Friday, December 6, 2013

Buying a home: Step 3 – Prioritize your "Must-Haves"

So you know what you can afford and you've narrowed down your prime location(s). What now? Well, here's where compromise really starts to come into play. Unless you have unlimited funds, which very few people do, you will not get everything you want in a house. There will have to be give and take. 

What's important to you? I find that the best way to work through the many things you want, to determine what you actually need, is to make a list. Write down everything that you would like to have in a house, and then start putting these things in order of priority. (You can probably cross stuff off while you're at it too... yeah, I'd like to have an elevator in my house, but it's probably not a necessity.) If you are buying a property on your own, then this should be fairly easy, as yours is the only opinion that really matters. However, if you're part of a couple, or buying jointly with another party, this can become much more challenging. I always recommend that you each make your own list. Do this completely independently of your partner, and then compare lists when you're both done. You may find that you are both on the same page for the most part... or maybe not. I've talked to some couples about their wish lists, only to find that she wants a low-maintenance condo in the city, but he wants a single family home in the suburbs with a big yard. Uh oh. 

All of these issues can be worked out with a little compromise. It's important to involve your agent at this point in the process as well. He/she will be able to help you weed through all of the things you want, to put your needs in perspective. Even after you come up with your "Must-Have" list, your agent may have to point out that you still won't be able to get all of those things in your desired location. It's important to look to your agent for advice, because he/she will be able to make suggestions as to where you can compromise to get most of what you're looking for.

Whatever you decide, just make sure to take a step back and look at the big picture. There are some things that can be changed about a property and some that can't. Even if you don't want to do any renovations, you shouldn't let a house that checks every other box pass you by because, let's say, it doesn't have granite counter tops. That's an easy fix. Better to go with that house than a house that has all the right finishes but is on a busy road or lacks that much-needed 3rd bedroom or the option for one. Just remember: paint, fixtures, and finishes are all easy changes to make, but you can't pick up a house and move it, and it's generally very difficult and expensive to make a house any bigger.

Just to get your minds in motion, here are what I consider to be the Top 10 things to consider for your wish list (Not necessarily in this order. That all depends on you!):

1. What location or locations are you willing to live in? (You should have already decided this in ‘Step 2’!)
2. What type of property do you want? (Single Family, Townhouse, Condo, etc.)
3. Do you want a house that's move-in-ready or fixer-upper?
4. How many bedrooms do you need to accommodate your family?
5. How many bathrooms do you need?
6. Do you want outdoor space? If so, what kind and how much?
7. What type of floor plan are you looking for? Traditional or Open Concept?
8. What do you need in the kitchen? (Cabinet space, appliances, etc.)
9. What kind of parking do you require? (Garage, assigned spaces, street)
10. What do you feel is an acceptable age for the home? (Looking for a new home? Or one with historical character?)

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