We bought a house. Helping people sell their properties every day for a living has me well-equipped for that side of the equation. But it’s 12 years since we last bought a home for our family, so I’m out of condition as a home buyer. As those of you who’ve done it recently will know too well, learning from others’ experiences and mistakes can be a big help. So here’s some of ours:
We found a home we loved before the finance was sorted. Big mistake. Painful stuff. Wife and kids thinking about moving. Friends complimenting us on our choice of home. Then the let-down when we learned we couldn’t afford it and we missed it. If only I’d taken some of my own advice…
I didn’t buy Saturday’s paper. I know some people still do because as a salesperson I use some of their ads and get some calls. But I wanted the full story on each home and I wanted it now. Lots of photos, floorplan, maps, Streetview. I wanted to zoom on local shops. Maybe some home buyers enjoy the foraging. Picking up a lead from a sign or a paper, an agency window or a magazine ad, before venturing to Domain, REIQ or Realestate for the details. I’m a time-poor and impatient hunter. Many home buyers are.
I’m a big ‘location’ buyer so I didn’t even click into the web advert if the street, and even that part of the street, didn’t appeal. Too many times I’ve been called in to sell for someone who’s unhappy with their neighbourhood and I wasn’t going through a move (the expense, the time, the upheaval) unless I could tick all my boxes on this. When we did find the house we liked I got the entire family, we parked outside, and we walked the neighbourhood for 30 minutes. Listening for dogs, traffic, kids, ABBA karaoke fans… noises you can or can’t live with. Scouring for locals who enjoy disassembling car engines or storing household items on their front lawn.
We studied floorplans. If you’re selling and don’t have one you’re doing yourself a disservice. I’m clear on what layout works for our family and what doesn’t and, not surprisingly, most home buyers are too. I value my spare time too much to traipse around open homes, so I only wanted to visit the ones that really came close. What’s important in your home search? Do the priority list and know what you can and can’t compromise on.
Ask yourself – what’s the point of inspecting that place if it’s not fitting the bill? (I’ve met so many disillusioned buyers at open homes over the years, all dragging themselves around in the hope a home will magically transform itself when they walk in the door. Guess what? It won’t.) We talked through our ‘must haves’ and ‘good to haves but not paying for it’, and we waited patiently (well, I waited patiently and my wife paced up and down like a hungry cat). In the end we only inspected 6 homes.
We got the new listing alert on email one Friday and bought the house that Saturday. At the first open home. Did we get a bargain? Nope. Did we battle them out on price. Nope. Because we found what we wanted and knew there were others who felt the same way. Some of my friends are horrified at the idea of me, a real estate agent, admitting this – but maybe we even paid a bit much. I wasn’t going to let someone else buy the home for a price I was prepared to pay.
In finding the right place for our family, with a good neighbourhood and a house that offered what we needed (and a bit of what we ‘wanted’ too), we knew there was no perfect property. Regardless of your budget there never is. We didn’t care if we missed out on boasting rights for best price. But we were comfortable we’d done our homework and had found a house we could call home.
Until that guy at Number 67 starts playing Ricky Martin at full volume on a Sunday morning. Then we’re out of there.
Share your home-buying stories by commenting below… Do you have tips on finding the right home?