With the proliferation of house hunting and home improvement shows, the average person has seen the inside of more homes than ever before. The upside with all this exposure is that home buyers today seem to have a firmer grasp on what they are looking for as they set out to find their dream home. The downside is that they may be less willing to look beyond the decor and surface finishes to see the real potential a property might offer their family.
As anyone who has spent time in the real estate market knows, purchasing a home is process that takes an open mind, patience and a good deal of compromise. Most buyers are working with a set price range and a long list of “must haves”. It easy to imagine (especially for those of us who watch a lot of HGTV) that we will find our perfect home with every upgrade and amenity we desire within our budget, but the truth is there are always trade-offs that will have to be made.
When you start the process of looking for a home, make sure you work with your Realtor to identify items that you require in your new property vs. those items that you’d like to have. I talk more about making that list here. Before you start your home search, talk with your Realtor about the realism of your wish list as it relates to your budget. Your Realtor is an expert and can let you know what items on your list will fit within your housing budget so there are no surprises when you start looking at listings.
Good Bones vs Flash
I figured it may be helpful to understand what I focus on as a Realtor when I walk into a listing with my clients. We I walk into a home for the first time, I focus on items that indicate how well it was originally built and maintained. Since I have lived and worked in the same area for almost 40 years, I will often have my first indication of quality simply based on who originally built the home.
As I walk the property with my clients, I will focus on the exterior surfaces and windows, including the condition of the roof. Once inside, I will look at the walls, doors and trim for signs that indicate how well the home has been maintained by its current owners. A home that has been well looked after by its current owners is less likely to be hiding issues that may come back to bite you down the road.
I am less concerned about the paint color on the walls or the condition of the carpeting. Those items can be easily and inexpensively updated. I will instead focus on the layout of the home. Will the current layout meet your family’s needs? What about the property and location? Will the location and yard work be a good fit for you?
Often, poor quality construction or amateur DIY remodeling jobs can be camouflaged by updated interior design or good staging. It is easy to focus on the beautiful decor of a room and imagine yourself living there. It is your Realtor’s job to be able to see beyond the curtains and paint to the condition of windows and walls beyond.
While your budget may not allow for high end upgrades to kitchens and bathrooms, your Realtor should be able to help you find a home within your budget that will offer you the best quality your housing dollar can afford. In the long run, having a well built home will save you from the constant drain a cheaply built or poorly maintained home will have on your wallet. And while you may not have the kitchen of your dreams today, fewer maintenance issues and problems will allow you to save up for a remodel more quickly.
New vs Existing
Often, my clients are trying to decide between building a new home or finding an existing home that will meet their needs. I wrote an article that has more details about what to consider here, but there are a couple of important things to think about.
There are home builders at every tier of the market, from starter homes to custom builders. If you have a sizable budget and plan to live in the house for many years, building a new home may be the best option for you.
But if you are working with a limited budget, I would always recommend buying an existing home. Why? You will pay a significant upcharge in order to build a new home vs finding an existing home of a similar size. It is similar to the cost difference you will find buying a brand new car vs. purchasing one that is just two or three years old. You may find that you have to give up more items on your wish list to build a new home because the cost of upgrades can be very costly. And, although the idea of a brand new home can be appealing, you will have to live there for quite some time just to break even on your investment.
An existing home will help you stretch your housing dollar and afford a better quality home. While an existing property may not be perfect, you will typically find that upgrades done well will add to the value of your home when you go to sell even if you find you need to move within a year or two of purchasing.
As you go through the process of buying a home, trust the eyes of your Realtor and listen to their comments as you walk through each property. A Realtor’s experience and expertise allows them to look beyond the surface details to see the underlying quality and potential. They will be able to guide you in finding the best home for your dollar.
If you are thinking about buying a home, please give me a call. I am always happy to be of service!