Finally, Some Useful House-Hunting Advice!

woman sitting on brown wooden chair while using silver laptop computer in room

“Budget better, shop smarter!” might be unassailable advice for shoppers of all stripes, but at the outset of 2022, house-hunting readers of USA Today’s Real Estate pages could have used a few more precise tips on how to follow the exhortation. “After a year of bidding wars and record-high prices, here’s what’s changing for homebuyers…” was a promising headline—but what followed consisted mainly of reasons why intelligent shopping is a good idea.

The reasons included cautions about rising home loan interest rates, which would make better budgeting important, and the continuing national “supply-demand imbalance,” which would make nimbler (if not specifically “smarter”) shopping advisable.

Experts added reasons why this year’s house-hunters may well find themselves facing increasing levels of competition. Since millennials, “the largest generational group in history,” continue to age into their prime homebuying years, that demographic reality explains why last year saw an increase in bidding wars—and this year’s house-hunters are unlikely to see a change.

As for what to expect when it comes to affordability, readers had to settle for a glass-half-full/glass-half-empty prediction. Although some experts speculate that price growth may persist at double-digit levels, they are countered by the likelihood that an affordability crunch could force “moderation in house prices.” Nonetheless, the overall projection is for “a competitive seller’s market for some time.”

The “… here’s what’s changing” article may have been short on useful house-hunting tips, but last week’s revelation of 7.5% consumer price inflation—the highest level since February 1982—definitely validated the wisdom of its call for better budgeting. Although the author failed to supply specific recommendations for how readers could answer the “shop smarter” advice, house-hunters already have a simple, proven, and cost-free way to get that done.