After a few months of searching for a home, that’s what these first time homebuyers asked me. I hesitated before answering, because I did think they had unrealistic expectations. Still, I thought about the question and came up with a few points to emphasize to all buyers when they begin a home search. Hopefully, having this conversation before starting the search will prevent disappointment later if ‘the one’ isn’t found after several weeks of looking.
1. Don’t set your expectations too high. It is especially exciting for first time buyers to look at homes…and especially disappointing if they feel they aren’t getting what they want within their price range. Ask your agent: what can we expect to find in this range in this location? What compromises might we have to make? This is especially important if you are looking in an older, established area of the city rather than a newer suburb.
2. Decide what you will compromise on. Love the kitchen but don’t like the master bath? The finished basement is a plus but you really want four bedrooms? Not much closet space but you love the large backyard? Know what you ‘must have’ and focus on those features first.
3. Don’t compromise on something that bothers you but you can’t change it. If you love to cook, don’t buy a home with a small kitchen. If the traffic noise bothers you as you check out the back yard, look at a different location.
4. Stay within your price range. You will only get frustrated looking at $350K homes if you don’t want to pay over $300K. However…
5. Paying a higher price for more of what you want is worth it! It’s still a buyers’ market, and your agent may be able to negotiate the price down closer to your range. Figure out the payment—if it’s only $50 or $100 more a month to get a home that you instantly love, fits your wish list and is affordable, go for it! This is especially true if you plan to live in the home for several years.
6. Look beyond décor. First impressions are important, and if a house is clean, updated, staged and shows well—it hooks you within the first few minutes. But if the décor is dated, focus on the features of the home you like: floorplan, location, size, number of bedrooms and baths. It’s easy to change décor—not easy to add bedrooms or finish a basement.
7. Trust your agent. This is the biggest thrill for me when I work with buyers—showing them a home I feel is ‘the one’ for them…and they feel the same way! If your agent has been really listening to your comments and asking you questions as you walk through homes, s/he should have a gut feeling about which home will work for you. If you aren’t comfortable with your agent and sense s/he knows what you want, find someone else to work with.
Some buyers are too picky and will never be happy with what’s on the market. But if you look at several homes over a few months and still feel like you haven’t found the one—re-examine your priorities with your agent and make the appropriate adjustments. You will find the right home if you look at the decision from a practical viewpoint while also considering your emotional reaction!