Q: I am a single woman buying my first home. My best friend bought a house about eight months ago, in the same area and for the same price that I’m looking in. We’re even using the same agent. Anyhow, my problem might seem a little childish, but I can’t get over the fact that I like her house better than anything I’m seeing now. It’s hard to find anything that even comes close to hers in the same price range now. I can’t stop comparing every house I see to hers, and they all come up short. How am I going to get over this?
A: Your question might as well have answered itself: Get over yourself! It’s really critical that you manage this issue, and manage it quickly. Why? Because it’s only going to get worse, not better.
You must know, logically, that your path and your friend’s are simply different. While there are many parallels between your homebuying processes — same area, same price, same agent — you’ve omitted to mention that you are different people, living different lives, house-hunting at different times in the market.
You can’t roll back time to reinsert yourself in the market of eight months ago. You also can’t control whether there are more or different or better homes on the market now than there were in the past. What you might be able to do, though, is to stop the unreasonably unfavorable comparisons (assuming they are actually unreasonably unfavorable).
I find that people who compare houses tend to do so unfairly — get real with yourself about whether the homes you are seeing are actually "worse" than your friend’s or whether they might in fact have some nuanced advantages that you are giving short shrift.
The struggle to stop yourself from comparing homes to your friend’s is probably a little like trying to stop yourself from laughing: It’s much more likely to simply make you do it even more. It’s like a counterproductive circuit that you’re stuck on, and your job is not necessarily to stop the circuit itself, but rather to get unstuck from the self-destructive nature of your situation.
Consider approaching the situation with a beginner’s mind, as though you had no predisposition or expectations whatsoever about what you should be able to get for a certain price, and your only emotional inclination up front is gratitude that you are able to buy a home at all at a time when so many others are losing everything they have.
If you can put yourself into that mindset, that’s the time to sit down with a blank journal and write down your personal "Vision of Home" — what do you want your life to look like after you live in the home you’re hunting for now? What do you do with your spare time? Who do you live with and what do you do in the various spaces of your home?
Do you prefer to entertain or spend your time in solitude and sanctuary? Do you want to walk or take the subway to the places you go? It’s time for you to revisit your motivations for buying in the first place, and develop your own vision for your life as a homeowner, not your friend’s. …CONTINUED
If your friend bought early in the year, she might have bought right at or near the bottom in many areas — when the inventory of available homes was at its peak, and the demand for homes among qualified buyers was at its trough.
Shortly thereafter, during the summer, the frenzy to buy in time to qualify for the first-time homebuyer’s credit exploded into the bidding wars and over-asking sales prices that characterize the slightly ascending market many areas have come into during the time that elapsed between your friend’s purchase and your house hunt.
At the entry level price ranges in nicer areas in my own market, it’s common for similar homes on today’s market to go for anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 more than they would have sold for 8 months ago.
As a result, if you’re comparing your experience to your friend’s you’re not truly comparing apples to apples. While that might frustrate you, imagine how you’ll feel if you allow yourself to stay stuck in this unproductive thought cycle for another few months. You could very well end up priced out of even the homes you are seeing now!
1. Sit down and take a quiet moment to quiet the mental chaos and noise that you’re trying to battle.
2. Appreciate yourself for the saving, smart credit management, career-building and other financial self-care that you must have done to put yourself in a position to buy a home in a first place. Then, be grateful for your current situation.
3. From there, spend some time cultivating a clear, personal Vision of Home — in writing — of what you want your life to look like once you’re a homeowner.
4. When you’re house-hunting, if you feel that old familiar envy stir up in your chest, don’t fight it — just take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is your unique path and process to live. For every thing about a similar home that seems "worse" than the parallel feature of your friend’s house, there are other advantages that you might have been overlooking. Look for them, and appreciate your own personal journey.
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.
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