Have you ever watched one of the home-search “reality” shows on TV? One with the buyers gushing, “This home is perfect!” Here’s the reality: no home is perfect. Even if you had all the money in the world and built a fully custom home, it wouldn’t be perfect. After some time had passed, you would find things that didn’t live up to your expectations. Or you would find things you wished you’d known to include.
Here are some of my best home buying tips to make sure you don’t overlook a potentially great home.
The “85% Happy Rule”
When I work with home buyers, I advise them to make a list of the top 10 features that are important to them. I ask them to highlight no more than three that are absolute “must-haves”. Then, I let them know that a realistic goal is being 85% happy with a home. I also remind them that one positive factor may greatly outweigh a few minor negative ones.
What’s important to you? Consider factors including:
- Square footage
- Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
- Garage/parking (availability and size)
- Lot size
- Commute time/ease
- Access to recreational activities (on-site; in the neighborhood; etc.)
- Age of home (including preference for new construction or existing home)
- Time until you plan to move in
- Neighborhood conditions (including school district; transit options; shopping/dining; etc.)
- Style of home (e.g., contemporary; traditional; ranch; 2-story)
- Length of time you expect to live in this new home
I use this as my starting point to help you locate houses that most closely match your wish list. It will also help me locate homes that you may not have otherwise considered. If the location turns your grind of a commute into a breeze but the home is in a neighborhood you hadn’t previously considered, you might be open to considering it. This is an important way I help make sure you don’t overlook a potentially great home.
Where to Consider Compromising
Another of the most important home buying tips I offer to home buyers is this: have some flexibility when it comes to…
- Specific neighborhood. There are so many great neighborhoods throughout the Denver metro area, you really shouldn’t limit yourself. Let’s say you need a single-family home in a strong school district and close to public transportation. Any number of neighborhoods in Aurora, Centennial, Denver, and surrounding areas will have great choices for you.
- Square footage. If you’re willing to skip that guest room, playroom, or dining room, you may be able to stay within your budget and live in a nicer neighborhood. But if you’ll need space soon for a growing family, you might want to think twice before moving into a tight squeeze.
- Yard size. Pretty quickly, many home buyers realize a huge backyard doesn’t matter nearly as much as how spacious a home feels inside. Unless you need lots of room for pets to run or to host a regulation-size soccer game, you may be fine with a modest back yard.
- Awesome garage. It is common for homebuyers to compromise and buy a home with only a one-car garage if the home meets the other items on their must-have list.
- Specific architectural style. You’d always pictured yourself in a Craftsman bungalow…until you saw the asking price. When compromises have to be made, buyers can often overlook the home’s aesthetics.
Where Not to Compromise
On the other hand, there are some things you should never compromise on. If you do, you’ll likely regret your home purchase. These include:
- The home’s current condition. Fixer-upper or move-in-ready? If your bank account or relationship won’t survive many months of upheaval, insist on a turnkey home.
- Floor plan. It’s difficult and expensive to reconfigure a home’s floor plan. If a home doesn’t have the minimum number of rooms or the flow of the main living areas you want, you should cross it off your list.
- The school district. Homebuyers should carefully consider your neighborhood’s school district. (You can get a map of its exact boundaries to make sure the home is within the desired district.) Note: This may not be an important factor if you don’t – or no longer– have kids. It can factor into resale value, however.
- The neighbors. You should pay attention to the condition of neighboring homes. Not only do you have to live with your neighbors on a daily basis, they can affect your home’s future resale value, too.
- The budget. Consider all of the expenses to make sure you’ll be financially comfortable. Factor in your monthly mortgage payments, homeowner association dues, utility costs and real estate taxes.
- The commute. Do a test run of the route between your home and office to be certain you’re willing to make the commute every day.
- Parking. This is not the same as the “awesome garage” in the earlier discussion of where it’s okay to compromise. If you absolutely want a guaranteed spot to park, you may achieve that with an enclosed garage, a driveway, or an assigned parking spot.
Beyond the MLS
Once I know what’s important to you in your home search, I look EVERYWHERE. The majority of homes are listed with the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), but there’s a whole universe beyond that. Depending on your wants and needs, I will also search among new construction, “for sale by owner” listings, and even bank-owned or government-owned properties. This approach helps ensure that you don’t overlook a potentially great home.