The National Association of Realtors provides a simple 12-step guide for prospective homebuyers through its HomeLogic.com website. It’s fine, so far as it goes.
Which is not very far.
The 12 are listed below, in bold. Based on personal experience, I’ve supplemented them with expanded advice specifically geared for would-be Nashville buyers.
1. Decide to buy a house
This is the first mistake Nashvillians make, akin to a midlife whim to try stand-up comedy as a new career path. No sane person would willingly submit to the humiliation. However, the chief other options are to (a.) buy someplace else, like Cheatham County, which is lovely but a rather prohibitive Uber ride to Five Points and the Gulch, or (b.) continue to pay extortionate rent. So, a certain number of people will feel obliged to take the step.
2. Develop criteria and budget
Criteria might include such important considerations as a location where the likelihood of getting shot or robbed is minimal, and the traffic poses only an acceptable risk of pedestrian mayhem. All those areas are already full with nothing for sale, so consider other criteria.
Rule of thumb: If you can afford to live there, you don’t want to live there.
As for budget, calculate the maximum your income and assets could conceivably support without giving up food or one or more children. Then add $200,000. Minimum.
3. Research online
A number of sites are available, including Zillow.com, Realtor.com and Realtracs.com. Keep in mind the purpose of each is to present every house as either an unmined jewel or a prime candidate for immediate teardown and replacement. (Hint: These are usually identified as being sold “as is.”)
Keep also in mind that every other person in the teeming buyers’ market is checking the same resources. Revisit listings hourly to stay current. Try to identify and jump on anything remotely interesting as early as yesterday, or better yet, last week.
Be sure to ignore any listing under the category “Make Me Move,” which is code for “Who’s stupid enough to pay this price?”
4. Select an agent
This is a crucial step. If possible, try to find one experienced in SWAT-team hostage negotiations and/or psychological debriefings of combat veterans. The buying process is going to fray your nerves, and a soothing presence can see you through those moments when your strongest impulse will be to abandon all hope and pitch a tent under the Jefferson Street bridge. (Note: Most of the best tent locations are also already taken.)
5. Choose a lender
There are a variety from which to pick. Be prepared to demonstrate – through credit ratings, financial statements and sobbing appeals – that you don’t actually need any money.
6. Select a loan
This chiefly applies to terms such as down payment, interest and length of repayment. The longer the terms, the less the monthly payment, but the more the total cost. You will want at least 50 years, with zero down. You will not get it.
7. Visit homes
This is where you discover how skillful photographers who shoot listing photos can be.
It’s also where you are likely to encounter differences of opinion between you and your spouse. (Or, as the lender affectionately puts it, your “co-borrower.”) For example, a wife might prefer a craftsman style, or a Victorian, whereas the husband is simply looking for an extra room with space for a pool table.
Similarly, and equally vexing, a wife might insist on considering whether a proposed new dwelling would accommodate existing furniture, while a husband merely checks Google Maps to determine walking distance to the nearest bar.
8. Make an offer
You could try offering the asking price. Sellers face stress, too, and always appreciate a good chuckle. Otherwise, listen closely as your agent explains the concept known as “over list.”
If given the opportunity, increase your offer to an amount you consider ridiculous. (This is unlikely to occur. Someone else has probably outbid you with a ridiculous-plus figure and is already consulting with a contractor to gut the inside and build a 3,000-square-foot addition.)
10. Get home inspected
This is crucial in that no one wants to be surprised five months after purchase by a discovery that the house actually has no working heating unit or is hosting a convention of Formosan termites. You need this info; either case might slightly lower the price.
11. Get home appraised
This is to determine if the house is worth what you are paying. It isn’t, of course. Avoid this phase if possible.
A state otherwise known as Nirvana. Do not expect to attain it. All life is suffering.
Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.