The process of buying a house is long and always involves many variables. It is likely that throughout this process, you will change your mind about many of the elements of your 'dream home'. Indeed, real estate agents routinely advise home buyers to approach their search with a degree of open-mindedness, especially when it comes to the size and precise specifications of a house.
But while adjusting your expectations as you go along can pay dividends during a house search, compromising a step too far can have serious consequences. The most obvious being that you'll want to move shortly after buying the house.
We've asked property expert and COO of Flyhomes (opens in new tab) Ryan Dibble to identify the key areas you should never compromise on when buying a home. Here's his advice:
1. Your (and your partner's) goals
It may be that your partner is keen to move out to the countryside while you love the city. Alternatively, you would like to start a family in your new place and want to choose somewhere close to good schools, but your partner's priority is an easy commute to work.
These are the big, long-term life goals that should form the foundation of any house search – and the time to have a discussion about said goals is well before you even begin looking, as Ryan emphasizes.
'Sometimes you’re buying an asset, and sometimes you’re buying a lifestyle,' he explains. 'Either way, knowing your goals will help you make decisions about what to invest in and what to avoid. If you're buying with a partner it's especially important to make sure your goals are aligned before you get started on the home buying journey. It's a much harder conversation to have in an open house or in front of your mortgage lender.'
It's no secret that the current property market is a seller's market, and it can feel as though the only way to get ahead of the competition is by offering more on a house you really want.
Ryan categorically advises against this type of thinking: 'It may be tempting to buy above your budget if you find a home you love, but doing so can lead to long term problems. Getting in over your head can quickly turn a dream house into a nightmare.'
It can be painful to step away from a property that's a little too expensive, but most houses aren't really unique: you will find something similar for less elsewhere, you'll just need to be patient.
Which brings us to the 'elsewhere' question. While narrowing down your search to a particular area or neighborhood will make finding a home harder, Ryan advises to stay firm on your preference.
The reasons are hard to argue with: 'You can change a home, but you can’t change a neighborhood. No amenity matters if you're miles from where you want to live – even if it is the perfect house otherwise.
'Yes, it's true that you may not be able to afford the hottest neighborhoods, but that doesn't mean you can't find a more affordable neighborhood you love. Drive around any neighborhood you're considering to make sure it has what's most important to you whether it be good schools, walkability, or social life.'
If your real estate agent keeps suggesting properties that are nowhere near the area you want to live, change the agent. A wise agent may suggest an area that is comparable to the one you've been looking at but cheaper, but don't be pushed to move to a neighborhood you dislike just because it's cheaper.
4. Fixer-upper vs. turnkey
We've all done this: fantasized about buying a fixer-upper in some stunning out-of-town location and transforming it into the home of our dreams. In reality, you'll have to ask yourself some tough questions about whether you're actually up for a major renovation project, both financially and psychologically.
'Consider your appetite for big renovations, and the costs associated, when buying a home. If you've never swung a hammer or don't have the patience to live in a less-than-desirable home for a lengthy period of time you could end up regretting taking on a fixer-upper because of a lower price tag.'
If you don't have any renovation experience whatsoever, give fixer-up properties a hard pass – it will save you months (or even years) of misery.
Browse through our renovation ideas to see what can be achieved with a fixer-upper.
Anna Cottrell is Consumer Editor across Future Plc Home titles. She has a background in academic research and is the author of London Writing of the 1930s. She writes about interior design, property, and gardening .On H&G, she specializes in writing about property – buying, selling, renting, mortgages – sustainability and eco issues.
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