Two years ago I shocked both friends and family when I announced I was interested in, and already in the process of, purchasing a home. On the younger side, but with a taste for real estate, I jumped headfirst into the market — scouting out any open house I could find. By the end of my search, I was spending more time with my real estate agent than anyone else.
The process of buying a home is thrilling, stressful, and occasionally fun. With excellent agents and a little bit of patience, I ended up loving the experience, but looking back on it, there are a few things I wish I would’ve known.
It wasn’t until I placed an offer on a home I wanted to buy that I even considered the concept of resale value. Before then, I had been singularly focused on finding a home that worked for me and fit my needs. I was focusing on smaller homes in the city that were within spitting distance of a decent taco spot and on a bus line. Yes, these were my needs, but how would these priorities appeal to future buyers? While you need to find a home that checks your boxes, take time to consider who might live there after you.
I found my dream rowhouse: a small two bed, one bath, steps from great Mexican food in an up-and-coming neighborhood. Being on the smaller side, I imagined a future buyer would be a young professional like myself, or a small family starting out. The neighborhood made a house like this attractive to younger people, even with the trade-off of being on the “cozier” side. Had a home like this one been in a more suburban area — where people typically prioritize space and larger lots — I would’ve questioned who would buy it from me in the future.
When touring homes, always consider where you could add value to the property. You don’t buy a house with the intention of selling it for less in the future, so while looking at homes, keep an eye open for what you can improve.
When I saw the backyard in the home I ended up purchasing, my agent’s first comment was, “You’ll want to build a deck out here, of course. Great value-add.” In my eyes, I had just seen a beautiful backyard, but it took her remark to make me realize that building a deck would add much more living space to the house.
Of course, if you’re on the hunt for a fixer-upper, your entire aim is to add value. However, many of us go into buying property considering only our current needs, instead of what we’ll need in the future. What changes could be made to the home at some point during your ownership to boost the value? It might be adding a deck, expanding the second floor bathroom to encompass the infrequently used linen closet, or even a full addition at some point. While none of the work has to be done immediately, don’t be afraid to think ahead.
Take Your Time
The process of purchasing your first home is exciting, of course, but you have to remind yourself not to let the novelty of the experience result in undue pressure. This applies doubly if you’re looking for a home in a trendy neighborhood.
You’ll attend open houses or tour homes with a realtor who promises a bidding war is already occurring, or just on the horizon. The time-sensitive nature of it all can make anyone want to jump into the fray and start calling out numbers, but relax and take a step back. Are you sure this is the place for you or has the excitement gone to your head? Are you really interested in the space, or are you just getting caught up in other people’s desire for the home?
After a particularly exciting viewing, my agent called to let me know two parties had already begun bidding on the property. My heart started racing. “Should I add my name in too?” I thought, feeling giddy. Luckily, after a long chat with my agent, we decided to let the opportunity go. The home was at the top of my price range, and while it was charming, it still needed work. I was so caught up at the time that these thoughts slipped my mind.
During the home buying process, you’re bound to lose out on a property or two that you love — that’s just a part of the experience. Don’t get ahead of yourself, there will always be another opportunity. At the end of it all, you’ve got to trust your gut. Take a deep breath, and don’t let yourself get carried away with a house you don’t truly love.
Be a Neighbor Before You’re a Neighbor
If you have your search narrowed down to a few neighborhoods, don’t be afraid to do a deep dive into each of them. If you move there, you’re not only committing to buying property, but you’re effectively becoming a part of the neighborhood’s patchwork. Do you get along with the neighbors? How is the community growing? Is it a good area in which to make an investment?
A great way to get a sense of any neighborhoods is through an open house. While potential homebuyers attend open houses, you’ll likely come across future neighbors as well. If you’re looking for more information, consider visiting a few community meetings — you’ll learn about growth in the neighborhood, including potential new businesses, as well as get an idea of amenities the area might be missing.
There is No Such Thing as Perfect
It seems like this should be obvious, but in reality, it took awhile for me to finally understand that my perfect home didn’t exist. I’d look at houses that were a good fit for me, but spend the duration complaining about finishes, paint color or wallpaper. I’d grumble about carpeting when the home was in my “perfect location.”
Buying a home is a major life accomplishment, but it also comes with its own set of compromises. Walls can be painted, carpets can pulled up to (hopefully) reveal hardwood floors. Your perfect home isn’t out there because you haven’t created it yet. Don’t let small details like paint or bad landscaping get in the way of finding a home that’s a great fit for you.
So much of the home buying experience is learned on the fly, but, had I kept these principles in mind, I would’ve saved myself some unnecessarily stressful moments. At the end of it all, you need to focus on priorities and trust your gut to find what’s right for you.
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