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on house hunting…

Craig-eva-sanders-photography

Craig-eva-sanders-photography

You guys…looking for a house is no joke. One of my hopes for this year is that we'll get to buy a house. We need more space and a yard and a home we can stay in for the next decade. We've been saving and saving and actually put in our first offer a couple weeks ago. We got all those very official papers together, got pre-approved for a loan, decided how much we'd be willing to offer, I wrote and designed a really nice offer letter, and we dove right in. And then…

We didn't get the house. Not only were we outbid, but we were about outbid by two offers in cash. Cash?!? Who has enough cash to pay for an entire house up front? One thing I've learned through the house hunting process is that you have to just be okay with whatever happens. I wish it was as easy as picking something out of a catalog or shopping in a grocery store. You can only do so much to get the house you want, and I just have to keep reminding myself to stay positive and that we will get the right house eventually.

Have you guys learned any tricks/tips in your own house-hunting? Please tell me I am not alone in my frustrations and wishing it was just a tad easier.

{Photo by Craig and Eva Sanders via Style Me Pretty}

99 comments

  1. Buying a house can be emotional – we’ve lost a couple of houses as well in the past. Sometimes to cash offers! other times because all contingencies were waved, including building inspection.
    What I learned, is that it’s usually for the best and you end up finding the place that truly is yours.
    I’ve also found that writing a personal letter to the owner, telling them what their house means to you, etc. can do wonders. Also, if there’s potential of multiple bids, you can do the inspection before you send in your offer and that way you can drop that contingency.

  2. That happened to us over an over, the cash bids from the professional flippers, etc just ruin the process for the average family. When it really is the right house at the right time, it will work out though. Be patient, support each other and take turns being blue!

  3. it’s crazy here in LA. we wanted to look for a house this year but you need a small fortune just for the down payment. so instead we just moved to a nicer, more suitable apartment and hope to save over the next couple of years. good luck!

  4. we put an offer in on a condo in jersey city (just outside of manhattan NYC). it’s pretty rare to have parking, laundry in-unit, or any sort of outdoor space (let along all 3) around here. when we asked for the master deed showing that the listed rooftop deck and parking spot do actually belong to the unit we wanted, there was no such proof. that was 7 months ago, and we’re still waiting on the paperwork for those areas… it’s been extremely frustrating. luckily we have a month-to-month lease on our current apartment, or else we would have been far out-welcoming ourselves by couch crashing… best of luck!

  5. Hi Joy!
    Writing an offer letter is such a great idea! I am in the process of house hunting, too. And it’s exhausting. But I do truly believe I will find the house that is meant for me. And I am sure you will, too.
    With the offer letter, how did you submit that to the seller? Was it your realtor who sent it in with the other offer papers? Was it sent in place of some other paperwork?
    Best of luck house hunting!
    Maria

  6. Eeks we are about to start this! A little nervous but trying to be at peace to go with the flow. Good luck! I would love to know more about the letter to the owners… I have never heard of such a thing.
    Amy

  7. Oh lady, I totally feel you. House hunting in a competitive market just stinks.
    We went through this in DC a year ago and felt so discouraged by the whole process. We put in three failed offers (and didn’t even have a chance to make an offer on a fourth) before we ended up getting our house on the fifth try. We were also competing with developers/cash offers, and we quickly learned that if we really liked a house to go in with our best (and way over asking price) offer and to also include an escalation clause with the offer if we thought it might be worth going up even more. For our house, we ended up beating out a cash offer, but only because we offered more (through our escalation clause). It all just came down to money in the end, even though it’s such an emotional process for the buyer.
    You’ll get there, and hopefully you’ll find a house that is the right one for you. Making your first offer, even if it isn’t accepted, is a huge step! Try to do fun things or give yourself little treats during the house hunting process (a nice dinner out, or a movie night, something) – I found that really helped lift the mood when we were stressed out or demoralized from the bidding wars.
    Sending you happy house vibes!

  8. oh i cried when our first-ever offer didn’t go through (there were TWENTY offers on the house!). after that i learned to not get so emotionally attached to any one place. 6 offers later, we finally found our house. we scaled back some of our requirements which is what made this more feasible. and while i do love our house, in hindsight, i wish i had not given in to some of MY requirements.
    so i guess i have 2 pieces of advice:
    1. prioritize what you want: consider what are the deal-breakers for what to consider in a house. if this is an open layout, lots of light or a minimum number of bedrooms, stick to the ones you just HAVE to have. don’t bother seeing the houses that don’t qualify. it can muddy your thinking in what can already be an emotional process.
    2. BE PATIENT: i wish i could have told my past self to be more patient. house hunting can take a lot of time and be draining, but i agree with others that it does work out for the best when you find the house you do. i am reminding myself of this when we start to look for a bigger place…
    best of luck! it will feel so good when you do find your house 🙂

  9. We live in the Boston area and it took us exactly a year of looking and making offers until we ended up with our house last Fall. We were outbid twice during the process…one of which we know was cash. It is a crazy process and extremely emotional (for me anyway). I was ready to give up more than once, but I’m so glad we didn’t. We love our house, its more amazing than we ever thought we’d end up with and bigger and better than all the houses we lost out on! Now we’re enjoying making it OURS! So hang in there!

  10. I second the comment that said to have your own home inspection done before you put in the offer in order to drop that contingency. Also, writing the letter is critical and of course a photo of your adorable family will also help! My family purchased a home recently and we were told that we were not the highest offer by far; it came down to the fact that we were the ones the previous owners wanted to move into the house. We felt like it was absolutely meant to be. Good Luck! The right one will come along at the right time.

  11. You’re not alone! We had a very accelerated house hunt last year (due to our rental lease expiring) and it was a learning experience the whole way. We lucked out in that we found the perfect house for us, but I had doubts as we saw about 20 houses that were in our price range but not in the condition we wanted/needed. But I think that’s totally normal. Accept that a lot of the control is out of your hands, and believe that things will fall into place in the way they’re supposed to. Here’s our story:
    http://www.rathersquare.com/2013/05/the-house-hunt/

  12. Buying a house terrifies me! We are moving to DC this summer…and I’m looking for our 4th home in 10 years. Even though that’s the way of life within the military, the process of finding a home never feels “old hat”. I’m just looking for a decent rental…I can’t even wrap my mind around buying :P. I’m sure whatever you find, you will make it so lovely, we will all be blow away :). xoxo

  13. My husband and I bought our first house in the Bay Area in 2012 and it took us 8 months + 10 offers before we finally got our house. I was 8 months pregnant when we moved and if we hadn’t gotten our house with that last offer, I think I would have convinced my husband that we could just stay in our apartment forever! Good luck! It will happen for you, I’m sure!

  14. so. stressful. the entire process. and then you will get on and it will be perfect and you won’t be able to imagine anything else. good luck out there!

  15. It’s the same craziness here in the Boston area. Cash offers, bidding wars, things selling the same day as the open house. I don’t know where this whole housing crisis is because it certainly isn’t here! We ended up getting our house very unconventionally. We literally knocked on a door and asked the owner if they’d be interested in selling us their house. We loved the location and we loved the outside architecture so we figured it was worth a shot. She was older and living there alone and turns out wanted to sell but just hadn’t been able to motivate to get 30 years of belongings out of her house. So my advice is don’t feel like you have to go the conventional route on your path to your dream home. If you can get out of the rat race of all those open houses you can find a real gem before it even goes on the market. Good luck!!

  16. It’s the same craziness here in the Boston area. Cash offers, bidding wars, things selling the same day as the open house. I don’t know where this whole housing crisis is because it certainly isn’t here! We ended up getting our house very unconventionally. We literally knocked on a door and asked the owner if they’d be interested in selling us their house. We loved the location and we loved the outside architecture so we figured it was worth a shot. She was older and living there alone and turns out wanted to sell but just hadn’t been able to motivate to get 30 years of belongings out of her house. So my advice is don’t feel like you have to go the conventional route on your path to your dream home. If you can get out of the rat race of all those open houses you can find a real gem before it even goes on the market. Good luck!!

  17. It’s the same craziness here in the Boston area. Cash offers, bidding wars, things selling the same day as the open house. I don’t know where this whole housing crisis is because it certainly isn’t here! We ended up getting our house very unconventionally. We literally knocked on a door and asked the owner if they’d be interested in selling us their house. We loved the location and we loved the outside architecture so we figured it was worth a shot. She was older and living there alone and turns out wanted to sell but just hadn’t been able to motivate to get 30 years of belongings out of her house. So my advice is don’t feel like you have to go the conventional route on your path to your dream home. If you can get out of the rat race of all those open houses you can find a real gem before it even goes on the market. Good luck!!

  18. It’s the same craziness here in the Boston area. Cash offers, bidding wars, things selling the same day as the open house. I don’t know where this whole housing crisis is because it certainly isn’t here! We ended up getting our house very unconventionally. We literally knocked on a door and asked the owner if they’d be interested in selling us their house. We loved the location and we loved the outside architecture so we figured it was worth a shot. She was older and living there alone and turns out wanted to sell but just hadn’t been able to motivate to get 30 years of belongings out of her house. So my advice is don’t feel like you have to go the conventional route on your path to your dream home. If you can get out of the rat race of all those open houses you can find a real gem before it even goes on the market. Good luck!!

  19. It’s the same craziness here in the Boston area. Cash offers, bidding wars, things selling the same day as the open house. I don’t know where this whole housing crisis is because it certainly isn’t here! We ended up getting our house very unconventionally. We literally knocked on a door and asked the owner if they’d be interested in selling us their house. We loved the location and we loved the outside architecture so we figured it was worth a shot. She was older and living there alone and turns out wanted to sell but just hadn’t been able to motivate to get 30 years of belongings out of her house. So my advice is don’t feel like you have to go the conventional route on your path to your dream home. If you can get out of the rat race of all those open houses you can find a real gem before it even goes on the market. Good luck!!

  20. It’s the same craziness here in the Boston area. Cash offers, bidding wars, things selling the same day as the open house. I don’t know where this whole housing crisis is because it certainly isn’t here! We ended up getting our house very unconventionally. We literally knocked on a door and asked the owner if they’d be interested in selling us their house. We loved the location and we loved the outside architecture so we figured it was worth a shot. She was older and living there alone and turns out wanted to sell but just hadn’t been able to motivate to get 30 years of belongings out of her house. So my advice is don’t feel like you have to go the conventional route on your path to your dream home. If you can get out of the rat race of all those open houses you can find a real gem before it even goes on the market. Good luck!!

  21. It’s the same craziness here in the Boston area. Cash offers, bidding wars, things selling the same day as the open house. I don’t know where this whole housing crisis is because it certainly isn’t here! We ended up getting our house very unconventionally. We literally knocked on a door and asked the owner if they’d be interested in selling us their house. We loved the location and we loved the outside architecture so we figured it was worth a shot. She was older and living there alone and turns out wanted to sell but just hadn’t been able to motivate to get 30 years of belongings out of her house. So my advice is don’t feel like you have to go the conventional route on your path to your dream home. If you can get out of the rat race of all those open houses you can find a real gem before it even goes on the market. Good luck!!

  22. It’s the same craziness here in the Boston area. Cash offers, bidding wars, things selling the same day as the open house. I don’t know where this whole housing crisis is because it certainly isn’t here! We ended up getting our house very unconventionally. We literally knocked on a door and asked the owner if they’d be interested in selling us their house. We loved the location and we loved the outside architecture so we figured it was worth a shot. She was older and living there alone and turns out wanted to sell but just hadn’t been able to motivate to get 30 years of belongings out of her house. So my advice is don’t feel like you have to go the conventional route on your path to your dream home. If you can get out of the rat race of all those open houses you can find a real gem before it even goes on the market. Good luck!!

  23. It’s the same craziness here in the Boston area. Cash offers, bidding wars, things selling the same day as the open house. I don’t know where this whole housing crisis is because it certainly isn’t here! We ended up getting our house very unconventionally. We literally knocked on a door and asked the owner if they’d be interested in selling us their house. We loved the location and we loved the outside architecture so we figured it was worth a shot. She was older and living there alone and turns out wanted to sell but just hadn’t been able to motivate to get 30 years of belongings out of her house. So my advice is don’t feel like you have to go the conventional route on your path to your dream home. If you can get out of the rat race of all those open houses you can find a real gem before it even goes on the market. Good luck!!

  24. It’s the same craziness here in the Boston area. Cash offers, bidding wars, things selling the same day as the open house. I don’t know where this whole housing crisis is because it certainly isn’t here! We ended up getting our house very unconventionally. We literally knocked on a door and asked the owner if they’d be interested in selling us their house. We loved the location and we loved the outside architecture so we figured it was worth a shot. She was older and living there alone and turns out wanted to sell but just hadn’t been able to motivate to get 30 years of belongings out of her house. So my advice is don’t feel like you have to go the conventional route on your path to your dream home. If you can get out of the rat race of all those open houses you can find a real gem before it even goes on the market. Good luck!!

  25. Persistence and patience required: it took us ten months, dozens and dozens of house tours, several rejected offers on other properties, and four rounds of negotiation on our home. Even when we finally had a deal on the table, things fell apart over a broken sewer line (by the way: always get a sewer scope!). It was a wrenching process, and even as I was signing on all the dotted lines, I was sure that something else would go wrong. My best advice is to think of it as a house and a financial investment first… and a home and an emotional investment *after* you have keys!

  26. Hi! I’m sorry you lost your house. I agree, who has CASH?!?
    I have purchased two homes, and two important details made it successful:
    1. Love your realtor. I love mine.
    2. Expand geographic range. We tried unsuccessfully to find a great home in one specific spot. For like 8 months. Finally we drew a circle around our jobs and decided a yard was our biggest priority and BAM we found a house.
    It’s super frustrating. I live in the Northeast and while it isn’t LA the market never really fell too far here either. Good luck!!!
    Ps thanks to you I am now scouting for contact paper to decorate my daughters’ bedrooms!

  27. Yes, it is frustrating! It took us about a year and 3 offers that fell through! My Hubby gave me the best advice from the beginning (which of course i didn’t listen to at first)- do NOT get attached! After 3 disappointing offers, i finally let go… Then one day, we found our house. Even at that point in which we walked into the house, i was not attached. I really liked it but i stopped myself from decorating the place in my mind. It was definitely a practice in letting go and non-attachment. We put in our offer, & got it!!! Let the decorating begin… 🙂

  28. Ahhh yes. I have no idea who the CA moneybags are that walk in with giant bags of cash, but it happened to us too (up in Santa Barbara/Ventura). We have friends who put 17 offers on the table before finally getting a home. The moral of the story, though, is you’ll get one! I promise!

  29. As someone who’s been married 26 years, and endured three combats tours (Hus. was a Col) and moved NINE times I hope you heed my advice.
    Get the emotion out of the decision Don’t write letters. Sellers don’t care who you are. It’s a business decision. Period.
    Be aggressive when it comes to getting what you want for you, Bob, and Ruby.
    Next, the more detailed you are in what you want-EXACTLY what you want- in a house, the easier it is to find. When you write down a massive list of needs- what, how much, by when etc., the right house for the three of you will unfold.
    Thank you for being so generous in sharing your beautiful family. I’ve been a reader since the pre-Ruby days. XX

  30. Hi Joy, I totally agree that the home buying process can have so many emotional highs and lows. It’s exciting and stressful at the same time. When my husband and I were searching for our home, we tried to approach each offer with cautious optimism. I learned that the hardway after getting really disappointed by being outbid by cash offers that I knew we just couldn’t compete with. I’m sure you and your family will find “the one” very soon and I’ll look forward to reading about it on your blog.

  31. Darn those cash-paying Dave Ramsey listeners and developers! We had that happen on our first house. BUT many many houses later we found a house that we liked even better with more realistic expectations. My recommendation is to be patient and visit your favorite multiple times at different times of day before putting in an offer.

  32. I disagree with Carly. I too am older but was about your age when we sold our first home in the Bay Area. There were five offers over the asking price in the first few days of it listing. We got letters from 3 of the 5 telling us who they were and why they wanted the house so much. We went with the couple that seemed like the best fit for our home and neighbors. Obviously, you’re a perfect addition to any ‘hood and your aesthetic will only improve the area. A letter won’t compensate for being outbid, but if it’s between A, B, and C and one family really reaches out with a heartfelt letter, it WILL affect most sellers. (One of the bidders was a doc and sent along a bunch of free samples…that was weird.)

  33. Well we’ve discussed this poopy stage of life. We’re in the same boat…just learned that cash beats all and I don’t get how people have THAT much cash. I think if you live in the Midwest (my friends) then you assume that’s easy enough…need a thousand or so and you’re golden BUT you need close to $100,000 in CASH here. The night we realized we needed to save up and how long that saving would take I cried…and cried and cried some more…then prayed for acting to get with it. If I could just book ONE national commercial…sigh. I’m guessing y’all are wayyy ahead of us on this front. Not everyone pays in cash. You’ll get a house and then all of your creative forces (aka friends) will come together and pimp that ish out. I have faith in your success in this matter lol. Trust me.

  34. I am in LA too and have been on the hunt for awhile. It is very discouraging I know but I echo some of the advice here about getting inspection done pronto and then put in your offer without an inspection contingency. When my agent first suggested that I thought she was nuts but now I understand she was just trying to get us the house. (we did not go for that one but in retrospect I think it would have won us the house)
    The cash offers are crazy but if you can offer a large down and no financing contingencies then you are pretty much on level playing field with the cash guys. Especially if they are investors and you are a fabulous design blogger that will undoubtedly bring new life to the place. You are a big selling point – and I think people always prefer to sell to a young family.
    That is how we got our house in Hancock Park – wrote a letter with pics etc and came back with highest offer when they countered all of us. The game has changed somewhat – oh there is just NO inventory here – but I think most people are sentimental about who is going to be the next caregiver of the home and I have to think you win that hands down!
    My only other advice is to get a great realtor…someone who knows the area well and might even know the listing agent.
    I don’t know what you are thinking school wise but in hindsight I wish we had factored that in when we bought. Private schools in LA are not just expensive but involve a crazy amount of driving – and my kids friends are scattered all over town. A playmate for one can mean a 2 hour drive for the other. There are some neighborhoods with highly rated public schools – in hindsight I think it might have been smarter to buy with that in mind. I could have bought a lot more house had I not been paying for school!
    Best of luck and hopefully we will see some inventory in this dry market soon!!!

  35. It is SUCH a process. Especially in LA where it’s so competitive. We were outbid on so many homes and in the end couldn’t have been happier with the one we got (which was much better than all the others). Keep the faith that the right house for you is the one you’ll end up with!
    Also, please come west!! 😉

  36. was this your first offer? i’m sure you are looking in a desirable neighborhood at homes that appeal to most everyone. just to give you a little context. i live in the bay area which is mind boggling crazy when it comes to real estate not to mention other things. we’re not gazillion-aires nor did we have a giant stash of cash saved up in our piggy banks but we were able to buy a home twice during the hey days of the market, back in 2004 and recently last year. in total we made over 14 offers often going over 100k asking price. i know, crazy right? so how did we get our first and now our forever home? we worked with an exceptional realtor. i really believe that is key when you are in a competitive market. you really need to have a realtor that has the knowledge, expertise, connection and reputation in your market. he/she should be looking through every crevice for your perfect home. next be prepared to see the diamond in the rough. our home today was overlooked by buyers because it had a terrible paint job and staging. it looked old and tired. we were able to look beyond that to see its potential. and a complete paint job from top to bottom after we bought it completely transformed the house. lastly don’t compromise on location. location, location, location. that really means a lot especially since you will be buying at one of the peak times of the market. we stretched our budget to it’s max on both homes because its location was highly desirable and the value of the home did not suffer as a result in a down market. lastly it will happen. it’s definitely a journey that can take a while. so have patience and be prepared to look at a lot of homes. the inventory starts picking up in the spring, peaking in may/june. best of luck! one last note, don’t forget about school! we bought our first home when we didn’t have children and just lucked out that our neighborhood school was amazing. but some of our friends were not in the same situation and ended up sending the kids to private school.

  37. here is my list of suggestions:
    1. real estate agent: choose an agent that works and is knowledgeable in the area that you want to buy. we made the mistake of picking an agent the first time around that had broad knowledge, but no specific knowledge. the one we have now is an expert on east side real estate and she literally knows every person we have run into looking at various properties. (not to mention that she is highly professional, knowledgeable, supportive, and just a positive person to be around)
    2. “unsung” areas: LA real estate is incredibly competitive especially if you are looking in desirable neighborhood (for us it was eagle rock, silver lake, echo park, downtown, highland park, south pas/pasadena), so you need to look at similar places that don’t have the popularity hype. popular areas will properties with bids that are all cash, and quite possibly 10-15 people putting in offers, we just couldn’t compete with that. so, we looked at neighborhoods approximate to these areas, to properties in “pocket neighborhoods” (ideal mini-communities), and we looked at as many places as we could all in communities that were under the radar.
    3. comps: when you make an offer, make sure you put in an offer close to what it is worth. we made the mistake of placing an offer well above the listing prices, making almost to the close of escrow only to find out the property was valued $22,000 below our offer. we had to walk from the deal. this time around, we made an offer well below the listing price, and it is paying off. we are mere steps from closing the deal.
    4. be open minded: the process is emotional, and you get to daydreaming faster than you realize. the trick is to keep an open mind and not get too bogged down on that “one house.” there are lots of really great communities, all of which have their set of pluses/minuses. if the last house didn’t work out, keep your chin up, the next house is just around the corner.
    good luck, i know you’ll the find the right house!

  38. This has happened to many of my friends, but they always ended up getting something they likes eventually. I know it’s frustrating, but the right house will come in time.

  39. you’ll probably fall in love a few times, get your heart broken a couple of times, you just have to trust that if it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. It’s really hard in the moment, but when you do find your house and you move in and make it yours, you will know it was worth it. Just like relationships, you date Mr. Wrong and it doesn’t work out in order for you to learn and then find Mr. Right

  40. I grew up in the suburbs near DC. With so many military families in the area, there are quite a few single family homes for rent by owners who are also in the military. My advice, if you’re looking for a house, is to be ready to commute. The closer to DC you come, the more expensive they get. The surrounding areas are beautiful, though, and have great schools, so it’s not too much of a let down. Happy hunting!

  41. I’m sure you’ve received lots of tips so I’ll keep it short & sweet:
    -determine what is negotiable & non-negotiable for you (aesthetically/ design-wise). For instance, for me, I didn’t want a house that had a garage facing the front.
    -be patient.
    -good luck!!!

  42. This is happening to all of my friends in LA. EVERYTHING is going for more than asking and they are all cash offers by corporations. It’s essentially exactly what happened with the crash a few years ago. My friends write letters, too, but they seem to fall on deaf ears as money is always winning. In one aggravating sale, my friends found their dream house, made an offer, wrote a lovely letter, lost the sale, and the very next week the new owner listed it to rent on Craig’s List without changing one thing. It’s so sad that in this general price range, young hard working families can’t own a home because corporations and banks are buying them for the hot rental market. I wish you the best! Don’t give up home and don’t stop doing what you are doing.

  43. House hunting is just STRESSFUL. so stressful that has caused arguments between me and my boyfriend.. is it worth it? Then we moved into a rental home for now and we just don’t want to go thru that process again… My dad has always told me if you find the right one even if its a wee bit more than what you budget is, just go for it… because you probably can’t find the same one again. This is THE HOUSE you will live EVERYDAY for a long long time.. so you better live in one that you fell in love with, or you live in one hoping you would fall in love eventually?! that doesn’t work.. its like finding a husband haha.
    We also went for an auction and it was the most nerve wrecking experience ever. The feeling was.. if we win, we would feel scared, if we lose, we would feel really disappointed..

  44. Don’t worry Joy! It took my parents 9 months to find their dream home after relocating to a new city. They joke that it was like having a baby. They put down offers on houses where they were outbid, visited pretty much every neighborhood in the Denver area and finally found somewhere they fell in love with.

  45. We just closed on our first house last week – what a process! We got the home 6 days after it was listed – during it’s first weekend showing. My best tip would be to go all in if you fall in love. Offer the best you can. Although, cash does seem nearly impossible…

  46. Dear Amy,
    Yes, write a sweet and sincere little letter to the sellers explaining why the house is so special to you. You may even be chosen over better financial offers!
    good luck!
    Rebecca

  47. I know exactly how you feel, Joy! Buying a house is an emotionally and physically draining experience. I’m sorry your offer didn’t get accepted for the house you want! To encourage you, those cash offers were not one-off. I worked at a real estate law firm and you would not believe how many people buy houses in CASH these days! Be encouraged that yours is still out there 🙂
    We made two offers on our house that were both rejected by the sellers. Months later we gave it one more shot… and they accepted! We’re now in a house that I never expected we would get, a house that I had cried over not getting just months before we moved in! The search and the ups and downs are totally worth it. Here’s to hoping you find a house that would be the perfect home for your family!

  48. Its crazy in Sydney, Australia too – prices are going through the roof and things are getting snapped up so fast…we’ve been looking to upgrade for a couple of years but havnt found anything we really like and it appears we cant even afford our neighbourhood anymore!
    We’ve decided to renovate now – still hoping I get that dream home with a reno!
    Goodluck!

  49. Hello Joy,
    Sorry to hear about the offer rejected. It’s über stressful and emotionally gut wrenching to buy a home in LA.
    It took us over a year and half to finally find our home. Looking for homes in the silver lake, echo park area was like finding a needle in the hay stack. A new listing would go up and we would show up and would be lines of people already waiting. One house we had made an offer on had 11 bidders! The seller gave 24hrs and took the highest bidder, our bid was first until we lost to an all cash buyer that made the offer one dollars over ours.
    I was 8 months pragnant and an emotional wrack when our offer was out bid. But after the first rejection you’ll get stronger and just keep on going. When it’s your house it will be yours just don’t throw all of your heart into it until you get the keys in your hands. We got an excepted offer on a wonderful house that seem perfect but after the inspection there was major issue with the foundation the inspector tell us to walk away but we couldn’t since we have already fell in love with house but then our friend realtor talked some senses into us and we walked away. There will always be another house, it just takes a lot of time, tears and enderance. We were so hung up on finding a home in the silver lake and echo park area that we neglected to look just couple areas just outside of it. So we expanded our area and we found a wonder little house with a nice yard on the hill in glassell park. The neighborhood is transitioning just like silver lake was 12 years ago. We closed the escrow on house on the day I went into labor 🙂
    Stay strong and positive and know that in the end you will find the perfect home for you and your family.
    Cheers,
    Chalalai

  50. So sorry to hear that! We actually just put in an offer on a house in LA a few weeks ago and are stiiiill waiting to find out! We submitted an offer letter through our realtor as well…but who knows if it will actually help? It’s so unpredictable. I keep telling myself it will happen when it happens and the best we can do is keep saving for an even better house. Fingers crossed for you guys!

  51. Also! My husband and I have promised ourselves not to even start mentally remodeling or decorating the house until we have news for sure. It’s our first house so it’s kind of romantic to make plans, but rejection is that much worse when you’ve already wallpapered the home office in your head! Good luck!

  52. I remember my younger days (that I’m too old now at 22), when my parents were looking for our first real house! It was so exhausting for them, heartbreaking too when they were in the same sitch as you and Bob, and such a roller coaster for us all! Ruby probably won’t remember going to multiple Open House’s in a row, but one day soon she’ll be growing up in a house that her parents worked so hard to get! Keep chugging away Joy and Bob, this wasn’t the house for you because something much better is about to come your way! Can’t wait to see what’s to come!

  53. Buying a house was probably one of the most emotional experiences of my life. We wanted to live in a Boston, MA suburb that is very popular so we were competing with a LOT of people. We were outbid 2 times by a lot more money. Some people are crazy. Why would you pay so much more for a place when it’s not worth that much? I just don’t get it. But what can you do.
    The lesson that we learned was that we needed to see the house right after it came into the market. So no waiting for that Open House because if you wait until then, you will be competing with way more people. By seeing the place right when it comes into the market, you might get to make an offer without any competition. That is the tactic that we used and it ended up working out for us. After 7 months of some intense house hunting, we found the perfect place for us. It ended up being way better than the other 2 places that we had put offers on and lost. So I guess everything happens for a reason.
    Just take it one day at a time and DON’T SETTLE. Good luck and I bet you will find the perfect place for you guys 🙂

  54. Oh, so sorry to hear you didn’t get the house but that just means there is another house out there meant for you and your family. We were looking for a while too and it all seemed hopeless. I have to say we ended up finding and buying a piece of land instead and now I’m living out my dream of every architect… Designing and building my own house.

  55. i live in vancouver, bc – one of the most overheated pricing markets in all of north america. prices here are literally insane.
    my tip is from a friend – go to open houses on weekends where there are major sporting events like the superbowl or other distractions.
    they did this – the open house was poorly attended – mainly wives without there husbands.
    it spooked the sellers and my friends offer was accepted.
    the other tip is really try to look past things like bad paint or icky fixtures. you can save a lot by doing this and that type of thing really isn’t that hard to fix in the long run!

  56. I went through this last year when we were looking for our first home, it was such an emotional time. We had the same situation, twice, where we had an offer accepted and then a week later they called to say someone else had offered higher/cash. So frustrating at the time, I remember even crying once because I was so fed up of seeing houses, however one weekend we just decided it was a numbers game and we took a drive to find houses for sale, searched the internet and asked every man and his dog about homes for sale and then we booked around 20 viewings over the space of this weekend. We found our home and thankfully it was a quick sale as no chain, I think the only advice I could give is just don’t give up, look at every house you think may be right, see as many as possible, the house we ended up buying we were not sure on from the advertisement online but when we did go and see it we just fell head over heels.
    Best of luck! xx

  57. House hunting can be so frustrating at times, we bid on two places before we got our house but it was definitely the best out of them all. Stay positive, the right place for you is definitely out there and will come along when it is meant to be. Until then happy house hunting 🙂

  58. You are definitely not alone Joy. We bought our first home last August, and leading up to it was the MOST stressful time in my life. We saw nearly 80 HOUSES!!!!! We did the same thing, put in offers, only to be outbid by people offering $50k more than us, or full cash. It was very rough for me especially because I was the one doing most of the work finding houses, setting up appointments to see the houses, and talking to the realtor and the lender.
    Eventually I ended up realizing the same thing you did: if I was not getting these houses- they were probably not meant to be. WE eventually found a great starter home, and won it at a really great price. We wanted to make sure we were noticed when we put our offer in, so we wrote the (not previous) home owners a note telling them that we appreciate all that they have done with the home, and that we were excited to start our lives together in the house and build a family there (they had done the same thing with their family 20 years ago). They must have liked the note, so we ended up winning the bidding war!
    My best advice is to hang in there- and don’t settle for something for now- but wait for something great! I know what potential you can see in a house, so you are already ahead of most people!
    Happy shopping!!!

  59. We just bought our first home (after searching for 3 years!) last summer and I can’t tell you how stressful it was. Don’t worry, the right house will come! My suggestion? Try not to get too attached to every house you put an offer on. I have such a tendency to get wrapped up and fall in love with every detail of every house, but until you know it’s yours…try to detach yourself just a little bit. It’ll make the roller coaster of emotions a bit easier to manage. Then, when your house is finally in the bag…celebrate the heck out of it! 🙂

  60. Wise words. I always knew it would be hard to find the perfect house, but being outbid sure is something I never gave thought about. It must be frustrating.
    Still, I can’t wait to be able to buy my own house. My wishes and expectations (and needs!) are just about the same as yours… A house is very much needed!

  61. I remember that pain well. Here’s my story with a happy ending and what we learned.
    Last year around April we were trying to buy a house in Burbank (and Burbank only because I wanted to be in their excellent school district whenever we had children. then i got pregnant, so there you go). We started out doing it the traditional way of visiting houses over the weekend, deciding which ones we liked, then making offers over the asking only to be outbid by multiple cash offers. About two weeks in we decided this is not working so we (we had a realtor) started just making offers on whatever houses looked decent on the websites and then if we were accepted for the offer we’d go check it out and then withdraw the offer if we didn’t like it in person. It saved us so much time because we only saw houses that we had a chance of actually getting. Unfortunately we were only accepted for one house and we didn’t like that one either so this went on for months with no bites. I totally recommend this route. I had both mine and my husband’s signatures digitally scanned in my computer so whenever an offer came in, I would digitally sign them and send them back right away.
    As fate would have it, a house we loved over that first weekend we went to see that had been sold to cash, was flipped and came back on the market for more than what we saw it for but we still wanted it. Made the offer, got the house. Luckily it was appraised for more than what we paid for so yay for that.
    Financing as well I have some tips: my husband and I both work in the entertainment industry so we’re freelance, like yourself, and that made for a few extra documents proving that we made enough money to afford this house. We were also having trouble being approved for certain amounts. We learned through our financier that having a student loan on our record, even though it really wasn’t much, was making us qualify for less because our debt to income ratio was a little skewed. Because of that we decided to just pay off in full our loans with some of our savings and that helped us out tremendously. We qualified for a larger loan and then once the house closed, we no longer had student debt.
    I also recommend you have all your documents you’ll need on your computer digitally scanned (and somewhere password protected safe) so you can send them to whoever needs them quickly (income taxes, scans of driver’s licenses, bank statements, etc.) Or investing in a good scanner that does multiple page scanning. It really expedited things for us, our financial guy was always blown away by how fast I would get things to him.
    Good luck Joy and Bob and Ruby! As much of a headache and heartbreak as it is in this Los Angeles area real estate market, it’s totally worth it knowing the grass your husband planted will be the grass your babies and kitty cats will be playing in.

  62. Hi Joy,
    We met at your book signing at West Elm and again at your garage sale. We started looking for our house back in 2005 right around the peak of the Los Angeles housing bubble. We wanted Eagle Rock, Los Feliz (yeah right) or Atwater Village. We wrote 13 offers on 12 houses!. We didn’t get any of our top houses and thank goodness we didn’t. We were always outbid, we began to only make over-asking bids. It was a crazy time back then, we were nuts making offers on one bedroom, run-down shacks in terrible neighborhoods. Our real estate agent was the most patient and hard working woman ever. We spent many Sunday nights in her office at midnight submitting offers from the open houses we saw earlier that day. We spent a year discouraged and brokenhearted but never gave up.
    Then we saw our cute California bungalow in Highland Park. We were unsure about the neighborhood, we were compromising on only having one bathroom but gaining a two car garage and an enormous yard with gorgeous views. Our house wasn’t our first choice but we learned to become persistent, flexible and be first in line for making an offer. February 2006, we lucked out because it rained the day of the open house so instead of 50+ people, there were only 20. We put in our offer an hour after the viewing. Turns out three other offers were submitted but ours was accepted!! (I wrote a lovely letter and we doubled our earnest deposit check)
    Eight years later, we now have a rad three year old daughter, we just renovated our kitchen, Highland Park was voted most up-and-coming neighborhood (dubbed the new Silverlake) and we have never been happier in our well-deserved home. You’ll be going into the shark tank house hunting in Los Angeles but keep at it. You may have to compromise but it’s still going to be the best purchase you ever make.
    Bonne Chance!
    PS Here’s our kitchen remodel http://sunkissis.blogspot.com/2013/05/our-kitchen-remodel-part-three-grand.html

  63. as alot of other people have stated, this exact same thing happened to me 4 times!!! but then I ended up in a home that blew all those other offers out of the water. SO be patient and don’t get attached to anything until they hand you the keys.

  64. My friends bought a great flipped home in the Montecito Heights area of Los Angeles in December 2012. They said it was a quicker/less painful process because people aren’t really house-hunting during the holiday season. So, timing definitely comes into play.
    Also, they were selling their previous home & accepted the offer from the sincere letter they received from the buyer. So, yeah, letters do work!

  65. We put down 6 offers before our 7th was finally the winner… and I have to say we definitely ended up in the exact right place for us. Though, don’t get me wrong – tears were shed multiple times when there were places we were so into that we lost out on. Hang in there! Something will stick and it’ll be right. =)

  66. Oh boy, it can be such an emotional roller coaster, can’t it? There are so many exciting highs and then the lows: offering back and forth, bad inspections, loosing to a higher offer. I guess all I can say is it’s like so much of life in that it will have a way of working out. Sometimes what you end up with is greater than you could have ever imagined, and I hope the home you eventually land is more than you ever dreamed of, Joy! Best of luck!

  67. CONGRATS on house-hunting! Sorry that you didn’t get your bid. I have heard that lots of people are paying cash for houses in CA now and days. It makes it a lot harder to get your place with that. I don’t have experience in this area so it’s hard to provide tips. I’m sure the place you want will come very soon. Like you said, think positive. It will happen. In the meantime, enjoy not having to pay that much more expenses and save up for your future place. Good luck! 🙂

  68. House hunting has just been taking it’s toll on me. We are based in London and my fiance and I have now lost out on 3 houses. You are right when you say that you have to learn to just be okay with whatever happens… I always try and tell myself not to get emotional about a house (the worst in when I start imagining living in it!) before we have secured it – sometimes I just can’t help it…
    Good luck with the hunt 🙂

  69. Wow, so we’re living parallel lives!
    We are in the process to, but on the westside. We found a house we really liked almost instantly (what luck!), gathered our papers and loan approval together, wrote our offer letter, attached a photo of our family… and then… there were 26 offers on the house and the one that was accepted was for cash, for $300K OVER the asking price.
    Cue the sad trombone.
    Good luck with the hunt. Sounds like we all need it this year!

  70. My parents sold their house of 35+ years in a desirable part of LA almost two years ago. They had four offers in three days, and three of those were cash (who has that much cash?!). In the end, they accepted the offer from the non-cash buyer because that buyer clearly loved the house, whereas the other buyers looked at it as an investment. Personality can make a difference, especially when you’re making offers on a long-time family home. Good luck!

  71. Sigh… glad to see I’m not alone. Currently renting in Little Tokyo with husband, 15 month old, and with another baby on the way, we need more space. We’re dual income with good jobs and even after having saved for YEARS we still feel like we’re scrounging to find a place that has good schools, not a bad work commute to Los Feliz, and that we’re not overpaying for. Its nuts here in LA! After much discouragement, we’ve decided to lay low and look for a house to rent until hopefully all this cash offer/overbidding/investor stuff slows down, and maybe just save for a bigger down payment. Good luck to you (and me) on the hunt!

  72. I’d definitely look outside your target areas. Look into a place in a not so up and coming neighborhood. And consider looking into getting not just pre-qualified for a loan but actually into being fully pre-approved. You can usually do that through your lender and have them do the underwriting before you even go looking for a house. Sometimes that will sway buyers. They know that closing will happen quickly and the deal won’t fall through.

  73. Thanks for sharing about your house hunting experience! Proves that you, Bob, and Ruby are human too!! 🙂 Good luck to you guys!

  74. The LA housing market SUCKS! I had to help my parents get a house last year when the one they were renting went into foreclosure (nothing scarier than the prospect of homeless parents!). They lost on offers
    several times. It was getting harder to find a house, as they also needed something that was turnkey. We realized that had to change their approach. I soon found them another house – that got 10 cash offers on the first day! Since the realtor was a friend of the seller, the decided to be ripped by her as well – that way she’d get all the commission, which might incentivize her. They eventually had to go over asking, but in less than a year, their house went up almost 200,000 in value!!!! So they got a great deal!
    When buying in the LA area you have to get crafty with your approach, as half the time you’re battling the all cash flippers. I have high end realtor friends and friends that had to reconsider their approach, as this what I discovered – stay away from Silverlake/Echo Park, too many flippers and if it’s a good house, everyone will fight for it. I’ve had friends find amazing deals/properties in Eagle Rock, Mt.Washington and Atwater Village

  75. we just closed on our new home in Ojai. it was a wild ride for some of the same reasons that are frustrating you. here’s what helped me: i decided to love all kinds of houses. i tried not to fall hard, but when i did and it didn’t work out, i kept reminding myself that there is no shortage of amazing houses. sure enough, they kept coming on the market in the neighborhoods we loved. we got our house because our agent was fierce and persistent. she paid attention to pocket listings (not yet actively on the market) and we were first in line to see our house before it went live. our offer was accepted before subsequent offers came in. then it was up to our lender to get the deal closed in time so our seller wouldn’t cancel and accept a back up offer. that was the worst part for us. we didn’t know until the last minute if our lender would pull through or not. and just like that, here we are, listening to the Ojai clock tower, pulling down wallpaper, and planning a kitchen renovation. i hope your agent and your lender are awesome and they work hard to make all your house dreams come true! i’m excited to see what you do once your sweet family moves into your new home.

  76. Not sure if this is helpful or not but I have friends that live in Silverlake and they work on a lot of projects in and around the area. Perhaps they can give you a heads up when they are involved in a home redevelopment that might strike your fancy?
    Here is their website:
    http://www.greencityco.com/edgecliffe
    I can give you their email addresses if you are interested.
    The homes they design are GORGEOUS and it seems in line to your (also gorgeous) taste. Edgecliffe is where they currently live. Anyways, good luck! Husband and I just barely got our toes wet looking and it’s depressing ALREADY. I say we all collectively strike and move out of California until California gets their priorities straight and let their own people buy homes in their own state at REASONABLE prices! STRIKE STRIKE STRIKE! 🙂

  77. hi joy! long time reader and fan. i live in the outskirts of boston and my husband and i just purchased our first home in december after searching for two years, and almost giving up. we faced the same type of issues, getting our hopes up, thinking a house was “the one”, then finding out we were outbid by ridiculous amounts of money over the value of the home and in all cash. near the tail end of our search, i started to think that we had to settle on a house in order to avoid getting outbid. then just when were were about to give up, a home that couldn’t be more perfect for us came on the market and in less than 2 months it became ours! Here’s what we learned through the process: 1) if you see a house you like, definitely ask if you can see it before the open house and put in an offer then 2) if you’re not married to a specific realtor, using an agency that also sells lots of homes in the area you’re interested in could give you a leg up, often times the agency will give their sellers clients first dibs on houses before it hits the market. the first one really helped us, we put in a solid offer the day after the showing and the seller accepted because we seemed serious being the first offer of 35 private showings pre-open house. then after they accepted, they had an open house for backup offers (in case financing fell through) and received 7 offers most of which were over ours. So the last thing that will help you (as in our case) is a little bit of pure luck :).. The right house is out there for your family, you just have to diligent about searching (i was on redfin every day) and above else, remain positive :). best of luck!
    emily

  78. House hunting in LA is sheer insanity. And then having to find a home with a good school district just makes everything crazier.
    We bought a house in Northwest Pasadena (which websites told us to avoid), and yet we’re still able to walk to places like Urth Cafe and the Goldline. We love our house and walkable neighborhood. If you’re willing to stretch into Northwest Pasadena, I think it is LA’s best kept secret for families. It’s not as competitive as the rapidly gentrifying areas of Northeast LA and there’s a great (and fairly new) public Mandarin immersion K-8 program that many of my friends send their kids to and are happy with.

  79. BTW, we beat out 9 other offers, including ones that were higher and all cash. The sellers connected with our letter. So it’s possible! We also went with the listing agent, which I think was to our advantage. People generally recommend getting your own agent but desperate times call for desperate measures.

  80. Ugh, it’s a nightmare! Even when it all works, it’s a nightmare. But, in the end, it’s all worth it. And the right house will just work. You just have to wait for the right one, it happens! Good luck!

  81. Hi Joy, I’m in the LA area looking to buy a first home just like you guys! Here to say that you are not alone – we started our search last year! We watched the prices skyrocket and all the cash bought houses resurface as flips, it’s been beyond frustrating. I second the comment about expanding your search. We have decided that the most important thing for us is space. Another LA thing to consider is school districts. We have started looking everywhere with good schools within a 40 min radius of LA proper – we have an offer in on something in Santa Clarita – and I NEVER thought I’d move there! Also, love your realtor!! I tried going the redfin route, but in the end having a responsive agent is so important too. Listen to your instincts and end a bad relationship with a so so realtor sooner then later. Don’t be afraid of short sales either, sometimes it’s a great opportunity. Best of Luck!!!

  82. Joy, I understand your struggles. We live in the Bay Area. In 1999 we were looking to buy our first home, and the market was, well, crazy. Multiple offers on each home, all substantially over the asking price. We bid upon, and lost, several homes. It became very discouraging. To see a home, imagine your life there, and then, no. But then something special happened, and we got our dream home. Seriously a house we’d never imagine could be ours. And we’ve been here ever since. Dreams do happen. It may take awhile, but they do happen.

  83. Joy, I know the sentiment exactly! We finally got a house after having been bid out of two homes and a long, exhaustive seven month search! But here’s the MAJOR silver lining: of all the houses we lost (and I was bereft over each, thinking we’d never find anything better), the one that came along last week was the answer to our prayers. It was our ‘heart’ home, the home that was waiting for us. The home that bandaged up all our bruises and scratches through the process. It was so worth the wait. It’s a process, but be patient and the right house will come to you when it’s ready. (And you DON’T need all cash to get that dream home..). ~ Liz

  84. Thank you so much Joy for putting this blog up!! I am so emotionally drained and would lie awake at night. I finally googled “how to lessen stress during house hunting”. It’s been a joy reading through all the comments & advice above. We have made another offer on a house (this is the 4th time). Had been so discouraged lately. But reading a lot of the replies above have started to lift my spirits. We are hunting in LA & have started scaling down on our wish lists. We are standing ground on being in a good school zone district for our daughter in 1st grade. And not adding additional commute for her school as we both already commute about 30 miles to work. A lot of wonderful tips here! Thank you for that. How has your search been?

  85. That’s so great that your letter is what put you at the top of the list. We’re hoping for good news today based on our own personal letter submission.

  86. The house hunting process can be a lot of things. For me it was a roller coaster of excitement, anxiety, fear, and hope, just to name a few. A great resource for me during the process was Peak Corporate Network with a bunch of helpful information and resources. Thanks again for sharing!

  87. hi joy how are you are you okay someone tell me about your website i am sure your website is very helpful i am working on hunting i think you can trust me so i am looking for the . best hunting scope

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