adulting, considerations when buying your first home // part 3
foreword // okay, 2 parts down, only 1 part to go in this 3-part series on buying your first home - the hard part, narrowing down that wishlist. if you're just joining in on the series you don't want to skip the 2 previous parts to this series. earlier this week, Kallen Deck, an Atlanta house hunting maven and Realtor, hit on where to begin when considering buying your first home. in part 1, she discussed how to tell if you're ready, how to select an agent and how to choose a location. in part 2, she covered all things money and now she has some great suggestions for determining what's a need versus a want. it's always a good thing to have someone around who can keep your dreams alive, but also tether you to reality.
so take my hand and let's go house hunting!
lexi (l): what is the best way to narrow down my wishlist?
kallen (k): before you start shopping, always make the distinction between wants and needs. often, you'll be able to modify your home to your wants, but your needs tend to be inflexible. i'm going to split these into single family properties and condos, because there is quite a different when building a core wishlist.
single family properties
first, determine how much square footage and bedrooms / bathrooms you need. if your absolute minimum is 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, your Realtor shouldn't be showing you anything less than that. but if a 3/2 comes on the market, great! the more the better as it's always beneficial for resale, even if it's not what you need at the moment. then, think about location and lot size - two things you have no control over. perhaps you live an active lifestyle with a dog and want to be able to walk or bike to shops and restaurants and kick a ball around with the dog in a yard. if schools are important, make sure that the properties you're looking at are zoned accordingly.
the same rule goes for determining square footage and bedrooms / bathrooms for your condo. it's difficult if not impossible to add more space in a condo. location is critical - not only where the building is located geographically, but where the unit is located in the building. if you need your beauty rest or work from home, make sure your agent knows you don't want a unit overlooking a freight train line, a highway or maybe even the building's courtyard or pool. homeowners association or HOA fees are always a part of owning a condo, so determining what you need included in these fees and how much you're able to spend is critical as they bump up your monthly payment. amenities in a condo are also important - do you need a pool, fitness center or concierge? what about an assigned parking space or a storage unit? if you decide you need to move, will you need the ability to rent your unit? many condos have rent restrictions, which means either no rentals are allowed or only a small percentage or units are allowed to rent at any given time and there is often an extensive waitlist.
l: what about wants?
k: so we just talked about needs, now let's talk about wants. lots of people want granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, a fenced yard, hardwood floors in pristine condition, freshly painted sliding, new roof, brand new appliances... you get the idea. during the purchase process, these are all things that can and should be negotiated but keep in mind that they're just things. do they cost money? yes. but if you absolutely love the location of a house with all your perfect criteria but it has old white appliances and no fence, consider if that'll make or break your purchase. however, your Realtor should have a clear idea of all the bonus features you want in your ideal property so if something that hits all items on your checklist comes on the market, you can jump on it.
l: when should i consider a fixer-upper?
k: be honest with yourself and consider how much 1) time 2) skill and 3) money you have to work with on a fixer-upper property. if the home you're looking at has structural or foundation issues, it's always best left to a specialist to fix the problem - usually at a considerable cost. if the floors are badly scratched, the windows are cracked and the kitchen is old, those are actually all projects first-time-homebuyer can easily handle themselves or pay a specialist to do at a reasonable price. a knowledgeable Realtor should be able to help give you the approximate cost of repairs to help you determine whether it's worth considering a fixer-upper or taking on a project.
don't let HGTV shows fool you! the magic of the editing room turns the purchase of a falling-down shack into a sparkling rehab in less than an hour on television, but the reality is that they've got crews of licensed contractors, architects, structural engineers, plumbers, roofers, teams of painters, interior designers, landscape architects, mold remediation specialists and pest control companies who do not specialized work to take these houses from drab to fab.
i'll wrap up by saying this: whatever your idea of a fixer-upper is, all homes will need repairs and ongoing maintenance. this is the trade off you get when you decide to stop throwing money away on a rental and invest in a property you own. your landlord no longer cleans the gutters - you do. when the fridge stops working, you're now the one who has to figure our what to do. but from personal experience , i'll take an afternoon at The Home Depot picking out beautiful tile to replace my kitchen backsplash or a weekend at an antique store finding a cool, vintage door for my house over worrying whether or not my landlord will be angry at me for painting the walls any day. you get to customize the house you live in and it can be a really empowering and transformative experience to learn new skills and put that sweat equity into your own property.
when i met with Kallen to discuss the concept of this post, i was able to see her light up first hand while talking about her field. she's unbelievably excited about real estate and has a passion for Atlanta. if you're currently looking to buy or sell your home, want someone who is trustworthy and truly cares about your, your financial well-being and happiness, reach out to Kallen. you won't be disappointed.
do you have any stories about buying your first home? did something crazy happen? was it incredibly simple? i would love to know; tell me everything in the comments below. you will not only help Jas and i, but others as well!