Home Searching Advice

Here are some tips on home searching that I picked up during my recent search. Much of this advice is from my father, who has built hundreds of houses as a contractor and architect in the Bay Area. You can see two houses he designed and built for himself at TrejoDesign.com.

Home searching

Picking and choosing your realtor

Positive qualities in a home

Of course, these are mine, as I was looking for a single family home in the East Bay.

Notice these emotions when you do a tour

All of these are telling you: no one will bid on this house, bid (way) below asking. Consider bidding only at the level you'd feel it was a great deal. Of course, if you want a house that's move-in ready, then definitely skip these homes.

And of course if you have good to neutral feelings about a house, consider bidding on it, once you feel you're calibrated (30+ homes seen).

Pricing advice

A house that has a price increase OR decrease, or that has been on the market for longer than normal is signalling to you that...

Also, a house that has a poorly constructed listing, or without photos, may be a great deal. Use street view to check on it, also, make sure to look at the livable sqft, as even if there's only one "bedroom", it might have other rooms that which add significantly to the sqft. This is why you don't want to limit your search by any criteria other than location.

Bidding advice

Comparison / estimation advice

Competitive offers

In a seller's market, sellers care about speed and risk. The most competitive offer would...

Note that your area may not be this competitive, however you can still use these tactics to win a bid while paying less for a house (because you've provided value in these other areas). By paying the fees yourself, you could theoretically have the highest offer value, but a lower purchase price, lowering the property taxes you pay.

Be fully informed when you make your bid

Less orthodox strategies

There are other, less orthodox strategies for finding a home, although I won't go into them here. They really depend on how much of a fixer your family can handle. Be very careful that you've done tons of research about the process if you pursue foreclosed homes. Private sales could be worth investigating as well, as there is likely to be fewer bidders.

That's it! Wishing you patience.

Good luck and I'm sure you'll find a home you're excited about 😄
David Trejo
Email me ✉️

PS Thumbtack is quite nice for finding home service professionals, definitely easier than Yelp, and sometimes easier than asking for referrals.

David Trejo

Engineer at Chime & consultant. Past clients include Credit Karma, Aconex, Triplebyte, Neo, the Brown Computer Science Department, Voxer, Cloudera, and the Veteran's Benefits Administration.