Q:I think I might be too picky! I have just started house hunting for my first home. I know people who bought the fourth or fifth home that they saw, but my Realtor has shown me more than 30 homes and I still haven‘t seen "the one" yet. Am I being unreasonable?
A: The real question as I see it is whether it is possible to be too picky when you are buying a home. My answer? It is, but it’s pretty tough, and I don’t think you are there yet. It sounds like you are experiencing some anxiety and uncertainty about the process of selecting your home. There are some perspectives and tools I’d like to share with you to transform your experience of the process.
Every so often, I’ll hear one of my own clients worry that perhaps they are being too picky. Apparently, everyone knows someone who spent every Saturday for two years trying to find the perfect home, and no one wants to be that person! In my experience, the more thoughtful and kind a homebuyer is as a person, the more likely they are to be concerned that their house hunt might be offensively long, or that they are being too picky.
I’ll say to you what I say to my clients: If you were buying shoes, you would be out of line. But this purchase is not shoes. What you are buying is a home, probably the most critical purchase you’ll ever make, both from the standpoint of the massive financial investment involved and the fact that it will serve as the everyday environment for you and your family or housemates.
The upshot? Be picky! Even in this great buyer’s market, you’ll still be spending some significant portion of the monthly fruits of your labor for this place. If you end up with a home that really doesn’t suit you in ways that you could have avoided with a more selective house-hunting approach, you will quickly find yourself emotionally upset on a daily basis — for years — when you pull up in the driveway after a long day’s work. You don’t want that.
What I like to do in my first meetings with new clients is give them the permission — symbolically speaking — to buy the third home or the 53rd home I show them. Every buyer’s process is different. Also, the current market has lengthened house hunts everywhere, as there are many more properties at every price point to look at, but many of them (think: foreclosures) have condition problems you can’t see until you get inside or even until you get inspections. So give yourself a break — most homebuyers are seeing more homes now than they once did before selecting "the one"; you deserve to be sure you are happy with your selection before you pull the trigger.
While I want you to be selective in your house hunt, you also must understand that compromise is a key component of a successful home purchase. No one that I have ever met feels the home they bought is perfect. Take my word for it — you could spend $5 million on your home, and there would still be things about it you wish were different. In order to strike the balance between selectivity and necessary compromise, you must first cultivate clarity in your head and in your communications with your Realtor about your wants, needs, deal-breakers, and how all of these are prioritized with respect to each other.
A good buyer’s broker can help you break out your wants from needs and deal-breakers, and also help you rank the home features you like and dislike in priority. One way to find a great buyer’s broker is to look for a Realtor who holds the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR) designation. These folks hold extraordinary education and experience representing buyers, which is a very different enterprise from listing homes for sale. You can find them at www.rebac.net.
Also, I have found that long, long house hunts often result when there is still internal conflict or doubt about what you are looking for, or where your vision has not been clearly communicated to your Realtor. To remedy this, I developed a writing exercise that many homebuyers have found helpful in developing clarity about the sort of home that will manifest the lifestyle they seek, and expressing that in a meaningful way to your real estate pro.
Sit down when you have an hour, with a clean notebook or journal, and write out your "Vision of Home." Most house hunts start out with the buyer filling out a questionnaire, checking boxes, and filling in blanks for how many bedrooms, bathrooms and square feet they are looking for. When you write out your Vision of Home, though, you take a step back from what you want your home to look like, instead writing out your vision of what your life will look like after you are in the home. There’s no strict structure to this, just be as comprehensive as possible. What will you do on the weekends: make Home Depot runs and work on the house, or stroll to the neighborhood café? What work will you do for a living? How much will you work and for whom? What will you do for fun? Will you have people over often? Who will you live with?
From these details about the life you want to create, you will be able to more effectively drill down into the details of the sort of home you want. This will allow you to make bolder decisions during your house hunt, without the hesitation and ambivalence you might currently be experiencing. Also, putting this on paper allows you to send a copy to your Realtor, and to hold both your Realtor and yourself accountable for finding a home that will facilitate the lifestyle to which you aspire.
1. Minimize deal-breakers. Don’t be overly restrictive in what you allow your Realtor to show you. Let them read your Vision of Home document, and allow them some leeway in using their expertise to guide you to outside-the-box options you might not have found in your midnight Internet listings search.
2. When you get into contract on a particular home, revisit your Vision of Home document before you remove your contingencies or your objection period expires. If the place you picked is aligned with most of your important lifestyle aims, your buyer’s remorse will vanish. If it’s not, you still have time to back out before it costs you anything!
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Ask her a real estate question online or visit her Web site, www.rethinkrealestate.com.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.