How to Know If It’s Time to Take a Break from Your House Hunt

Low inventory, high prices, and steep competition have many considering taking a break from their house hunt.

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

If you’ve spent months bidding on homes or searching for the perfect property, chances are you’re wondering whether now is the time to buy.

With high prices, high interest rates, and low inventory, the current market is especially unfriendly toward first-time buyers. Outside of the current market conditions, buying a home is stressful in general.

“Homebuyers who are feeling discouraged should have a frank conversation with their agent and understand what is not working and why,” says broker Mihal Gartenberg of Coldwell Banker Warburg. “Maybe it’s a part of the process, or maybe something needs to be tweaked. Or, maybe, they are working with the wrong agent.”

If you’re feeling stressed, you might want to take a break from the search.

“Taking a break can help you regain perspective and reduce any feelings of burnout, and it allows you to reassess your strategy, adjust your expectations, or explore alternative options,” says Stephane Guerrier, a broker with The Julia Hoagland Team at Compass.

These experts have more tips on how to know when it’s time to pump the brakes and reassess.

The State of the Housing Market

When you start home shopping, you might plan to spend some time looking at properties before making an offer on the best one, but when options are limited, and the market is competitive, that plan can change drastically.

“The average person tends to view a number of properties—20 to 25—before settling on the perfect one,” Guerrier says. “The time frame for finding the right property can range from as short as a day to as long as three months or even more.”

Currently, the housing market is still experiencing the lingering effects of the pandemic, and many buyers are finding out how hard it is to find a home with all the features they’re looking for, let alone have an offer on that home accepted.

In addition, high-interest rates are making it an unappealing time to purchase, especially for first-time home buyers who might have a harder time qualifying for loans as a result.

“Prior to the pandemic, there were two major sale seasons in real estate: spring and fall,” Harris says. “Coming out of the pandemic, real estate sales were on steroids the entire year, in part because people still weren’t traveling. So, no vacations and needing more space because people were now working from home meant properties were being purchased during the winter, spring, summer, and fall.”

Related: What Is a Starter Home?

Recognize the Signs Calling for a Break

If you’ve spent a few months house-hunting without much luck, you’re likely feeling some pressure.

“From the point of pre-approval to close, the average house hunt can take 30 to 180 days,” says Agent David Harris of Coldwell Banker Warburg.

If you find yourself past that point, you’re likely feeling burnt out, and that’s a good reason to regroup because heightened stress and emotion can lead to mistakes.

“It’s important not to rush into a decision out of frustration, as it can lead to making choices that may not be in your best interest,” says Guerrier.

Even if you’re feeling positive, other factors, such as inventory, that are entirely out of your control.

“Limited inventory, as we are seeing in this market, can be a frustrating reality, after months—and sometimes years—of searching, for buyers who have not found properties that meet their requirements,” Guerrier says. “In a slow market or when facing specific location constraints, it may be worth taking a break until new listings become available or until market conditions change.”

If you aren’t in a rush to find your home, you might want to step back when you feel less than enthusiastic about searching.

“The moment the search starts to become a hindrance to your livelihood, you should take a break from the house hunt,“ says Lee Sockwell, a Realtor with LUVA Real Estate. “House hunting should be a fun and enjoyable experience. This is the time people get to make dreams a reality and start their future. So if at any point it takes the joy from your daily life, take a break and reset.“

Changes in Your Situation

Aside from uncontrollable factors in the market, you could be facing personal shifts that make it difficult to focus on or complete a house purchase.

“Sometimes, unexpected life changes or major events occur that can affect your ability to continue with the house hunt,” Guerrier adds. “It could be a new job or the loss of one, a relationship change, a financial shift, personal circumstances, health issues, family obligations, or other pressing matters that require your attention and temporarily take priority over the house hunt.”

In some cases, such as regarding employment, that change can significantly affect your ability to finance a home purchase or qualify for certain types of loans. In those cases, you could be forced to take a break to address that change.

“I work with many who have their professions in the financial sector as well as those who were using their investments as down payment, and when there’s volatility in the stock market to the point where net worths are altered overnight, or savings are drastically depleted, a pause is warranted,” Harris says.

The good news is that a break in a house hunt doesn’t signal the end of your dreams of home ownership. You can pause and resume at any time.

“In such situations, taking a break from the search can give you the time and space needed to address those changes before diving back into the process,” Guerrier says.

Harris says when you choose to pause, your real estate agent will work to maintain the relationship for when you’re ready to come back. In the meantime, he says a good agent will stay in touch with market news and word on any properties that have hit the market and match your criteria.

“A search on pause is usually only paused until the place they love hits the market!” he says.

Related: When Is It Time to Buy Your Forever Home?

Finding a New Real Estate Agent

At their best, real estate agents are like confidants during difficult times.

“Your real estate agent will provide support, reassurance, and guidance along the way,” says Guerrier. ”They can lend an empathetic ear, answer your questions, and help alleviate any concerns or anxieties you may have.“

If you’re spinning your wheels trying to find your home, chances are you’ve wondered about placing some blame on your agent.

Real estate agents work on behalf of buyers to help them secure their dream homes. If you feel yours is coming short, have a conversation before cutting ties, but don’t be afraid to articulate your concerns and ask for new strategies in your hunt.

If you still aren’t satisfied, it’s OK to cut ties.

“As agents, we understand that everyone has their own likes and beliefs, and it’s OK if changes need to be made,” Kline says. “It may not always be an easy conversation to have but necessary to best suit your needs.”

Finding an agent who understands what you’re looking for in a property and your limitations in making offers is critical to your success. Similarly, you want to have solid communications with your agent and trust in their approach.

“Personality fits are important, but most importantly, the buyer or seller has to know their agent hears them and understands their personal goals and objectives to either buy or sell,” Harris says.

If these things aren’t true, don’t be afraid to find a new agent. Doing so could be the spark you need to invigorate your search, especially after a pause.

Related: What It Means When a House Is Under Contract

When It’s Time to Come Back

Kline took a break during her own home search, and it worked out for the better. She paused during a time when buyers were offering more than the asking price, and she couldn’t compete with those offers.

“As an FHA buyer, I was unable to have that same opportunity,” she says. “We actually did take a break for almost a year. Once we took our break, we were able to have more funds for our down payment, which helped us find our home.”

When you have more money saved, your buying power increases, which can mean it’s a good time to start looking again.

Many buyers keep an eye on new listings even if they aren’t actively hunting. If you see your dream property hit the market, it could be time to come back, schedule a showing, and make an offer.

“The right property will come when it’s time,“ Sockwell says. “Even though many properties may not have worked out, when the right one does, you will immediately forget about the previous offers.“

Related: What Does Pending Mean in Real Estate?

You could notice that the market has changed, showing more inventory, or seasons could change, and more sellers begin listing all at once. Those changes could suggest it’s an excellent time to reinvigorate your search.

Finally, if you can tweak your wish list, you could find success.

“Number one would be to stay positive; the right opportunity will come at the right time,“ says Andreas Elsenhans, an agent at Westside Estate Agency. “Number two would be to reevaluate your criteria and see if there are any adjustments you can make to expand your options or focus on different neighborhoods. Flexibility in your requirements can increase your chances of finding the right house.“

Related: The Ultimate To-Do List for Moving into a New House

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