The Scientific Method of House Shopping … or … You Stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, Eh?

Imagine walking into a home and knowing automatically that the price was too high.

You’ve never step foot in the neighborhood, never looked at a comparable sale and your total experience in real estate is having looked at dozens of homes yourself before finally deciding on one to purchase.

Learning the home has been on the market for only a week, you’re even more certain that it’s overpriced and that in two weeks the price will be dropped. Never mind that there are 9,000 detached homes on the market (more on that new level on Tuesday, after Rosh Hashanah is over) and that homes still are moving fairly briskly in what remains a strong buyers’ market.

There are one of two possible scenarios at play here. Either a) you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night or b) you’re a buyer who wants to, has to believe that there’s a hidden bargain waiting out there and you and you alone are going to be the one to discover it.

Can we just jump ahead to the reality check?

Until you’ve looked at some comparable sales, you really have no idea what a home might be worth. You could check Zillow, but Zillow itself admits its within 20 percent of market value only 50 percent of the time. So, on a $150,000 house, Zillow’s accurate to within $30,000 only half the time.


Just because a home is new to the market doesn’t make it overpriced. In fact, some strange agents prize themselves on pricing homes at market value (or, depending on market conditions, either slightly higher or lower as necessary) to get the home sold. Using a handful of days on market as an indicator of the accuracy of a home’s price is, well, so silly even I can’t come up with a suitable analogy for it. And I’m Mr. Analogy.

If you look at dozens of homes in person before making a decision, this doesn’t mean you’re a savvy home buyer. It means you really don’t know what you’re looking for and are hoping inspiration will strike you somewhere between the family room and eat-in kitchen. With the availability of listings online through IDX-powered sites such as this one, a serious buyer ought to be able to at least narrow down areas and home sizes; if you don’t want a flat roof, for instance, those can be eliminated online rather than in person.

Because, hopefully, you have better things to do with your time than look at totally unsuitable homes.

And when you’ve got it narrowed down and are looking seriously at homes, walk in with as few preconceptions as possible, especially about the price.

Because odds are, you think you know but you really don’t know.

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at