Tuesday, March 1, 2011

With This Key I Thee Wed

For the past couple of months, our family has been actively searching for a new house.  As I've mentioned before, my husband has a new job and though relocation is not required at this time (at least not yet), it is somewhat preferred, by us and the company.

As I've gotten immersed in this entire process, I've come to realize that buying a house is really not that different from getting married or getting into a (serious) relationship.  Here's why----

1.  You have to spend a LOT of time looking before you find THE ONE.  And when you find it, you'll know.  It will fit and it won't take much convincing to make you realize it.  You will feel right about it and be very comfortable about taking a leap of faith.  It is a commitment after all.     


2.  The process always has to start with yourself and not with what's out there.  You have to know (and I mean really know) your finances, your limits, be clear about your budget, be informed about what you're pre-approved for if you're taking out a mortgage.  You cannot be engaged in the search if you don't even know what you're capable of, what you can afford.  You have to make sure you don't set yourself up for great disappointment by looking at houses that are totally out of your league.  In the event that your financial capacity only affords you houses that are quite unacceptable to you and totally does not match either your taste or your basic requirements, then there's only one thing to do.  Wait and save up some more.  Work on your finances and get better at it.  Otherwise, you just have to be realistic, accept that the pool of choices will always be limited for most of us, and accept what's TRULY available out there for YOU.
  
3.  If you're not in love with it, don't marry it....errr, i mean, don't buy it.  Remember, you'll have to live with it and in it for the rest of your life.  Okay maybe not the rest of your life but a significant number of years.

4.  Once you've made your decision and it's all locked in place, you have to stop looking.  There will always be something better out there.  The grass is always greener on the other side.  Be at peace with your choice.  You can't have buyer's remorse...it is a house after all, and not a pair of shoes.

5.  No house will ever be perfect.  What's important is you go into the search process with a list of non-negotiables and stick with them.  That being said, it's also very important that you are willing to compromise.  Be clear about what things you can and cannot change,  and what you need and value most.  

6.  Your non-negotiables better be the REALLY important stuff and not just a bunch of aesthetics.  You can always change certain things such as counter tops, flooring, paint color, cabinetry, etc.  However, you cannot change (very easily, or not at all) such things as square footage, location/neighborhood, structural soundness, and layout / flow of the house and monthly costs for mortgage payments, utilities and general home maintenance.  

7.  The house needs to fit YOU, and not the other way around.  You can't purchase a home just because you're attracted to some bells and whistles (stainless steel appliances, nice hardwood floors, etc) when the bones of the house and its other basic characteristics don't really fit you.  It will not be wise to commit to something feeling that you need to adjust to it, adapt to it in significant ways, rather than have the house fit YOUR needs, YOUR existing patterns.  Yes some compromise may be required, as I mentioned above, but not to the extent that you are losing yourself, sacrificing yours and your family's patterns and fundamental preferences.  You can't let the beautiful spa-like bathroom, or the ultra chic and modern chef's kitchen make you forget that the house does not have the minimum square-footage you absolutely need or that this one only has 1.5 bathrooms for your family of 6 or that this will take you 2 hours to get to your work place.


8.  Timing is everything.  You may be ready, but the house you're envisioning is not available in the market.  Or the house may be there, but your finances and other circumstances may not allow you to purchase just yet.  You need that 'magical' synchronicity, the confluence of all those forces, to make something happen.  If this ideal situation does not happen and you just want to go ahead and take the plunge, then some major compromise may be inevitable, to the point of 'settling'.  If you're cool with that, then that's fine but remember...you have to live with your choices.


9.  Unless it's a new construction, each existing house has a past and I'm a believer in trying to know as much as you possibly can about that past.  Everyone has baggage and the only question is if it's something you can live with.  Is it possible to find out who the sellers are (demographics, etc); why they're selling; has the house experienced flooding before; what is the age of the house and has it ever been remodelled. It's all about making a decision that's as informed as possible, which leads me to #10.


10.  There are always risks.  The question is, is this one worth it?...worth all the risks you're aware of?  You will have cold feet, you will question, evaluate and re-evaluate, take pause and do everything to delay as much as you can.  However, ultimately buying a home is much like any serious commitment you make in your life.  You can't possibly know everything, can't foresee everything, can't plan for everything.  All you can do is bite the bullet, and be as prepared for contingencies as you can, while you can.  








7 comments:

  1. This is a great reflection! So true. 7 years ago I found my house this very week…amazing…when I walked in I did “know” that it was absurdly mine.

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  2. How true! When we found our house now, on first inspection, "magaan" siya and we knew instinctively that this house was for us.

    Good luck on your house hunting! :D

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  3. I'm envious. I want to buy a house again so much! we live in a very expensive part of the state and with student loans like crazy we can't afford a mortgage right now. So we rent. I did actually paint my girls' room pink though, we knew we'd be here at least a year and it seemed like the least we could do for the kids. :)

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  4. Suzanne, move to the south....so much cheaper ;-)) I will miss Chicago though...A LOT.

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  5. Ha! If I move any farther south I'll be in Cuba. Literally! I live closer to Guantanamo Bay than I do Wal-mart, it just happens that the island I live on is one of the more expensive places to buy homes. :)

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  6. I designed and built our home. It's now 26 years old and full of memories.

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  7. Hey Joy,

    My sister recently moved into a new place and she asked me to help her husband and her house search. That I thought was easy. But as it turned out, house hopping is a lot more tough than choosing that pretty white dress for the bi day ;)

    Its a like a huge checklist you have to keep in mind - house, rent, rooms, maintenance, locality, parking (in a big city this, we need to look for parking spaces). Also, here we stay in buildings, houses are lesser, so choosing the "perfect" building is always tough. All we talked about during the house searching was where, how, when of flats. 

    So glad you could come up with something that you like. Move in, and arranging the new house post will soon follow ;)

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Let me know your thoughts!