This weekend's New York Times had its headline article in the Real Estate section about how many people regretted their home purchases during the pandemic. Although it's hard to buy a home without discovering later that something wasn't right, didn't work, or could have been better. However, there are simple ways to keep those factors to a minimum.
Every home search should begin with a list, two, in fact
One would be the non-negotiable features in a purchase, from location to size to amenities. A second list would be a wish list, for things you would hope to find, but could live without having. Ideally, that list should be in order, and maybe even scored, with the most important requirement closest to 100 points, and going down from there. Once you have that list, you need to get yourself prequalified, so you know your financial parameters. Many people begin by attempting to buy for less than the most they can afford. In a tight market, with many bidders, you may end up wanting to raise that to, or close to, your upper limit, so you need to find out what that is.
Ready to begin looking
Almost everyone starts on line, where you can scroll through pictures, and see what's available. Even at that point, it makes sense to have a rolling list of your top three choices. That way, you don't try to keep too many details and floor plans in your head. Every time you like a house, you need to start by asking if it is better than the three on your current list. If it isn't, don't keep it in your head--just eliminate it and move on. In a time of very limited listings, you may need to keep five or six on the list, but the idea is the same.
When you look in person at your top choices, you can refine your choices further, but the home's score (by now you have assigned points to the factors you care most about, and added them up in order to rank your list) should be given the most weight. Curb appeal is great, but, if you need three bedroom, or a big lot for a dog, don't get sidetracked. Unless you have to, try not to see too many in one day, because it's hard for them not to blur in your mind.
Refine Your Choices
Now use the prequalfication number to refine your choices, based on what may be happening at the time--bidding wars, or a home to sell. Start with the top choice you can afford, and try to see it through until there is a final resolution. It gets very complicated, and sometimes dangerous, to have multiple bids in at the same time. You don't want to buy two houses inadvertently. You may need to go further down your list, or even find some new candidates, but sticking to a small number at a time makes the process smoother.
Pretty soon, you should be making another list, but this time it will be for moving!