When my partner and I first embarked on our journey towards homeownership, we spent the majority of our time walking in and out of open houses with his parents in tow. Sometimes, our shoes hadn’t had time to cool before our feet were back in them and we were scurrying out the door with our laces still undone.
Open houses can be as exciting as they are stressful. Some homes just didn’t have the ‘wow’ factor we were looking for when navigating the resale home market. At the same time, the ones that did go over the top were asking top dollar. After seeing almost 50 open houses, we knew we needed to reassess what our priorities were when looking for our first home.
Manage your expectations
This is kind of obvious, but for me, it was a face-palm-worthy feeling when I discovered the number of people who forget about their self-imposed buying guidelines when they find the ‘one’. My partner and I had a budget in mind when we were initially shopping for a resale home, but that quickly got thrown out the window when we set our sights on a barely lived-in six-month-old townhome with gleaming white quartz countertops and expensive upgrades like a stainless steel undermount sink. We put in a conditional offer that was tentatively accepted. When the bank had the appraisal performed, we learned that while it was under asking, the comparables in the area were not selling for that price. This meant we needed to either come up with the difference in our down-payment (approximately $40,000) or renege on the offer – which we did.
Keep your heart out of it
If you’re the stoic and aloof type, this will be a moot point for you, but if you’re the kind who wears their heart on their sleeve, it can be hard to leave your emotions at the doorstep. This can cost you unnecessary grievance in the event the deal crumbles. I nursed a broken heart for nearly two weeks after our deal on the townhome failed. This could have been avoided had I not allowed myself to fall in love at first sight (and start planning where the Christmas tree was going to go.)
Can you afford this?
Look, there’s the amount financially that the bank can give you based off the monthly costs, but only you understand what your day-to-day looks like. If you buy at the top of your budget, this may mean you need to forego purchases in other areas of your life so as not to incur debt. (Which if you’re anything like me, that means fewer Winners and Sephora trips.)
I can afford it, but is it the FOMO talking?
We have all fallen into the FOMO-trap (fear of missing out). You know, the one where you end up buying something you don’t necessarily want, but think you need. The same occurs in real estate: Make sure your investment is made from a financially sound place and not because you want to keep up with the Joneses.
What if I can’t find what I’m looking for?
There was no universe in which I envisioned a new-construction home, but when we were too exhausted to keep looking, too worn down to contend with other buyers and their bully offers, we popped into a new development’s sales office. This time, we were not only emotionally prepared, but mentally prepared. In fact, the sales agent turned us away three times before he would allow us to sign, which in theory was a good idea as it forced us to keep evaluating our decision to buy a new home before committing to a deal that would be costly to get out of should we change our mind.
In the end, our new-construction home provided us with exactly what we wanted, within our financial means. We were able to pick and choose what upgrades we wanted that fit our budget while creating a space we knew we both would love. While a resale would have given us the immediate move-in date we wanted, it wouldn’t have provided us with the ability to customize it to our tastes.