Home Buying Over the Decades: A Lot Has Changed

4 Minute Read

It’s not called the American dream for nothing. We Yanks have been buying and selling property since the earliest days of our nation’s history. But a lot has changed through the years. The way we bought homes even 20–30 years ago looks a lot different from how we do it today.

Information Explosion

The most obvious change is the increased availability of information thanks to the explosion of technology. Back in the day, real estate agents kept listings of homes for sale in three-ring binders or on index cards.

“When I started in real estate, there was no Internet,” Susan Kazma-Hilton, an agent in Grand Rapids for more than 30 years, told us. “The brokers and sales people were the only ones with access to that information.”


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Bill Graves, a real estate agent for 26 years in San Antonio, agrees that the widespread availability of home listings has revolutionized the buying process. “Even up to 2005, a buyer would look through real estate publications and try to connect with an agent that specialized in a specific neighborhood or area of a city. And that agent would select 10–20 homes for that buyer to view,” he said.

“Now three out of four buyers find potential homes on a Web portal—in their easy chairs after dinner!” Bill said. “They take a few seconds to view professional-grade pictures, make a list of homes, and then send the list to an agent to schedule showings.”

But It’s Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

But more isn’t always better—especially if you’re looking for reliable information. Online estimates and advice are easy to access, but can you really trust what you find? Can those online resources give you an accurate picture of the neighborhood you plan to buy in, such as actual property values or the potential for appreciation?

One way to be sure you know everything about a prospective home is to work with an experienced real estate agent. Even if you think you’ve found your dream home in an online search, your agent will help you nail down all the facts about that home and the neighborhood you’ll live in.

Some Things Stayed the Same … Sort Of

While house hunting has become virtually unrecognizable over the last couple of decades, the rest of the home-buying process is basically the same—with a few changes in the details.

When Robin Krieger started her real estate career in Kansas City in 1976, documentation was a breeze compared to today. “We had one-page contracts and no home inspections,” she said. “The loan process was a phone call and a credit report. Closings took 30 minutes if the buyers wanted to read all the paperwork.”

A buyer today must be patient about paperwork, she said. There are stacks of it.

And just because the mortgage process was simpler way back when doesn’t mean it was easier to get a home loan. In the 1970s, buyers needed at least a 10% down payment to qualify for a mortgage. Lending standards gradually eased until the housing meltdown a few years ago, then banks tightened standards again. But low down-payment loans are still available to many buyers today.

Another difference in today’s market, Bill told us, is that buyers who aren’t paying with cash should be preapproved for their home loan, or sellers will simply reject their offer.

Meet Today’s Challenges Head-On

Simply put, things are more complicated these days. And it’s not just that buyers today have more hoops to jump through and more paperwork than you can shake a stick at. They’re spending a larger percentage of their incomes on their homes than yesterday’s buyers did. Your best bet is to work with an agent who’s done it all before—lots and lots of times—and can help you navigate the obstacles while making sure you get the best deal on your new home.

If you think you’d have to be extremely lucky to come across an agent as knowledgeable as Susan, Bill or Robin, you’d be mistaken. They’re part of Dave’s nationwide real estate Endorsed Local Provider network. If you’re looking for someone in your area who knows their stuff, we can put you in touch with an agent who’s earned Dave’s recommendation today!

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