For many buyers, one of the most challenging aspects of buying a home in 2020 turned out to be finding a home in the first place. Low inventory in many markets, as well as the struggles associated with local restrictions and virtual home tours, meant that some enthusiastic buyers found themselves unable to find the right space when they were ready to move forward with their purchase.
If you’ve been frustrated with your search and unable to find the home of your dreams, think beyond real estate portals or an automated MLS search. Here are some places to look and some ways to collaborate with a real estate professional to ensure that you end up in the home of your dreams in 2021.
Platforms to search
As with so many things, it’s a great idea to put the power of online platforms to work for you. Connect with your online community and with listing agents in your local market.
Many agents are beginning to put TikTok to work to show their homes in a new light and to a younger audience. While you may not be able to see much with TikTok’s quick-cut format, it’s a good way to learn about local listing agents’ new listing appointments, staging evaluations, or pre-listing home tours. Send any interesting links to your buyer agent so they can reach out to find out about that new listing before it hits the market.
Similarly, Instagram Stories can be a great place to find agents out and about looking at and preparing new listings before they hit the market. Search by location to find the neighborhood you’re focusing on and share any interesting possibilities with your agent.
One of the newer trends we’re seeing, especially for luxury homes, is ad placement on streaming services like Hulu. Here you’ll find beautiful video content highlighting some of the standout properties in your area. Because the ads are targeted, if they are served to you it’s probably because the algorithm has determined that the home is a good fit.
Work with a real estate agent or broker to identify potential homes that may not be showing up in your MLS feed. Here are some strategies to expand your search.
In some markets, many of the most desirable properties are held by investors or investor groups. While they may choose to hold their properties long-term, there will be some properties in their portfolios that are ripe for an exit strategy. If they’ve extracted most of the value from the property through long-term rental, they may be ready and willing to sell to you, especially at today’s higher market valuations.
Your real estate agent may have clients who are real estate investors to whom he or she can reach out directly. Alternatively, you may find some properties for rent that fit your wish list. In this case, your agent can reach out to the owner or to his or her property manager to explore the possibility of a purchase.
There are always homes that go on the market but don’t sell for one reason or another. Perhaps it’s because the owners had a change of heart. Perhaps it’s because they didn’t want showings over the holidays. Perhaps they gave their agent a limited time to sell the home and it just didn’t work out. A real estate agent can approach expired listings and find out whether they are still interested in selling, giving you a clear path to begin exploring the property for yourself.
You may have embarked on your home search with the hope that you’d find the perfect, turnkey home. However, at this point, it may be time to start thinking about changing your criteria. Ask an agent to begin a search for as-is properties and start to explore the possibility of working with a contractor to renovate, add-on, or otherwise transform a less-than-perfect house in your market. While you may not have envisioned a renovation process, you’ll probably find that the end result is closer to your preferences than it would have been otherwise.
Counter the Trends
Many of the most prominent market trends in 2020 were away from cities and into the suburbs or rural markets. Many buyers were moving into single-family homes—especially those with lots of outdoor space. If you’re open to going against the grain, you may find more options and greater savings by going where others are not.
This may be the perfect opportunity for you to explore an in-town neighborhood or a luxury condominium. It may also be time for you to reconsider your commute, and thus your target market, especially if you’ll be working from home long term.
Where to Research
Sometimes, you find exactly what you’re looking for where you least expect it. You may just need to look around or have a conversation with someone you already know.
Check out estate sales in your area, especially those that are occurring in your chosen neighborhood. Often, these are a precursor to a home sale, either because the homeowner is moving or has passed away. An estate sale offers you the opportunity to see the home in person and to ask the sale administrator which real estate brokerage will be representing the listing. Since the sale administrator is often engaged by the listing agent, he or she should be able to provide you with relevant information that you can pass on to your agent.
Reach out to family and friends to find out if they know of any upcoming listings in your target neighborhood. If nothing else, they may know someone who knows someone who is thinking of selling, either now or over the next few months. By putting out feelers among your acquaintances, you’ll be surprised how many will take an interest and try to help connect you with someone who can assist in your home search.