Buying a House in 2021

Last June we had a wild idea. After nearly twenty years of living in the same house, we decided it was time to move. Despite limited inventory and wildly escalating prices, we vowed to find a new place. With flexible work options, we can finally move out to the countryside.

How hard could it be to find a new place to live? It didn’t seem that difficult at first. We planned to drive through a few neighborhoods, make an offer, and move in.

If only it were that easy! Instead of finding a new house, we spent countless hours stalking new home listings and setting alerts for neighborhoods in our desired price range. Once a week, we drove north and west in search of the perfect spot, only to come home tired and disappointed.

After nine months, we grew restless and eventually settled on a house we didn’t love. Thankfully, an undisclosed conservation easement allowed us to back out of the deal. If it hadn’t been for that glitch, we would’ve bought the wrong house and been miserable.

Must-Haves When Searching for a Home

To further complicate matters, our list of must-haves grew and shrank throughout our home buying journey. What seemed important one day didn’t seem significant the next. Each time we stepped into a house, we changed our minds.

But nearly buying the wrong house changed everything for me. The house we almost bought was dark and dismal, with small windows and a shady backyard. After recognizing our error, we only considered houses with large windows and lots of natural sunlight.

We also wanted to live in a neighborhood. In the city, it’s easy to find interconnecting streets full of similar homes. In the country, we found many little offshoots—tiny roads with only a handful of homes.

While I’m ready to leave my current house, I’m not prepared to give up on all of the perks of living here. For example, I like to wave to the neighbors as we sit on our stoop and catch up with friends when we take walks around the neighborhood. 

Many home buyers want a quiet street off the beaten path, but we didn’t want to find a house on a court or cul-de-sac. Instead, we tried to find a new home on a street where people might walk their dogs or ride bikes past our house.

Honestly, I worried about feeling isolated and lonely without a community around us.

We weren’t ready to give up on the convenience of living close to stores either. While we want to live farther outside the city, we don’t want to spend thirty to forty minutes driving for groceries or other necessities. When deciding which houses to visit, we used Google maps to see how long it would take us to reach home improvement stores or gas stations. 

In addition to those requirements, we wanted a large, flat yard where the kids can play, and my husband and I can hang out. We also hoped for a roomy kitchen with a gas stove.

The list didn’t seem too large, but we couldn’t find a house with everything we wanted. Despite searching for nearly a year, we kept coming up empty.

Making Offers in 2021

In a buyer’s market, you can make offers, set escalation clauses, and wait to see if you can buy the house for less. But, in this crazy seller’s market, agents asked for final offers only.

This didn’t stop anyone from bidding. Every house we visited transitioned from active to pending within a day or two.

To win a house, you had to come to the table with a whole lot of money, in the beginning, homes sold for $20,000 to $25,000 above the asking price. But eventually, the numbers rose from $75,000 to $125,000!

Forget asking for inspections or including appraisal contingencies. All cash, non-contingent offers won time and time again. When making offers, our buyer’s agent urged us to waive everything we could.

After a while, we considered giving up on our plan. We couldn’t seem to find the right house for the right price.

Running Out of Time

The new school year will start a few months from now, and it takes time to settle on a new home. I told my husband we had two months left to find a house or give up on finding one before the kids returned to class.

Then just in the nick of time, we found one. It doesn’t have everything we want, but it has a lot of features we love!

Again we were bidding in the dark. The listing agent asked for final offers without any escalation clauses. So what number should we give?

In this whole year of searching, we only made two offers, and our agent was nearly 99% accurate on both of them. She said the first house would sell for $720,000. We made a $725,000 offer and won. When we backed out of the deal, the house sold for $718,000. 

A few months later, we bid on another house listed at $730,000, but the minute we walked in the door, our agent said it would sell for over $800,000. It sold for $805,000 as an all-cash offer without contingencies.

So when our agent said the next house would sell for over $700,000, we offered $80,000 over the listing price. Does that seem crazy? Most definitely.

How do I feel about paying that much above the asking price? Honestly, not too bad. Is this house worth the amount of money we paid? Maybe not, but it is the best house we’ve found in over a year of looking. It has four of the six things we desire.

It’s just missing a big kitchen and a gas range, and we may be able to make those changes in the future.

Will I Regret Buying When the Market is High?

But what happens if the market corrects itself? What if home prices drop dramatically. Won’t I kick myself for paying so much for a house? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately.

In my case, I don’t think so. We plan to sell our current house as quickly as possible. I might pay an inflated price, but hopefully, I’ll sell my present house at an inflated price too. We will see how that goes soon.

13 thoughts on “Buying a House in 2021”

  1. Good luck with selling your house!
    As for buying when the market is high… well, you’re paying for the convenience of not waiting longer.
    That’s what all the money is there for, in the end.
    It gives you options to live a happier life, if you choose to.

    Although it’s interesting to see how radically different our must-haves are.
    I grew up as a rural queer (among other things), so I’ve valued having distance from my neighbours.
    My favourite saying is “Love is blind, but the neighbours certainly aren’t!”
    Which is a shame, and a lot of my more radical friends are all for fostering community level interactions.
    It’s something I’ve never reconciled, especially now that I live in a condo and get to see how messy neighbours’ lives are.

    And yes, I would recommend trying to avoid the forty minute drive to get groceries. It’s brutal.
    Although I have lots of fond memories of taking those trips with my dad and getting to talk with him the whole way.

    Reply
    • What a great comment! We are definitely paying for the convenience of not waiting any longer. If we stayed where we are we would’ve paid $40,000 for private school too! So I’m happy to dump more into a mortgage at this point in time to avoid that.

      Some communities are certainly better than others, but even in the best you’ll find a few folks you’d rather avoid. I actually grew up thirty minutes away from a grocery store as a kid and looking back on it I loved those drives too. I do not love them as an adult though 😉

      Reply
    • I know we are in a very different environment than the sub-prime mortgage debacle, but ever since that event I worry about the up and down momentums of the market. Over the long haul prices generally rise, but I would feel nervous buying a house if I wasn’t also selling one this time around. I was bitten terribly by a house purchase in 2005 that only recently recovered its value. Thankfully we never had to sell it, but it would’ve been downright awful if we did. Thankfully home prices are rising for a different reason this time around. You are 100% right about interest rates though. Money is so cheap that this time around I’m not paying off my mortgage!

      Reply
  2. My husband and I have talked about moving, too. The market in Florida is crazy (probably like everywhere else). I’ve heard about the outrageous bidding wars and cash only offers. I find it so hard to believe that there’s such a big housing shortage.

    Hope you enjoy your new home– sounds like a kitchen makeover is in your future!

    Reply
    • Thanks! I can’t believe how many people can come to the table with $800,000 or more in cash! It’s definitely wild times in the housing market. Would you stay in Florida or move somewhere else?

      Reply

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