I thank all of you for responding.
I started my quest by attending my countyâ€™s homebuying seminars in November. Before I started looking I waited for 2 preapproval letters (I now have 5 that includes VA, FHA, 203k). Since December I have drove by 227 homes on my own; of these I had submitted offers on 5; of these offers only one resulted in a counteroffer within the deadline. Another came back with a â€œverbalâ€ counteroffer after the deadline but I had already moved on. When I accepted the timely counteroffer, I paid to turn on the utilities, I paid and was present for the inspection, I paid for the mortgage application and appraisal. The lender came back with a list of required repairs. So I called contractors and started to arrange for their inspections and estimates but I had to walk away because the seller would not grant permission for these follow up inspections before the closing date. Incidentally, I would have made an offer on a 6th house; it obviously needed repairs, and my agent could not at all estimate the repair costs (I was not disappointed; my agent is not a contractor). I paid for an inspection because I needed to factor the repairs into my offer; but the inspection unearthed too costly of repairs and I did not submit the offer, thankfully so.
I am only looking for one home to live in as a 1st time buyer. Atlanta is a big city with many, many homes on market. Just this morning my most narrow of criteria search resulted in 84 homes; if I were to reduce the criteria ever so slightly the list would increase beyond a thousand. Donâ€™t believe me - pick any brokerâ€™s website (donâ€™t use Truliaâ€™s, its not updated for â€œunder contract/soldâ€ often enough), choose single home, $50-100k, 2bed/2bath, basement, master on main, gar, within 10 miles of 30002 center. And many of these are foreclosures, I estimate 8 of every 10, which means that reos are nearly unavoidable. Sadly, many of these foreclosures are vandalized and this is prolonging my search.
Before I had no system, but forced my way into one through trial and error and this is how I now ride my bus. I pour over the online listings. When I like the picture and data, I enter its address on city-data.com to compare its value. Sometimes I will see what the online county records show. Then I google the directions for a selected bunch of homes and print them out (I have no gps and Iâ€™m avoiding the digital tvs and all major costs to protect my credit rating). I work nights, yet I force myself to get out and drive to these homes during daylight hours. In the beginning I rarely drove less than 40miles on any one outing. Nowadays its easier because I can discount what Iâ€™ve seen.
My agent has to handle several clients simultaneously or seek out work with banks/customers for special projects (which agent does not?) I never thought of expecting my agent to be on call for myself. I develop my own lists, evaluate the homes myself, visit the homes myself and even drive around their neighborhoods. I do all of this before I involve my agent. Itâ€™s a lot of extra work and I wish that I my last offer was given a response (its past my deadline but my agent tells me to give the bank more (unlimited?) time since I really like the place. I wish I could end my search tomorrow and be able to sleep after work and relax on the weekends. I wish I knew a network of investors who could throw me at least one gem before they gobble the rest. I wish that my agent could call up other agents and ask if they had already visited a property and then get some type of scouting report of vandalism and perhaps preclude our own visit. I wish that banks/sellers were not so immoveable in responding to offers. I wish that I had the hard cash to spark attention from the immoveables. I wish.., but there are many homes out there and working with one agent and waiting for one counteroffer demands more patience and more work than I knew. In fact I need to be even more thankful and considerate that I am a working buyer and not an evicted family.
Iâ€™ve used up valuable daylight time (and sleep) over this answer, but I especially want to thank Andrea and Julie, David, and Lee for recognizing my question in the context of todayâ€™s market without jumping to conclusionsâ€¦youâ€™ve displayed good listening and respect. Although Iâ€™d still like to hear from a lender â€“ do they have their own blogs?