sWhen I first left home, my then boyfriend and I moved into an old, quirky house. There was no bathroom sink (we had to brush our teen in the kitchen sink – gross). The bathtub was in the bedroom, and the toilet was in a little room off the kitchen. It was so close, you could flush the toilet from the kitchen table.
But we were very young and so happy to have our own place, we overlooked those “minor” shortcomings.
Over the years, my husband and I have had several homes and I like to think we “upgraded” each time.
When buying a home, don’t get caught up in the surface glitter and glam. Look below the polished surface. To help keep us on track, I put together a list of 10 things to do when buying a house.
These home buying tips will help keep you on track too.
Time and Effort: Make Shrewd Decisions About Location and Price
- Only look at homes within your budget. Don’t look at a $500,000 if you can’t afford it. Because after you view that higher priced home, you won’t be as happy with the homes in your price range. When searching for our second home, we decided to check out some homes that were one or two hundred thousand dollars ABOVE our price range. For ideas. After looking at those homes, we didn’t like anything in our price range. We had to take a “house hunting” break to “forget” those other homes!
- Location, location, location. It’s true, you can change the house but you can’t change the location. Research areas that have homes in your price range. Don’t waste time looking at homes in areas where you know you won’t be happy. If you end up buying a house outside your target area because it’s a bargain, you’ll kick yourself later.
- Check the neighborhood at different times of the day AND night. The environment can change dramatically depending on the time of day or night. We viewed a home early one morning and fell in love with it. We told our realtor to write the contract. It was everything we were looking for and below our budget. We visited again late that evening and the stench in the air was so bad our 6-year-old said he could taste it. The wind had shifted and the smell from the dairy farms was wafting all over that neighborhood. If we had done our homework, we would have known about the dairy farms.
- It may sound cliche, but don’t buy the most expensive house in the neighborhood. We found a home we loved. After we’d purchased it, we discovered that it was the most expensive home in that neighborhood. When the market tanked, that most expensive house took a nosedive. We ended up short selling it for HALF of our original sales price. We hadn’t done our research – lesson learned.
Appearances: Keep Your Perspective Centered
- Don’t get caught up in the minor stuff. Change the paint, change the flooring, update the appliances. Found a house with a great floor plan, in your desired area within your budget? Don’t let the surface stuff dissuade you. You can live with outdated until you can afford to change it but you can’t pick a house up and move it.
- Likewise, don’t get caught up in moving every wall, demolishing kitchens and digging your own pool. If the home is already priced well, making a lot of huge structural changes may overprice your house for the neighborhood. Make sure you can live with your home as is if the changes you want to make are not cost effective.
Condition: Don’t Overlook Hidden Flaws
- Find a qualified home inspector. Don’t take your realtor’s word for it. Look at the reviews and ask for recommendations. This person will tell you if the biggest purchase of your life is fit to live in. Make sure they are fit to make that call.
- Do your own inspection. There are some things YOU can check. Turn on all the faucets, how does the water pressure seem? Flush the toilet WHILE the shower is running full blast. Again, is there a change in the water pressure? Check all the light switches. Bring a small electrical item and plug it into all the outlets.
Sealing the Deal: Do Your Part to Make Sure There are No Last Minute Surprises
- Insist on a final walk through with your agent right before closing. Believe it or not, some people actually skip the walk through but don’t you do it! The walk through is your final chance to make sure everything is ready for your closing. Make sure the property is clean, all the repairs are complete and all fixtures and appliances are in place. Bring your camera and your checklist. And that brings us to number 10.
- Make lists. Make a list of things that need repairs. Keep a running list of questions that pop in your head to ask your realtor. Make a list of amenities you need in a neighborhood to make it work for you and then make sure those things are in this neighborhood. And finally, make a list of the lists you need to make!
Buying a home is a huge financial investment. Don’t let your emotions lull you into making it a bad investment and you’ll never have to live in a house where the bathtub is in your bedroom!
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