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Grocery shopping when you're hungry can lead to disaster.
Either you spend too much, fail to get the food you came for – or both. Though you went to the store for a week's worth of meals and with the best intentions, you'll arrive home with a bag of oatmeal, a trunk full of ice cream and none of the ingredients for that meal you've been wanting to make you saw it on Facebook…unless you make a list. A list will save you.
Home shopping is no different
When we started on our home shopping adventure last year, we had like a list of must haves. We wanted 3-4 bedrooms, 2+ bathrooms, 1+ acre, huge kitchen, dining room, family room, living room and office area for me, ranch style with a finished basement and attached garaged as well as a out building (barn), all within 2,000 square feet and less than $140k.
Our Realtor looked at our list and pumped our brakes REALLY fast.
“Guys, I know you have these HUGE ideas, but you need to really narrow it down. What are your absolute must haves? You can't have everything on this list with the price range you're looking at.”
And he was right. It wasn't going to happen and it didn't happen.
What we ended up with was 3 bedrooms, 2 bath, family & living room, dining and kitchen, 2 story, detached barn/garage, on just about 1/4 acres, with a cellar that we have to go outside to access.
Don't get me wrong, we love our home. It's an old farmhouse that has been partially updated. My point is, we ended up narrowing down our “must haves” a LOT. The houses that we were looking at that had the bases what we wanted, also needed probably $60k in updating before we could even live in them without being sick and they were already at the top of our budget.
My point is, you may have been dreaming of your new home for years before you even start down the home shopping path, it's a good idea to get your thoughts down on paper. Think of it as drawing up a contract with yourself. Because when you're feeling pressured by market conditions, your spouse, price fluctuations or “once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” you can lose your head and jump on the first thing you want.
Home Shopping: How to Focus on The Absolute Must Haves
Location, Location, Location:
This one is the big one. Where you live affects where your children go to school, where you work (or don't), the length of your commute, whether or not you can walk to the store when you need a loaf of bread and whether or not that bread is fresh-baked. The location of your home will also have the biggest impact on what it's worth in years to come. So get ready to take a good hard look at where you're willing to live (or not) because it will have the single biggest impact on your day-to-day life.
Yes, size matters. What's the biggest house you'd want to maintain? The bigger your space, the more care it demands and the more costly it is to heat and maintain. On the other hand, what's the smallest house you could live in comfortably with your family? Though you may only need a single bedroom for sleeping, are you both homebodies that will be tripping over each other in a tiny house? What about an office? If you have kids, do you want a space for them to have a play or gaming room. Does it need to have a basement?
Of course, cramped quarters can always be expanded if your lot is big enough so you should also consider how much land you need. Would a semi-detached home suit you? What about a garden? Are you a farmer at heart that needs to grow their own beans or are you over it and looking for someone else to mow the lawn? Find out what your parameters are on either end of the scale for both house and lot size. Mull this over carefully and don't budge! We initially wanted 1+ acres. There are times I wish we would have really stuck to our guns on that as well as being outside of the town limits so we could have had chickens.
Face the facts – you can't turn a Victorian mansion into a cool mid-century ranch and you can't make a log cabin into a cute French provincial. The architecture of a building is what it is and if it's not what you're looking for, it won't really work out between you two. If you're wanting an open floor plan, and you don't have the funds for a huge renovation, you're not going to even want to look at a closed-concept.
Are you the kind of person who likes to leave all your curtains open? Do you avoid your neighbors or do you rush outside when they're in the yard? Do you like to practice your drumming at midnight? How much privacy and seclusion you need or don't need is important to your day to day life. Even houses in the city can have private yards and cleverly laid out lots, so if privacy is important to you – put it on the list.
Needs and Wants:
It's important to prioritize these when you're looking for a home because as you shop for a home you'll be presented with whole worlds of possibilities. Do you need a bathroom for your teenagers? A garage? A fence? Do you want a workshop? A fireplace? A sauna? Hardwood floors? Write them all down and then put them in order, most important to least important, to help keep things in perspective while you look.
Making the list doesn't have to be hard, but you need to think honestly with yourself. Once you're done, you'll be better prepared to sort through the myriad of housing choices available to you. You'll also be able to clearly tell your REALTOR exactly what you're looking for so they can help you find it! Your realtor is your saving grace. A great realtor will hold your hand during the entire home shopping experience. If you're in the Cleveland, Ohio area I strongly suggest Da'Wayne Watkins. He's a personal friend of mine and he was our realtor.