How to Find Your Ideal Home
Picking the neighborhood you live in is far more important than the home you choose.
That’s because the neighborhood we choose affects every single area of our lives — from our fitness to the relationships we have with our family or the community.
It’s why I tell buyers to look for the right neighborhood, then the right home. But people still want to look for their home first then evaluate the neighborhood.
I understand. It’s more work upfront to evaluate neighborhoods. It’s not like there is an app out there that can evaluate different neighborhoods for us. But there are a ton of apps.
You can find a house by looking at neighborhood second, but it’s ten times more work. Plus, you risk missing out on some really good houses.
When you look neighborhood first, home second, the buying process becomes much easier to organize and keep track of. It’s hard to look through homes in thousands of saved tabs on your desktop or the hundreds of homes you gave a heart to on the Realtor App.
This strategy will save you time. You won’t have to spend any time looking at homes that are great but in the wrong neighborhood.
Today, we’re going to look at how to find a home once you’ve already picked your neighborhood(s). Specifically, we’re going to look at ways almost no buyer is using to find homes and how they might be missing out on their dream home.
If you don’t have a neighborhood selected yet, you can check out all of these resource to find the neighborhood that you think would be the best place for you to live.
Let’s get started
Why Do We Think We’re Qualified?
Why do we think we’re qualified enough to be our own Doctor?
Seriously? We start to feel sick so the first thing we do is Google our symptoms. We go to WebMD and start self-diagnosing ourselves. Oh, I have the flu. Or, maybe it’s a sinus infection.
We either try to self-medicate at that point or we go to the Doctor’s and ask them to prescribe what WE think is the right medication.
I mean, when did we start to think we’re smart enough to do our own research to diagnose ourselves? Was it at the birth of Google? We’re basically telling Doctor’s that their eight-year degree and six years of residency is useless and unnecessary when you have WebMD. What the heck?
The truth is, we do this with everything. We skip the fitness trainer and opt for reading blog articles. We skip the dietician and consider ourselves experts with a few diet books. We skip using real estate agents because we have apps like Trulia and Zillow.
What we don’t realize is that we’re holding ourselves back when we do this. We get far less desirable results. Instead of losing the weight we want in 4 months, it takes us 12. Instead of finding our dream home, we settle for a home.
That’s because part of being able to come up with an effective solution is being able to correctly identify our problem.
For example, if you’re trying to diagnose yourself, antibiotics may be the right medication. But, there are a ton of illnesses that have the same exact symptoms that only a Doctor would be able to distinguish between.
In real estate, buyers think they are smart enough to find their own homes. So, they never bring an agent in until they’re ready to see houses or put an offer on a house.
That’s too bad because there are dream homes being sold right under a buyer’s nose. It happen every single day.
The Secret Listing
Buyers are missing out on homes that could be their dream home because they believe they can find homes on their own. And the worst part is they have no idea that they’re missing out.
You can find homes. But buyers often make the mistake in thinking that ALL homes available for sale are listed on Zillow or Trulia.
Some bad news. They’re not.
Imagine one year from now, you’ve gone through the entire home buying process. You spent months looking for the perfect houses. You buy a home that is about 90% of what you wanted was going to be the house you bought.
Then, a year later. You learn that a house that has 100% of everything you wanted was listed at the exact same time you were looking for a home, but it sold through another agent without ever being listed on a site like Zillow.
The weight of disappoint is heavier than anything Reg Park and Arnie could lift.
There are secret listings that most buyers don’t know are available for sale. It’s what we call pocket listings. They get the name pocket listings because they are kept in an agent’s pocket. They never get listed on sites like Zillow.
These are homes that are available for sale just like a home listed on Zillow, but it’s not listed. There are a ton of reasons a homeowner chooses to sell their home through a pocket listing. It’s common for certain in-demand homes to never be listed because it would be a smoother transaction.
When an agent already has buyers for a house, a homeowner is less likely to list so that they can avoid showing to random strangers.
Homebuyers have completely exhausted their search only when they look for homes on the MLS, sites like Zillow and ALL private listings for sale. Until then, a buyer hasn’t seen all of the homes that are available.
You could miss out on your dream home because you didn’t search every home available. And the only way to search all of the homes on available is to talk to a real estate agent.
Using a Realtor to Find Homes
The only way to find pocket listings is to get in touch with an agent. The good news is that you don’t have to get in touch with an agent to represent you. To find pocket listings on your own, you will have to contact agents who specialize in selling homes.
Now, I live in small area but there are well over 300 agents. Calling every single agent would be A TON of work.
The only way to really narrow this down is by finding the neighborhood you want to live in first. Take the neighborhoods you want to live in and find the agent that dominates that area.
Real estate agents are taught to “farm” a specific neighborhood. This just means that agents are told to focus and concentrate their marketing efforts on a neighborhood they want to work in until they’ve become the top agent in that area.
Finding the agent that controls an area is pretty easy. Just drive around your specific neighborhood and see which agent has the most for-sale signs in the area.
Once you’ve found the one or two agents that dominate the area, call them up and ask them if they know about any pocket listings. Here’s a script to help:
Agent: “Hi, this is [agent’s name]
You: “Hi, I’m looking for a home in X neighborhood. I’ve seen a lot of the homes listed on the MLS database and sites like Zillow, but I was wondering if you knew about any homeowners in that area that are motivated to sell but haven’t listed their home on the MLS database?”
If they say yes. Then, you’re golden. If they say no, ask this next:
Agent: “No, not at the moment.”
You: “Cool, thanks. Could you ask around for me? I’d like to buy a home in that neighborhood and I see you sell most of the homes in that area so you probably know many of the homeowners. Is there a way to let them know I’m interested in buying a home like theirs?”
It’s uncertain how many homes are pocket listings, but it’s more than the average buyer thinks. Depending on your market and the conditions, you can really find some great exclusive houses this way.
If your dream home became available for sale and wasn’t listed on a site like Zillow, how would you know? Don’t miss out on finding your dream home because you think that all homes are listed on sites like Zillow.
Would you settle for a less-than ideal house just because you didn’t know a better one was available?
Other Ways to Find Hidden Homes
I heard a story the other day from a homeowner who decided to sell his home as “for-sale-by-owner”. He really had no intention of selling his home.
But then, he saw his neighbor listed his home with an agent so he quickly put up a for sale sign in his yard. He used all of the traffic that his neighbor was getting.
I thought this was a brilliant idea when the homeowner told me about this. It worked beautifully because he was able to sell his home in three weeks.
No matter the market, there are always homeowners who are trying to sell their home on their own. And sometimes they don’t list their home on the MLS database or on the internet at all.
That means there are homes available for sale with motivated sellers, but very few people know about them.
The easiest way to find these homes is to drive around your chosen neighborhoods. Just look for any for sale sign in the yard or a sign that says “for sale by owner”. These are homes where the seller isn’t using an agent to sell.
It’s important to pick your neighborhood first. Otherwise, you will spend hours driving around and finding a hidden home will really be a hit or miss.
The One Caveat With Traditional Search Methods
The traditional search methods — like using Zillow and the Realtor app — will produce most of the houses available for sale. The best strategy is to use the traditional search methods and enhance with the methods for finding those hidden listings.
When using traditional search methods, there is one point of caution. Filter out homes in the search can eliminate perfectly good homes. If you’re searching neighborhood first then home, it’s likely you can look through all of the homes without a filter.
But if for some reason you find yourself needing to use a filter. Be careful. Sites like Zillow and Trulia are data aggregators, which means they pull data from the MLS and load it to their site.
Sometimes the data doesn’t always translate right. For example, Zillow is famous for mixing up lot sizes. They like to list the square footage of a lot as acres. So, 2,320 square feet on the MLS becomes 2,320 acres on Zillow.
If you’re searching for homes with less than an acre, this home fits but will be filtered out by Zillow. Here’s an example. My search criteria was a lot with 10+ acres. I love land. This home with only 3.52 acres has 352 acres, according to Zillow.
So, as a rule of thumb, don’t filter out search results if you don’t have to.
Homes are being sold without ever being listed on the market. Sticking only to traditional methods is a fast way to almost guarantee that you might miss out on the home of your dreams and never even know it.
How would it feel to buy a home that’s less than perfect when you could have bought the perfect dream home? If only you knew it was available for sale.
To get started finding your dream home, it helps to determine what you want in your home and what aspects would be absolute deal killers. Download my free guide to help you quickly know what you want in a home so that you don’t have to spend hours look at homes that don’t meet your criteria.