7 Habits of Highly Effective Home Buyers

If you read the article published here last Thursday, 7 Habits of Highy Effective Home Sellers, then you probably saw this one coming…

This time I’ll try not to leave one of the seven habits out. Though by accidentally doing that with the seller’s habits post, we got some outstanding contributions from readers. Be sure to read the comments in that post for more insight.

Why seven habits of effective home buyers? Because over the years we’ve seen some traits (habits) the our successful buyer clients share. What is a “successful buyer client”? Let’s just define it as someone who finds the home they want, and gets through the often arduous home buying process without killing themselves, a loved one, the seller, our their real estate agent.

Effective Habit #1: Get pre-qualified (or pre-approved) for a loan

You can’t effectively search for homes if you don’t know how much home you can afford. In today’s lending environment, it is crucial to know BEFORE you begin a home search what type of mortgage, and how much of a mortgage you can get. In fact, in Arizona you can’t even submit an offer on a home without including a “Pre-Qualification Form” with your offer. Well, technically you can submit an offer without it, but I don’t recommend it. The vast majority of sellers are going to want to see some evidence that you can get a loan for the home. These days many homes listed for sale get multiple offers, why would you relegate your offer to the bottom of the pile because you didn’t bother to submit a pre-qual form?

It is crucial to work with a good lender throughout the home buying process. If you don’t know a lender, ask your agent for a few recommendations. Interview a couple of lenders and pick one and stick with them. Few things add more stress and headache to a real estate sales transaction than changing lenders mid-stream. Find a lender that won’t just tell you the maximum amount of a mortgage you can get, rather find one that understands that qualifying for a certain amount and being able to make the payments are two different things.

Here is an oldie but goodie for more info on getting pre-qualified/ pre-approved for a mortgage.

Effective Habit #2: Define your must haves, like to haves, and can not haves

Tell a Phoenix real estate agent, “I’m looking for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in the Phoenix area.” Your trusty agent goes into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and enters a search for said 3 bedroom 2 bath homes. They will swiftly see that there are 6,401 such homes currently listed for sale in Phoenix (4,058 if you eliminate homes that have offers submitted).

You can’t possibly look at 4,000 – 6,000 potential homes.

Tell your agent, “I’m looking for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home between $200 – $225K. Single story, without a pool and at least a 3 car garage,” and there are 36 homes listed for sale that meet that criteria.

You CAN look at 36 homes. Add into your search criteria you want a home built after 2007 and you are down to 18 to choose from. Only interested in living in Gilbert? Now you are down to 3 houses to view. You can do that in a couple of hours, tops.

Determine what you MUST have in a home. Then determine what you would LIKE to have in a home. Talk to your agent about these things. Don’t forget to include what you CAN’T have in a home — that will often be more important than anything else.

Don’t know exactly what you must/like/can’t have in a home? That’s OK, it happens ALL the time. Your agent can help you by showing you different homes with different features to help you get a better understanding of what you’d like in a home.

But at some point you are going to have to make decisions and not wander aimlessly about, looking at any home that may possibly fit some undefined set of criteria. That would be a waste of your time, and the time of your agent, the home sellers, your lender and everyone else that is involved in a real estate transaction.

Effective Habit #3: Be realistic

You’ve read on the internet somewhere, or heard on a late-night infomercial that you can get bank-owned homes for pennies on the dollar in the Phoenix area. You want to be an investor! You can’t wait to but that $400,000 home for $130K and then rent it out for $2500 a month. You’ll be rich!

Now it’s time to wake up. You can’t buy homes in Phoenix for pennies on the dollar. Banks, no matter how evil you think they may be, aren’t stupid. They sell their inventory of bank-owned homes at pretty much market value. Why wouldn’t they? Would YOU sell your home for pennies on the dollar? Of course you wouldn’t. You’d let the market determine the value of your home (that may be oversimplified, but that’s basically how it works), as will a bank.

Maybe you’d like one of those $40,000 homes you’ve heard about. And you want it in north Scottsdale. On a golf course.

Well, you can’t have it. It simply doesn’t exist.

Both of the above are extreme examples of being realistic. Less obvious examples might be something like you want a home built in 2010 that isn’t in a Home Owners Association — probably doesn’t exist, unless you look way outside of the metro area. Or you want granite countertops in a home built before 1950. Probably does exist, but your choices are going to be limited.

Being realistic also applies to things besides the home itself. Buying a short sale and expecting the owner to make a bunch of repairs (or any repairs)? Good luck with that. Buying a home and thinking if the home inspector finds anything wrong with it, i’m not buying the house? Well you might as well stop right now because I can assure your there aren’t any homes where the inspector finds nothing to report. Get your brand new built to your order home constructed and an inspector will find some items to address (and yes, you should get a new build home inspected — more than once).

See, “Phoenix home buyers, are you being realistic?” for a more in-depth discussion on Habit #3.

Effective Habit #4: Be flexible

As a home buyer, it is important to be flexible. Unless you are having a home built to your exact specifications, it’s very unlikely that you will find the absolutely perfect home for you. Maybe you find a home that has everything except the perfect kind of flooring, colors, cabinets, whatever. If you have some flexibility built into your must haves and likes, you will find the entire process much less painful.

Understand that in most cases there is a living breathing human being involved in the other side of your transaction. Home sellers are people too. Nit-picking them to death in negotiations and repairs isn’t likely to do much good and could quite possibly do harm. This isn’t to say you should cave to every demand the sellers make. You should stand firm on things that really matter and be flexible where you can be in order to move the transaction along.

Effective Habit #5: Understand the home buying process

You don’t need to understand every nuance of the home buying process — that is your agent’s job. But the more you do understand, the less stressful and mystifying the process will be. Trust me, buying a home is a stressful event. Anything you can do to reduce that stress will go a long way not just toward saving your sanity but in helping ensure the transaction moves to closing.

One of the most important things to understand is your purchase contract. There are two parties to a real estate contract — you the buyer, and the seller. The seller will either be the person who owns the home in the cases of regular / traditional sales and short sales, or the lender in the case of bank-owned / foreclosure homes. Sometimes the “person” in a regular or short sale is actually an “entity” such as an LLC, partnership, or even a corporation. Regardless of exactly who/what owns the home you are buying, you are entering into a legally binding contract when you have your offer accepted, and there are obligations that contract binds you to do. There are timelines that must be complied with, and if they are not, you can suffer some pretty serious / expensive consequences. Your agent (or lawyer in states that involve lawyers in real estate transactions), your lender, your title company, the appraiser — all will work diligently to ensure a successful closing, but ultimately they are not parties to the contract. YOU need to (with advice from your agent and/or attorney) understand all the terms and conditions of your contract.

It is also helpful to understand the escrow, appraisal and lending processes. The successful completion of each of these are fundamental to your closing on your new home.

Do not be afraid to ask your agent questions. Lots of questions. Be advised that everyone in the process tends to toss about terms and acronyms that only those dealing with this stuf fon a daily basis understand. Sometimes we forget we’re speaking in a different language. Don’t be shy. If there’s a term you don’t understand, ask.

The lovely wife has contributed a total of five posts to this blog — and four of them compose a killer series on the home buying process.

Effective Habit #6: Be responsible

As a home buyer, you are going to have to work with a lot of different people in order to make sure your transaction progresses and ultimately closes. Yes, your agent will take on the burden of most of this, but you are still ultimately responsible for your actions.

You are (most likely) financing your new home. As such, it makes sense that you need to be responsible for maintaining your credit worthiness while your mortgage is being processed. Listen to your agent and lender and don’t go buying a car before your mortgage processing is done (yes, I’ve seen it happen). In fact, don’t buy anything on credit without speaking to your lender. And if you think you can quit your job a week before closing and still get that mortgage, think again (yep, seen that too).

When you are looking at potential homes, be responsible and respectful that you are in someone else’s home. It’s OK to look in their closets, to flip light switches, to turn on the stove. But be responsible and leave the home in exactly the same condition you found it in.

Much of this habit really boils down to two things: 1) use common sense; and 2) treat others how you expect to be treated.

Effective Habit #7: Have fun!

We already mentioned that buying a home is stressful. Take a look around at lists of “life’s most stressful events” and you’ll see things like taking on new debt, financial change, moving — that’s buying a house folks. You are about to enter into one of the singel largest financial transactions of your life. Stress is a given.

But buying a home is also an exciting time! There isn’t a law that requires you to mope around, dreading every moment. There’s nothing wrong with having fun during the process. Hopefully you’ve selected an agent that you enjoy working with. Ditto for your lender. That doesn’t mean you all need to participate in group hugs or go camping together and join hands around the campfire singing Kum Ba Ya. But it’s OK to laugh, to enjoy yourself, to have a little fun in the process.

The Bottom Line

Buying a home doesn’t have to be torture. If you understand the process, work with the right people and try to have a little fun along the way there is no question that you can find a great home and get the transaction closed. Think about the habits shown here, do a little online research (why you could start right here on Phoenix Real Estate Guy!), have open dialogs with your agent and lender and you too can make it through a home purchase.

And no, applying seven habits, or even one hundred habits is going to ensure you have a successful home buying experience. Nothing can guarantee that. But you can certainly increase the likelihood of a less stressful and successful transaction by applying some of the habits listed here.

For you, oh avid reader, let me know what I missed. Feel free to add a habit or thought in the comments!


Photo Credit: morberg on Flickr. CC Licensed.



  1. says

    Hi Jay! I was just chatting with another local agent about the final tip in your buyer effectiveness, having fun. It seems that recently, we’re seeing the process becoming more arduous for buyers, eliminating the ‘fun’ aspect of buying. We find ourselves working harder than ever to eliminate the stress so that our buyers CAN have fun! For me, that is SO important and something that we need to ascertain is achieved in every transaction.

  2. says

    Hi Jay,
    This is awesome material that every buyer should read and understand prior to starting their search. I plan on printing this post out and encouraging each of our agents to forward it to all their buyers. First time buyers especially. Thanks for sharing.

  3. says

    All 7 habits were you listed were great. One you can maybe add is “Defining what is a fixer upper”. Some buyers think its just carpet and paint but usually it’s a lot more work than that.

  4. says


    I like to know how you choose these 7 habits. It was really great and easy to understand. Thanks for sharing all the useful information with me.

  5. says

    Great points,

    I especially liked number 2, defining what your client is looking for can save everyone a lot of time and effort right up front. I also like the be flexible as I often find buyers rule out a place because of a paint color or a simple reno.

  6. says

    I would totally agree with your blog post and I definitely think it’s our job as a Realtor to drive the train with buyers. As real estate professionals, we can take the home buying process for granted and it’s important to be consistent with buyers by educating all of them with these 7 tips.
    Felipe Crook

  7. says

    The home buying process is not too complicated–with the help of a proper guide and coach–A Realtor. These are very helpful directional signs toward that end. The one thing that I might add, is that all markets are different. The laws are different. Disclosures are different. Contracts. Practices. Market conditions. Just about everything is either a little different, or a lot different. All the more reason why even the most experienced of buyers should lean on their Realtor to take them through the process. Good stuff, Jay. tT

  8. Debbie Gartner aka "The Flooring Girl" says

    This is great Jay. And, I’m also a big fan of Covey. From all that I read (esp on Active Rain), it seems like the first habit is broken the most often, and as an agent, that would really frustrate me as it’s not respectful of my time. Not only does it show you are capable of buying, but it lets you know the range you can afford, so it focuses you on the right price range.

    I’m not an agent (I own my own flooring store) so I’m going on estimates all the time. It does frustrate me at times when people have no clue how much flooring costs and I go there and give an estimate and it’s completely out of their range…because they were unrealistic. It’s one thing, if we are off by 20% or something…then I can just find another product, but sometimes, I have people who think it should cost 50% or 25% of what it actually does, and really there is no way to service them. But, in all fairness, I guess I need to do a better job of prescreening them before I go.

  9. says

    The first habit should be a no brainer but unfortunately most buyers preview homes without knowing how much they can afford. If the home buyer does not know how much of a home he can afford, the buyer is basically wasting the Realtor’s time. It is not fair for the Realtor to show many homes and then realise that the buyer will not be approved for the home purchase price amount. It is also a waste of time for the buyer and even he will have some disappointment for not getting the home he is interested in.

  10. says

    Really enjoy reading your posts Jay! You’re class act! I see many of your readers liked point #2, but I liked point #3 the best. I find that’s the big bulk of my job when I first begin working with my clients. Once they get realistic about what they can really afford, we’re cooking with gas!

  11. says

    As a home stager and interior designer I often work with buyers before they move into a house to help them how to make it a home. Your blog is terrific-the problem is that being realistic and also listing priorities, often creates a lot of tension when people realize that their must haves are sometimes unrealistic. That being said, selecting an Agent with great listening skills and a designer with talent and great visual skills, can help move the must haves into a the realistic column.

  12. says

    Just found this article and its great. As a broker, we spend so much time educating our buyers on the steps needed to purchase a home. Personally I love working with 1st time home buyers as it makes it easy to teach them the right principals from the beginning. I’ll be checking this blog more frequently now… Thanks!

  13. says

    This is an excellent post and I wish all buyers were this effective! In fact, a great qualifier for the value of a lead would be to see how many of the above criteria they meet … will definately be using this when next speaking to clients.

  14. says

    I love this post; it tells it exactly like is. I especially agree with a buyer being flexible. Sometimes buyers would try to haggle down the price and cite reasons like the faded paint or wear and tear of woodwork, not knowing that those have already been factored into the price. Don’t get into an all-out price war; either find a common ground or move on.

  15. says

    This is such a great post and all of the factors are very tru. Just wish that buyers were more flexible and realistic!

  16. says

    This is such a great post and very true. Just wish that buyers were more flexible and definitely more realistic. The times I have had buyers come to my home and want to knock down the price because of this, that and the other.

  17. says

    Nice post sir! It was very informative. You can also add to the “must haves” the economical value of the community of that property. Most house seekers are looking for houses where in the location has good facilities like schools and the right job opportunity for them. They should also consider storage container services in the area should they decide to move in. Overall, I thank you for this post.

  18. says

    This article is very useful! I really like the effective habit tips. I think if people would follow this article, they will be an effective buyers. I agree, when we are in someone else’s home we must show respect. If we don’t have respect for the house or the owner, I am sure that we can never win the house.

  19. says

    For important choices in home buying,the need to know important points in property to have a more proactive approach in buying making the whole process a breeze. These tips are very helpful, most especially for first time buyers.

  20. MarkSipe says

    wow. great article! Number 7 is the key!
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  21. jkrealtyaz says

    I really enjoyed this article! I agree the comment below, number seven is the easiest to forget but the most important!

  22. says

    There are many things that you need to consider when you are a home buyer. Number 5, which is understanding the home buying process, should be well emphazied by lot of real estate companies and home buying institutions. This is the same with other processes or procedures in which you need a thorough knowledge about the process you will undergo. 

  23. says

    There are many things that you need to consider when you are a home buyer. Number 5, which is understanding the home buying process, should be well emphazied by lot of real estate companies and home buying institutions. This is the same with other processes or procedures in which you need a thorough knowledge about the process you will undergo. 
    <a href=”http://josephfinkelberg.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Get-Your-Real-Estate-License-in-Florida” target=”_blank”>Joe Finkelberg</a>

  24. says

    There are many things that you need to consider when you are a home buyer. Number 5, which is understanding the home buying process, should be well emphazied by lot of real estate companies and home buying institutions. This is the same with other processes or procedures in which you need a thorough knowledge about the process you will undergo. 

  25. says

    #2, #3 are the most confused habits for buyers. I can say more than 50% of the buyers I have dealt with were not realistic at least at the beginning of the buying procedure. Some get the education and became realistic some stayed unrealistic and could not make any decision. Selda http://miamirealestateinc.com 

  26. lianatadipura1 says

    interesting.. I think #5 is the most important.. I think everyone need to understand every process in buying a home.. It will prevent us from scam..

  27. MichaelCzanSutton says

    Being Flexible is on top of my list. You will never find the “perfect home” there will always be something “wrong” even when you have your home custom built, there will be something that goes wrong. I personally like having everything tailored to me. When buying a home buyers need to look past just the architecture and must ask themselves, “will this home ‘house’ my lifestyle?”Check out this article to see if it is better to buy a new home or a resale home http://www.mississaugarealestate.pro/better-to-buy-a-new-or-older-home

  28. says

    All these points are the basics for every buyer and should be followed while purchasing a new house or land at anywhere. Satisfaction in new home is most important for everyone..


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