Searching for that elusive “perfect” home

A few years ago, one of the main mistakes many buyers were making was not getting pre-approved before looking at homes. Today, one of the most common mistakes I’m seeing is unrealistic price expectation; that being, shopping for the right home, but in the wrong price category. Many buyers seem to “want it all”, but have it at their price. The truth is if you want a $500,000 home, you’ll have to pay close to $500,000. You won’t find the same features in a home costing $100,000 less. Are you on an endless quest for the perfect home (and driving your real estate agent nuts in the process)?  Here are a few ways to help:

The first (and most obvious) solution is to go back to your lender and see if you can get approved for a higher purchase price. Perhaps there is some additional income that you can declare? Is there a credit card or car loan you can pay off? Can a relative gift you some additional cash for a higher down payment? Can you get a co-signer? Maybe a parent can help purchase the home with you?

A second solution is to shop for your new home in a city or area that is more affordable. If you must have a home with specific features and you’re unable find it in the city of your choice, consider moving your search to a different area. There may be a neighboring city that has older, more dated homes where you can find the square footage and number of bedrooms at a lower cost (you can always remodel the home later). Also, look further away from the “prime” areas of the county. There may be outlying areas with newer, updated homes that are priced far lower because of the commuting distance.

If these solutions are not possible and your budget is already stretched to the limit, then the third solution is to make a list of priorities and to compromise.

What features are the most important to you? A large yard? Detached home? Low traffic noise? Number of bedrooms or bathrooms? Good schools? Open floor plan? List every home priority from most important (must have) to least important (would like to have, but can live without). Go over this list carefully with your spouse or partner and then be prepared to compromise. Focus on a new list of homes that incorporate your most important features. Don’t compromise on the top two or three items, but give ground on the less important ones. Some examples would be settling for fewer square feet, one less bedroom, or perhaps a smaller yard or a longer commute. Maybe you can pick up a home in your price range that is a “fixer” and update some of the features later, as funds become available. A townhouse may be a solution if you are looking for more space, but can’t fnd a clean, upgraded single family home in your price range. One thing to keep in mind is that some items cannot be changed later (e.g., location) while others can (e.g., kitchen counter tops).  Don’t specify “upgrades” as one of your top priorities if the home’s location could become an issue later.

What I don’t suggest is trying to compensate for your budget by making extremely low offers on more expensive homes (“low-balling”). Many home owners will work with you on price, but don’t insult them — you’ll only set yourself up for disappointment. Also, be kind to your agent. Don’t continually ask to see homes that are priced well over your budget or homes that you know are unacceptable. Focus instead on a subset of homes that include your most important features and then make a reasonable offer.

The point is, be realistic. If you want the features of a $500,000 home,  then understand that you’re not going to find them in a home priced at $400,000. Check your priorities and adjust your expectations accordingly. Failure to do so means you’ll find yourself searching for that elusive, “perfect” home for a very long time.


My web page, 7 Buyer Mistakes outlines many of the common errors buyers make when shopping for a home. You can find this article and many others on my web site,

Ron Denhaan, Realtor – Author , Orange County Real, Real Estate

DRE# 01728866

Orange County real real estate