Photo credit Fireside Book Shop, Chagrin Falls
I’m so excited to go look at houses today! We are looking in a new area, a cute little town called Chagrin Falls. It has all of the must-have features: close to my husband’s work, family-oriented, close to amenities. We have been searching for almost a year and our search has evolved quite a bit. Our real estate agents, Jody and Rochelle, have been very helpful and patient as well. I have spent so many hours on Zillow, my fav real estate search site, that it is not even funny and pretty much know the entire east side of Cleveland by heart. Being the analytical person that I am, I was obligated to assess what I have learned about the psychology of house hunting, and have documented it here for you! Here are some tips for house hunters out there:
1) Expect your needs and wants to evolve as you search. Maybe you thought you could never do a split level. Maybe you thought you HAD to have stainless and granite (blehhh, like every house hunter on cable TV). The more houses you see, the more your mind will be open to possibilities, and the more concrete your must-haves will become. We originally thought Chagrin Falls was too far east, but now I am realizing all of the positive aspects of the area, and I am very excited and hopeful about our options today!
2) Don’t fall into the trap of too many “must haves.” Once you see a few houses, you might start picking out things that you like about each of them, or don’t like. If you keep adding to your must have/must not have list, you will end up with a mutant creation that doesn’t exist (trust me, even if you triple your budget, there is ALWAYS something wanting). HGTV is a house-hunting fantasy world. Everything is shiny and bright; everyone gets everything they want; the process is quick and painless; even the home-buyers’ outfits coordinate with the decor. It is easy to forget that there is no perfect house, and putting too many things on either side of the list may result in nit-picking your dream house to death.
3) Don’t get attached to a house before you know the specifics. I can quickly fall in love with a well-staged house. The glossy pictures on the internet make that perfectly clean, tidy and decorated home seem like it is flawless. Add a dash of imagination and soon I picture myself living the dream. Look at the details during the home tour, the condition of the windows, appliances and exterior features. If these are on their last leg, you may need to tack thousands on to the price. We have found new roof, HVAC and electrical to be just as drool-worthy as the shiniest kitchen during this process. Think about the location and the yard and compare them with what you had in mind. Look at the spaces. Staging can camouflage awkward setups, so visualize yourself using the space in the way that you would normally live. At the same time, don’t let little quirks, like the miniature lean-to office with the giant brick fireplace bring you down if the house ticks a lot of your other boxes. Those unique features are the ones may grow to love in your home.
4) Go with your gut. House hunting is a lot like dating. If you walk into a house and feel immediately turned off, that is a big sign. However, don’t leave your “blind date” in the lurch; that is just rude. Suspend your judgment for a few minutes and look at the positive features of the house, because sometimes first impressions can be wrong, and unlike in a relationship, some houses make good “fixer uppers.” If it looks ok on paper, but you are uncertain, wait a few days and see if you want to give it another shot. On the same token, if you love the house at first sight, make sure you thoroughly consider the investment. Let that feeling lead you and help you feel confident in your decision when it comes time to commit.
5) Don’t be afraid to make YOUR offer. Some of the houses are listed spot-on, some are listed low for a quick sell, but inevitably, the one you want seems to be priced higher than you see fit. Do you research, If possible, use a website like Zillow to browse pictures, read descriptions and look closesly at the items in the home needing updates compared to “similar” sold homes. Factor in updates that have been made. Make it personal. If the backyard is not quite perfect for you and you are willing to let the house go for the $ it would take to get it fixed, then so be it. You are in the driver’s seat during negotiation, and you don’t want to end up under contract and feel like you got the short end of the stick.
6) It is ok to walk away. You don’t have to feel embarrassed or apologize for your descisions, even if you end the negotiations at the 11th hour. Perhaps you regretted making an offer immediately, perhaps something came up on the inspection. A few months ago, we put in an offer on a beautiful house, and during inspection some issues came up, but the biggest negative was the gun-range within hearing distance that both my husband and I had brushed off during our initial excitement and desire to be done with looking. We both confessed after we cancelled the offer that we felt relief. It is normal to feel nervous before the deal closes, but if you feel dread, it means something is off. This is when it is helpful to have a professional on board. They can talk to you about your options, help you determine if it is just game-day jitters or lost love, and then help you “move forward” with your decision.
So, we don’t have a house yet, and I am sure we still have some learning to do and some curveballs ahead. I’m having fun day-dreaming on Houzz, but also hoping that soon our dream is a reality. It feels like we are getting close and I will keep you updated! Happy house hunting