After looking at what feels like a million homes with our exclusive buyer’s agent, we became very efficient house hunters. At first, it was hard to strip away the bad decorating or the incredible upgrades to the bathroom and see the house for what it really was. Over and over again, I keep hearing this advice “Look at the things that you can’t change.” Again, I have to go back to a dating comparison. Don’t get blinded by make up or abs, those will fade or flab. Fall in love with the character. And so it is with a house. New carpets and shiny tile is hard to ignore. But, sometimes it can be blind you from issues that you just can’t change, like a caving in basement. . .
How do you determine the “character” of the house? Here is what I have learned:
1) Location, Location, Location
You knew this one would be here. But, let me explain it a little further. For us, the ideal location means classic suburbia to start our family. For you, it might mean being in the center of urban excitement. Just remember “you can’t pick up the house and move it.” In other words, you can change the bathroom, but you can’t change the neighborhood.
2) Integrity of The Structure
The Structure is a vague, first time home buyer’s way of saying: is this house going to collapse? That is an exaggeration, but as our buyer’s agent explained to us, there is a lot of movement in Colorado soil. For a home buyer, this means your house can “move” which can crack the foundation…or worse. If it weren’t for our buyer’s agent, I would not have known that the steel posts in the basement were there because at some point the basement wall started to cave in. If you don’t know the signs of structural damage (which I did not), I would suggest that you house hunt with someone that does.
3) Floor Plan
Is there room in the kitchen for me and my husband to cook without bumping in to each other? Is there a bathroom in a more private place than off the living room? Is there a place for guests to sleep? Is the baby’s bedroom close enough to her over-protective mother? Is there room for a future pool table and man cave? Surely, your questions will be different than mine, but you get the idea.
4) General Maintenance of the Home
Was this house loved or was it neglected and carrying a lot of baggage from the previous owner? I wanted a house that had been loved. I have a newborn, a job, a new marriage, and do not want to add on to the list: a fixer upper. On the flip side, there could be a lot of investment potential with a home that needs work. The key here is to think about what kind of time investment you are willing to make.
5) Move in Ready, Cosmetics Only or Needs Work
In other words: can you move into the house exactly the way it is, or will you need to invest time and money to make it livable? In the beginning of the search, we wanted “move in ready,” which we thought meant “new kitchen, new bathrooms.” That’s because I didn’t take into account fun things like roofs, and heating systems, and oven ranges. So by the end, we decided on “working kitchen, new roof.”
This was one of the biggest benefits that we had from working with an exclusive buyer’s agent. Our agent could point out future repairs and even give us a ball park figure of how much that type of repair would cost. So, we were able to get a more realistic idea of “all possible repairs” and determine which ones we did not want to worry about, and which ones we were okay with.
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