Between attending showings, meeting with lenders, trading emails with your real estate agent, and vigilantly scouring for new listings, house-hunting often feels like a part-time job. Now, there’s actual data to back up the feeling.
On average, first-time buyers missed about 14 hours of work during the homebuying process, which is nearly two full eight-hour workdays. That time translates to about $845 million in wages across the U.S., according to Opendoor’s data.
But in today’s ultra-competitive market, what’s a first-time buyer to do? Diligently staying at your desk, instead of rushing over for a showing, might mean losing out on the perfect house.
House-shopping is a time-consuming process, period, but there are some steps you can take to help shave off precious minutes — and even hours — during your search, according to real estate agents.
Send Your Real Estate Agent
Ask your real estate agent if he or she would be willing to go look at a house in-person, then report back, suggests Christine Hansen, a real estate agent in Fort Lauderdale.
“In this market, you can have your Realtor preview the property during the day, send you a video and, if you like it, you can go see it on a night or weekend,” she says.
Prioritize private showings over open houses, says Craig McCullough, a real estate agent in Washington, D.C.
“Agents hosting the open house want to secure you as a buyer or client, so they try to get you into longer conversations,” he says. “And working around other buyers can slow down your evaluation of the property.”
Limit Your Online Searching
It can be super tempting to refresh Zillow or Redfin every five minutes — after all, finding a home is all you can think about right now. But McCullough says this can be counterproductive.
“Block off one or two hours and limit the online searching to just that amount of time,” he says. “Set these boundaries so that the search doesn’t drive you crazy or make you feel like you need to compromise.”
A big reason why the house search is so disruptive is that new listings seem to pop up at random — your real estate agent might frantically text you about a new listing right in the middle of an already stressful day at work.
But, in truth, real estate listings tend to follow a pretty stable pattern. If you can mentally prepare yourself for the day that most listings come on the market — and even block off an hour or two in your schedule — you can be more efficient (and feel less frazzled).
“Every city has a particular cycle of when new listings come on the market,” McCullough says. “In D.C., Thursday is the most common day for new homes to hit the market, so schedule your time the next day or two after to have the best success.”
First impressions matter. If you can tell that a home is not for you, then don’t waste a single extra minute on it, says Las Vegas real estate agent Lori Ballen.
“If we pull up to the house and immediately (the buyers) know it’s not what they want, we can leave,” she says. “If we had an appointment, I simply notify the homeowner privately that they have decided it’s not a property of interest. In addition, if we walk into a home and they realize at any point on the tour that they wouldn’t make an offer, we don’t have to complete the tour, or we move through it quickly.”
Though you won’t be able to step inside the home at any hour of the day, you can still get a feel for the neighborhood while running other errands or on your lunch break, says Sarah Richardson, a real estate agent in Alaska.
“Drive by after work and see if you like where the place is and its general vibe,” she says.
Take advantage of all the digital tools and technologies at your disposal. “Walk” through the neighborhood by using street view and looking at satellite imagery on Google Maps. Watch the videos included in the listing. Click through the 3D tour of the house.
“The 3D tour will help you understand the layout of the property, the room scale, and other important details,” says Lauren Reynolds, a real estate agent in Connecticut.