Monday, October 22, 2012

4. Whadda you want?

So, you have a price range, You know you want a house.

The next step, is to prioritize WHAT you want in a house.

Our Realtor was great with this. We were super excited, and wanted to see every house. he put up with us just as long as we needed to realize we don't need to see every house.

This is your FIRST HOUSE.

HOUSE! Something that takes 25 years to pay for! And you thought a car was a big commitment!

What took us over THIRTY (30... Our poor Realtor..) viewings to realize, is that it really is... Location Location Location.

We found some HUGE houses with big, deep lots for dirt cheap by the highway, And thankfully Our Realtor talked us out of it. (kudos Dave Embleton!)

Why Location?  because if you want to live there, Other people in your shoes in 5 years will as well.

You are most likely buying a "starter home"

Starter doesn't mean "shitty, run down, shoe-box-of-a-home"

It means you're likely not buying something with Slate floors, Granite Counter tops  4-5 Large bedrooms a pool and a double garage with a 100 foot wide lot.

it means you're probably buying a 2-3 bedroom, bungalow, Semi or Townhouse, where you can start a family, but not likely live there once you've popped out a couple of kids and they start growing up and demand their own bedrooms/personal space.

Our plans:
We plan to live in our house until we've got kid #2 on the way, I'm a firm believer of a guest bedroom, Particularly if some of your family lives in another city... or you like your friends to have a few drinks and a pullout couch ain't cutting it for your "couples friends"

So yeah, We dragged our Poor Realtor to over THIRTY houses before we realized we couldn't "skip a step". Rather than worry about the dream house, we worried about a place we liked, that met our minimum criteria (more on that shortly) and that would be easy to sell in a few years. The sellability of your first house is important! You're EVENTUALLY going to have to get rid of it. Ideally you want to make money on it.

So, WHAT did we want in a house?

Our First List:

Detached Home
Double Wide Driveway
4 Bedrooms
Side/Back-split (just a personal preference)
Rentable Basement
Move in Ready
Not a bungalow
Not on a Major Street
Close but not too close to a highway
Appliances included (Fridge Stove, Washer, Dryer, Dishwasher)
A place for both a computer workshop (side business) and a place where I could fix things (like a wood workshop/garage/place I could fix the lawnmower/cars etc)
A good sized Kitchen with Island
Open main floor to entertain
Master On-suite
Walk in Closet
Basement shouldn't contain a bedroom
Entrance to backyard from house for Dog
A yard for a dog to run around it.
No Townhouse
Good neighborhood

Huge list. Did we get everything we wanted?  Pretty damn close! (Bolded items)

I really wanted a detached home. Then I looked at the home we're in now, and saw that it met almost all of our criteria. The one reason we passed on it the first time was because "we don't want a Semi"

Well, two months later, it was back on the market because the buyers couldn't get financing. We looked at it again, after we and got the "dream house" mentality under control. I looked at it from a logical standpoint - 3 good sized bedrooms. Modernized kitchen, hardwood floors - The "Wow" factor. Look past that. Its got a decent backyard, and while it is a semi, it doesn't share any interior walls with the neighbor - Just connected via the garage, so my main reason for not wanting a semi - Noise - wasn't an issue here. So because we had our budget, our "list" and all of our ducks in a row, we were able to view it and put an offer within 4 hours of it being back on the market - Once we bought the house, we found out there were 12 other people in line behind us! Viewing a ton of houses helps define what is a "good" house to you, and lets you make the right decision at the right time.

as a result, we managed to save (aka "not spend") ourselves over $50k from relatively few "compromises"

So to do this, Take that First list, and then ask... "Do I REALLY need all this?"

We found one house that we technically actually bought (but walked away from after inspection) that didn't have a coat closet!!! No front coat closet! it was 90% of the deal breaker to me, I was secretly (not really...) glad the building inspection wasn't glowing and I had an out. I was also embarrassed that I didn't realize this after 2 visits, but when my mom pointed it out when I was showing her pictures.

So yes,

you have to Make your list, you have to Check it twice, you gotta Find out whats required and whats nice.

(if you have the song santa clause is coming to town after reading that last line..., you're a super nerd... (like me)

Once you have that list, Look at it again. Ask yourself: is anything on this list WORTH 10,000 bucks. If not, I recommend adding it to the "nice" list instead of the required.

For example, if we found the dream home, with only a single wide driveway, it'd only be 1200 bucks to make it a double wide driveway. Be flexible as to what you need RIGHT NOW, and look at what it could be (to a point... remember you're likely to be broke for the first year or two after you move in.)

I am blessed with a Wife-to-Be who is amazingly easy to please.  I swear she has OCD, so basically, if the first thing she sees in a house is awesome, The blinders go on and she loves the house. We built the "list" together, but I was largely the Decision maker as to what houses we'd go see (and ultimately the house we bought)

It took a while, but she seemed to realize this too, and ended up realizing that if I was happy with a house, she'd definitely be happy. I did consider her wants and needs in every house I wanted to look at.  In fact, the house we ended up with, she didn't even see before the building inspection, after we both signed our offers and counter-offers on the house! Again, I was super lucky to have such a chill partner in crime. You might not be so lucky ;-)

Once you have your "gotta haves" down pat, you have to think "Where"

Megan and I wanted a place on West Hamilton Mountain.  Its a nice area, close to Meadow-lands for big box stores, and her family lives on the west mountain. Its my non-so-funny joke that her entire family is just one unfortunately placed tornado away from extinction. (I've got a bit of a sick sense of humor)

We finally had the area decided, I got a map from Google maps, and photo shopped red, yellow and green areas of the Neighborhoods. Red near busy streets and the University (to avoid student housing areas) Yellow along neighborhoods we weren't crazy about, and Green for the "good" areas we liked after driving around.

Once this was set, We basically went to see ALL the houses we thought might fit our criteria. Some where Tired money pits, others were very nice but just missing a few key features.

It takes a while, but you quickly realize what is important to you after you view a few houses. I'd go so far as to saying you should NOT buy one of the first few houses you see, until you go look at a few more after it.

Key points:

  • Go look at a lot of the houses. Eventually, you will "catch up" to MLS, and see new ones pop up.
  • Get a list of what you want.
  • Then pick what is absolutely nessessary. Remember, you're most likely not retiring here - You'll buy another house with the white picket fence and the willow tree in the front yard another day
  • Use your Realtor!!! (more on that later)
  • Don't be in a rush!
  • You will find that you will see some houses that just seem HORRIBLE. Look past the paint color. Still Horrible? WHY? document it and look out for it later in future viewings. You might find a house that has great initial appeal, but then when you look for these things you don't like, you'll realize you were looking through rose colored glasses. Pot lights and nice countertops can sometimes disguise Old appliances, Lacking features, etc. These things attracted us like a moth to a flame, and blinded us from other short comings.
  • "Location, Location, loc-... Sell-ability" - its your first house - Make sure you can sell it again! You might not mind the highway or mall behind your house, but 95% of the population will!

That's all for now!

next I will outline what goes down when you actually say "This is the one"

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