During my writing hiatus, I’ve gotten older yes but also (hopefully) a bit wiser. By the time we’re done with our new digs, I could write a novel on becoming a homeowner. Below are a dozen tips I’ve found helpful . . and begrudging had to adopt as we embarked upon Operation: Casita Moro.
From here on out, I’ll be chronicling our whole renovation process here on JUJU. From purchase to pretty. The good, the bad, and they very very ugly.
So here we go:
- Know your comps. Spending an afternoon perusing your desired neighborhood’s open houses with your boo sounds very romantic, until you’re doing it for real, and get a taste of the stiff competition. Trust me, you’ll get to see more places than you ever wanted. Before you ever go to an open house, shop around virtually first. Knowledge is power and the real estate market is no different. Everything you need to know is online: pictures, lot size, square footage, school districts, neighborhood price averages, even what your neighbor paid and when, pre and post renovations.
- Be a realist. There’s nothing sexy about being house rich, cash poor. Unfortunately what you think you’ll be able to get for your money and the reality don’t always level eye to eye. It’s an impolite slap in the face after all your hard saving. You’re not alone, it happened to us too, and indeed it’s a jagged little pill to swallow.
- Don’t look at places you can’t afford. You will get frustrated with your search quicker, while holding an unrealistic candle for the unattainable. A good example for all the ladies out there: The cardinal rule of bridal shopping. Don’t even look above your budget. If you absolutely must try on a dress double your budget just to see how it looks, then fall in love, ya better be willing to shell out for it. A terrible idea, every time.
- Be open to compromise. Ex: If you’re stuck on a particular neighborhood, chances are for the average Joe, you may need to compromise on a smaller pad to make the money work. Another option would be to purchase a older home in needing of updating, and renovate as time goes by. If you’re open to a higher level of asset appreciation, you could also opt for a more up and coming area or one just on the outskirts of your dream spot. You’ll get much more bang for your buck, and likely a sizable upgrade in space.
- Move in ready VS taking on a project? Well . . there are many pros and cons to both camps. Move in ready means less stress, faster move in, minimal extra expenses or surprises, however you’re usually paying a premium for builder’s special finishes (typically as cheap as possible, with a high mark up attached). Move in ready is perfectly awesome and just the ticket for many, and certainly the easiest path. On the other side, taking on a renovation can be an adventure. I will guarantee you’ll get more adventure than you bargained for. You can tailor your finishes & put your personal stamp on your home, while also paying less than a move in ready home. Sounds like a dream! The perils, however run high. The gamble of paying hefty reno bills with cold hard cash instead of simply financing, contractor schenanigans, delays and unexpected expenses are just a few scenarios one may encounter. You’ll read about all our trials and tribulations in our upcoming Casita Chronicles.
- Price wars. Know when to hold em’, know when to fold em’. It’s a sellers market in many areas of the country right now, especially New York & Los Angeles. While a few areas are easier to get in than others, the majority of neighborhoods in these parts are at an all time high, and still climbing. The old saying, “if you love something, let it go” . . perfect application. Unless you literally throw money at it, chances are you have to hold your dream home more loosely than you’d like. You may love a place, put in an offer (one of many), get outbid, some even with cash. This can happen not once but many times before you seal the deal. You’ll nab the place that is just right for you, and at the right time. Trust in the universe on this one. Or, if you find another way, do let me know.
- Look at the details. Closely. What kind of finishes are there in the house (for either a move in ready or fixer upper)? Are they in good condition or in need of TLC, outdated or in need of repair? Don’t just look at the appliances and bathroom vanity. Oftentimes flippers will just update these parts of the home while leaving the rest. A clever diversion tactic which works for most folks. Look at the flooring, paint, roof, landscaping, doors and windows, garage, driveway. All these things can have a big visual and functional impact to your home . . as well as hefty repair or replacement price tags.
- Come prepared. If you know you have furniture you’d like to keep, need certain size rooms to feel comfortable or simply want to know what you’re working with (not often do open house listings have floor plans with dimensions available), bring a tape measure, pen and paper. Better yet, go to Home Depot and buy a battery operated automatic measure for $25 buckaroos. It’s way easier and much more discreet. This will give you a better understanding of a space and how you/your fam will be able to function (or not) in the space. Keep in mind, people like what’s popular. When other potential home buyers see you getting serious at an open house, they’ll think they should do the same.
- Come early. Don’t wait until the last day of an open house to go take a gander. Go on the first day, during the middle of the first showing. If it goes from 10-2, go at noon. You can speak with the listing agent and find out how many people have come so far and if they’re expecting offers (or already have some in hand). This will help you gauge the interest level on the property so you’re aware of potential competition. If you like the place enough to put in an offer, take the opportunity to go every day there is a showing. That way, you will get to see the property without your rose colored glasses and be more analytical. You’ll be more inclined to notice the faults (which equal $$), if it’s not your first walk through. Go at a different time to see the natural light, or oftentimes, the lack there of. If you write an offer, submit it just before they stop accepting them. If you can get chummy with the listing agent from your multiple walk throughs, they’ll be more inclined to give you insight on pricing, if they expect it to go for over asking and a ballpark of how much. It’s always a shot in the dark but it will give you more mental fortitude having some sense of what’s going on, while providing you better chances for being the last one standing.
- Be patient. Easier said then done, I know. I’ve been there and I’m not a patient person. The process of buying a pad will not be uber pleasant so hang tight and expect it to be harder, take longer and be more expensive than you first imagined.
- Stock up. Maybe this should have been numero uno. You’ll need a stiff drink, on many an occasion throughout the process.
- Have fun! It’s an adventure after all, and one you’ve been hoping and waiting for. Enjoy the ups and downs and trust in the process.
What have you learned throughout your searching? Any good tips?
(Image via Pinterest)