It starts with a little spark of desire. Perhaps it get’s bantered back and forth around the dinner table as you squeeze the high chair into an already crowded space. Maybe, it’s the realization that you continuously clean a couple thousand square feet of house that you never really use. Or, perhaps you’ve decided that it’s time to move out of your cramped apartment and embark on home ownership. Regardless why, once the desire to move gets sparked, how quickly you find yourself stacking moving boxes depends on how quickly you can align your desires and budget to a house you can call home.
If your home is already sold and you have a closing date looming, or if your current house is causing you grief because it’s either too big or too small, finding another place to call home quickly becomes a top priority. To you, the perfect house is one that is simply going to give you a better quality of life. You go full steam ahead, find a home that fits in your budget and as long as the pro’s outweighs the con’s, you’re filling out the new address notifications pretty fast.
But, what if you’re a Buyer who doesn’t really have an urgent need to move? You’re quite happy living in your spacious apartment or parents’ basement. Life is good and even though it would be a notch in the success belt to buy a home, your standards are high and you’re looking for a house just like the one on “8 pm HGTV Street”. It’s got absolutely everything you need, want and deserve-hardwood floors, custom window treatments, top of the line appliances and large, spacious rooms…complete with closet organizers. It also has updated heating, wiring and plumbing. And…face it, if there’s one thing you’re not going to do is buy a lemon!! After all, you’ve never miss an episode of Holmes on Homes, and you’re more than aware of the “money pits” that unsuspecting homeowners find themselves living in everyday- it’s simply not going to happen to you.
The problem is that Buyers looking for the “Perfect House” may be looking for quite a while. It may be months, years…or even forever. Houses, regardless how beautiful, start aging from the day they are built. Mother Nature whips them from the exterior and human lifestyles wear them down from inside. Windows, furnaces, roofs and everything else are only really new for one day and after that, they start down the road toward being outdated, worn out and obsolete.
The belief that you will eventually find the “Perfect House” may have you thinking that you will save thousands of dollars and a life of grief because you have expectations and standards you need met. This mindset is noble, but can end up costing you thousands of dollars because like everything else in your life, the cost of housing constantly creeps up by inflation. The house that you looked at last year for $200,000 may be worth $220,000 today. Once you’re in the market, these increases won’t affect you as much. The value of your home will go up as well!
Homes are an investment with an extra bonus-you can live in them. Does a house need new thermo-pane windows when the old wood sash ones have been well maintained, still open and close and have good storms in place? Does a house need a new kitchen when there’s a perfectly fine, yet older kitchen in place? Does a house always need a new bath? No, no, no. These desires are based on consumer marketing. You don’t need them to create the perfect home. What you do need is to make sure that you will not be behind the financial 8-ball days, months or a year or so down the road. The electrical, plumbing and heating/cooling systems need to be current and safe. The foundation and roof need to be sound. A problem in these areas can cost you thousands of dollars that you haven’t budgeted for and may not add any value to your home because they’re maintenance items.
Want to see “cosmetic marketing” in action? Take a trip to a “new home” site. The model home is always decked out with all the bells and whistles. That’s what people are mentally buying…but when they actually buy, many discover that their budget doesn’t support the hardwood floors thru-out, the solid wood stair case and the upgraded kitchen. They end up buying what they can afford: carpeting, laminate counters and lower end kitchen cabinets.
The key to finding the perfect home is truly understanding your needs, matching those with your budget and working within a 3-6 month time frame.
Remember, you make the home. It will look like you and your style as soon as you move in, so don’t get too caught up in the decor of the homes you’re looking at.
Decide how much you can comfortably afford for the next 5 years and get pre-approved for a mortgage.
Find a home in an area that you like, at a price you can afford.
Make sure that it has a good roof, foundation, plumbing and wiring. (If it doesn’t, ask your mortgage advisor about getting a house plus improvement mortgage)
Home ownership is the foundation of financial stability. It’s the largest investment most people make in their lifetime. Forget about finding the perfect home…just focus on making the financially sensible house your own perfect “Home Sweet Home”.