The word “home” is packed with meaning and emotion. For some a home is primarily an investment, something to be thought of strategically and precisely. For others, a home is fundamentally about emotion – a feeling of peace, comfort, ownership, and sense of self. Often it’s a mysterious “I’ll know it when I see it” factor.
The truth is, in buying a home, both emotion and strategy are important. If you’re struggling to wrap your mind around how to start, it’s helpful to think in terms of three P’s (yes, alliteration is still cool).
What’s the purpose of this purchase. Buying a house is a big investment on both an emotional and financial level. So, before you fall in love with a dream house or before you get in a family feud over whether you need a fourth bedroom or a large garage, it’s important to come to a consensus as to the purpose of buying this house. Are you looking for a starter house that you will sell in two to four years? Are you wanting a forever home where you can grow your family or spend your retirement? Are you hoping for a fixer-upper that might have a financial payoff? Whether you are buying on your own or with a partner, knowing what you want and need out of this purchase helps make the decisions to come more manageable.
Once you have the big picture purpose set, it’s important to then list your priorities. Make a dream list and rank the list (try using sticky notes so you can move items around in priority order as you think through or talk through what is most important to you and your family). Some common priorities are house size, number of bedrooms, size of the yard, school district, and location. But you might also want to consider other factors and where they rank for you personally. For example, is having a larger lot more important than having a short commute? For some people having a house right next to theirs would make them crazy, for others sitting on the porch and being able to talk to their neighbors is part of the dream. You might long for a fireplace or a park nearby or a grocery store around the corner. Nothing is too small to put on your list. However, the trick is to be willing to negotiate. Once you have your list in order, you will need to confer with your partner about his or her priorities and be willing to compromise. And it’s a good idea for you both to be willing to limit your “non-negotiables.” Of course, your priorities may shift as you visit homes, and you may discover new factors that you never knew were important to you. Our encouragement is to stay flexible and keep communicating with everyone involved in the process.
Of course, you need to consider what you can afford. This starts by obtaining your pre-approval letter. If you’re a first-time home buyer, your pre-approval letter simply reflects that a bank is willing to approve a loan up to a certain amount. But deciding on what you can afford is more complex than what the bank says they will approve. You want to consider how much you can reasonably afford to allocate towards housing each month. And don’t forget that your monthly payments aren’t only comprised of your mortgage and interest. You also want to consider homeowners insurance, utilities, taxes, and maintenance cost when deciding on what price range fits your budget. No matter how much you love a house, you don’t want to cause yourself monthly stress and anxiety in trying to cover the costs of homeownership.
So now that you have your purpose in mind, your priorities set, and your pre-approval letter in hand, what’s next? It’s time for the hunt to begin! We recommend finding an agent you trust and feel entirely comfortable with to help walk you through this process. In fact, a truly great agent can even walk you through the previous steps, helping you clarify your purpose and sort through your priorities. You can absolutely interview multiple agents before determining which one is the best fit for you. The right fit will be someone who listens to your needs and works tirelessly as your advocate and ally on the journey to homeownership. We’d be happy to help you connect with any of our agents, each of whom is committed to integrity, service, and excellence.