Let me tell you – if I knew how hard (and emotionally draining) home buying was, I don’t know if I’d still go through it. #truth
I went into this process and knew zip, zilch, nada – NOTHING. It’s been a little less than 4 weeks of home buying stuff and I still really know nothing about the logistics of buying a home. But what I have learned is how to stay sane through it all. Thus far it’s been an emotional roller coaster. Was it for you too? Please tell me I’m not alone. I’ve reigned in my emotions and pulled it together enough today to put this post together with a few helpful tips I wish someone would’ve told me before going into this. Ready?
#1 – Have an Open Mind
We viewed upwards of 25 properties in just under 4 weeks. Our weekends were spent walking through and critiquing other people’s homes – so we’ve seen a wide range of things – 3 bedrooms all on different floors, anyone? We’ve heard from more than one realtor that some buyers are known to walk in and immediately walk out without really giving the house a chance. Don’t be scared off by things like paint or finishes. I don’t think I’ve walked into a single house (aside from a new build we viewed) and loved every single finish the previous owners chose. Perhaps some people could care less about such things like wall or kitchen cabinet color – but I doubt those people are reading this blog either. So let’s face it...if you’re reading this blog, then you care! But it also doesn’t mean you have to turn and run if you walk into a house and it’s painted baby yellow – or a rusty orange – because I’ve seen that too. Let's be realistic for a second...it’s just highly unlikely that you’ll find a house you can’t critique. The good news? Most things are easily fixable.
Even things like knocking down walls, expanding doorways, or closing off those annoying “media niches”, are all relatively easy to do with a trained professional or exceptionally handy hubby at your side. Be open minded to what the space can be. Does it work for you? Does it fit your needs? Make a list of what needs to be changed now and what you’d like to change in the future. If the “needs to be changed now” list is going to cost you an extra 20k, 30k, 40k – take that into consideration when making your decision. But if all you need to do is slap on a coat of paint and change the flooring and can make the bigger changes down the line, then maybe you’ve found yourself a winner.
#2 – Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover
Sometimes when you view listings online the pictures don’t really do the property justice or allow you to visualize the layout of the space. The pictures might be blurry, the angles are weird, or they posted 80 pictures of shrubbery and only 4 of the property itself. #sodumb
When we first started looking, I’d find myself immediately crossing properties off the list for no good reason other than the pictures looked crappy so it didn’t really entice us to go take a look-see. We also heavily judged properties by their stats (rightfully so) and if a property’s square footage wasn’t as large as we wanted, we didn’t give it a second thought. As we viewed more and more properties and continually came up empty handed I found myself circling back to properties I never gave a shot because with very little inventory on the market, we were desperate.
What we found is that it’s worth it to take a look. Even if you’re on the fence. See for yourself - in person. Because you just never know. I’ve been in 1800 sq ft properties that feel like 1200 sq ft and 1200 sq ft properties like feel like 1800 sq ft. It’s all about how the square footage is used. I’ve viewed properties that looked amazing in photos but totally fell flat in person and properties that showed better in person than it did in photos. But we would’ve never known had we not taken a look.
Often times the listing agents are sure to highlight the bonus features of a property (like that extra loft space) but neglect to disclose the weird or odd (like 3 bedrooms all on different floors). Either way, it’s best to take a shot and go see the property in person – if not for anything but to see how other people live and use their space…something only a design lover can appreciate!
#3 – Don’t be a Stage 5 Clinger
On a few occasions during our search we found a property that checked all the boxes but for one reason or another, it just wasn’t meant to be. They say that you shouldn’t get attached. And you shouldn’t. Except no one gave me that memo going in and I found myself crying over the “one that got away” a time or two.
In the world of real estate, nothing rarely ever is a slam dunk. There’s always the possibility that someone will come in with a better offer, you find out the property you love is going through litigation, or a new to the market house you’re slated to see this weekend sells in 2 days. Do your best to remain as unattached as possible and if it happens that the home of your dreams slips through your fingers, don’t worry, another home will come along. Ours did!
Take it from me – don’t go choosing paint colors and ordering new furniture before the ink is even dry on paper.
#4 – Consider ALL the Variables
I think for me this was the hardest part. So much so that we ended up creating a spreadsheet to rank and compare all the properties we were considering. I know… #nerdalert. When we started our search we cast a wide net with very little stipulations. What we were left with was a slew of possibilities and so many things to consider that it began to make my head fuzzy. Do you pick the house with the great layout but the schools in the area are less than stellar? Or do you choose the house that lacks in square footage just so you're in an awesome school district?
Buying a house is like marrying your spouse. It’s a long term commitment and totally life changing. Aside from price, there are so many other factors you should consider. Below are things we all considered when choosing the home for us:
Distance – sure it’s in your preferred area but maybe it’s on the outskirts of the city, boarding on a town you’ve deemed too far, not close to the highway, or altogether inconvenient.
Schools – if you’re buying a house and have a family or want start a family like us, the schools in your area will play a major role in your consideration. If the schools in your prospective neighborhood aren’t great, in 5 years would you want to send your school age children there? If not, are you willing to send your children to a private or charter school instead?
Neighbors/Neighborhood – one of the other benefits to seeing the house in person. Go on the weekend when most of your would-be neighbors are home. Is the street jam-packed with cars? Do the neighbors take care of their yard? Or is there trash strewn about and run down cars in the drive way? If you’re considering a property, take the extra step and visit it at night. Do you feel safe? All these things will eventually reflect on the value of your home should you chose to sell down the road.
Added Costs – beware! Take it all into consideration. In our area, some cities have an almost double tax rate than the rest of the County so while home prices might be cheaper, it all evens out because of the higher tax rate in those particular cities. Depending on your loan you may also be required to pay extra insurance. Some properties may also require an additional monthly HOA payment. If you’re open to both single family homes and town homes/condos set yourself up with 2 different price ranges and let your realtor know. One for homes with HOA and one for homes without.
#5 – Be Persistent & Patient
In a competitive housing market, it's unlikely that you'll get the 1st house you put an offer on. We didn't. But don't let that get you down. We put in 3 other offers and all were beat out before our 4th house and 4th offer was accepted. And you know what? I'm more in love with this house than I was the previous three. Just be patient and don't give up hope if the first, second, or even third house doesn't work out. It'll happen - and when it does, you won't even remember the others!
I hope these tips well help you through the home buying process if you're just starting out too. I wish someone would have given me a few pointers but I made it out the other side and wanted to pass along what limited information I've learned through it all.
If anyone has any other helpful tips to add be sure to leave a comment below!