Keep Looking! A Home-Buyer’s Pep Talk
Buying or renting a new home can seem like an endless search. It’s easy to give up hope and compromise, but it’s a big mistake. Here’s why you can’t give up.
Finding a good home is critical for your well-being.
Whether you’re a renter or a buyer, you can’t give up and just settle. Living somewhere you don’t love will wear you down faster than you think.
I spent four months trying to find a home to rent and don’t regret for a moment that I waited so long before choosing. Two years later, I find it hard to believe I’m giving this home up for my life as a traveller, and I know I’ll always remember it fondly. That’s the kind of emotional connection you should be looking for, especially when you’re signing a mortgage for decades of debt.
Here are the areas you should be trying to meet before you decide on a home:
The ideal live/work zone
More people than ever before are making life choices based on where they work and live so they can cut back on driving and ramp up the living. Buying in an area just because you can afford it, as opposed being where you want to be, could leave you regretting it before long. Remember, a house purchase should be at LEAST a five-year investment, or you may lose money from flipping too soon.
It seems counterintuitive, but if going outside your usual live/work comfort zone, it might be worth renting for a while to make sure the new area can make you happy long-term.
The Mr. Rogers low-down
Who are the people in your neighborhood? Do they seem friendly? It’s a funny thing — friendly people and community. You only know it when you see it. If you don’t see friendly, talking people on the streets, or busy cafes full of chatter, or light poles and bulletin boards posted with community events, then it’s a safe guess there’s not a lot of local community.
Maybe you think you’d rather keep to yourself. I can relate, but that’s tough act on a long road, and knowing your neighbors is an eventuality. Buying a 10-year investment on a street with homeowners who don’t keep their yard how you like, or people who don’t seem friendly, or where there’s a judgey/non-supportive vibe might seem like a lifetime after half-a-decade.
You’ll know it’s a wonderful place when you see it. People will care about their yards, kids will play outside, neighbors will nod or chat in passing. If you’re thinking about buying in a ‘hood, then get a coffee and spend a morning walking around, just “being” there. You’ll get a feel for what it’s like to live there, and you’ll likely feel a lot better about putting in an offer.
Good bones + good savings = good sense
If you’re buying a home in your budget and you’ve got enough repair and maintenance money saved for all possible/predictable problems, then the home doesn’t need to be perfect, and you can use your imagination about improvements to come.
There’s nothing wrong with buying a “fixer-upper,” but make sure a great inspector tells you how good the bones of the place are. Is the structural support there? Is the foundation in great shape? Are any tree roots likely to threaten the structure soon? Is the roof solid?
If stuff’s gonna go, then find out a potential timeline for when you’ll need to replace things. Make sure it fits your financial plan. If so, you might absolutely love buying the home and slowly making it yours through upgrades and improvements. It may not be the “perfect” home today, but the question is, can it become your perfect home down the line? If you smile when you think of improvements for the yard or the home, that’s a good indicator it’s a great fit for you. If the home inspector agrees, that is.
Finances can’t be “close enough”
Recent history is littered with people who bought homes a little pricier than they could afford, thinking everything would work out okay, but then eventually lost their homes. It’s not until you’ve been in the position of always being “just a little overspent” every month that you realize how quickly a “little” adds up to a “lot” and then you’re drowning in debt.
You need to have everything you can possibly require for your home purchase — a maintenance fund, closing fees, double the costs of moving, an emergency fund, and more — in addition to being able to make your payments.
This is a debt that is not going away. Every month, you need to make those payments, have a life, buy food, buy clothes, and do all those other things that make life worth living. You absolutely must buy within your means in order to do all the other things life demands of us.
And if you’re moving to a new city, province, or state, do your research to see how closing and legal fees might vary. My friend recently moved to a new province with $5,000 budgeted for her closing fees, but was shocked to find them over $13,000. There went her contingency fund. She was stressed for months as she waited for her finances to catch up after signing.
Waiting is worth it
When you find the right place at the right budget, it’ll all have been worth it. Even if you have to rent for a while in between, you’ll be so grateful you kept the faith and found the right place. There’s really no greater feeling than waking up in the morning grateful to be where you are, with the view and neighborhood you have around you. Trust me, it took 18 months for the novelty to wear off for me, and that’s as a renter.
Knowing that it’s your life for years ahead gives you gratitude you can’t measure, versus what it’s like to wake up resenting where you’ve chosen to set up camp for the next 10 years of your life.
Take it from those who’ve made the mistake and chose to settle for “good enough” — waiting for “great” is worth every minute it takes.