution attached is a very uncomfortable thing for anyone. But if you’re shown a problem and can clearly see the solution at the same time, it changes the feeling completely because you now have a clear path to help you move forward. The only reason we’re scared of the dark when we’re younger is because of the unknown of what’s in front of us.
So remember to look at about 12 homes in person so you can get a good understanding of the market you’re wanting to buy in – but make sure that if you feel yourself becoming reluctant to make a choice, you ask yourself what could go wrong and what you can do about it.
This is an edited extract from Australia’s Home Buying Guide (Major Street Publishing $29.95), republished with permission.
Cover image source: Ivelin Radkov/Shutterstock.com
About Todd Sloan
Todd is an award-winning real estate sales agent, professional renovator, author of Australia’s Home Buying Guide (Major Street Publishing), and host of one of Australia’s fastest-growing property investment podcasts, Pizza & Property.
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