I am writing this post from a deep, emotional place: that of someone who is selling a home. After months (and months) of watching my house linger on the market, I’ve come up with a new code of ethics for potential home buyers. Buying a home is a complicated process, one that can test the patience of even the most dedicated would-be homeowner. As I’ve watched these prospective buyers come and go, I’ve started to see some patterns emerge. Here are my top five pieces of wisdom:
#1: Don’t Buy A House To Fit Your Furniture
We recently had a Realtor tell our agent that her client wouldn’t be buying our home because our dining room wasn’t large enough to accommodate her 12-seat table. After I stopped laughing – it’s a rare piece of property in the $150,000 price range that has room for such a monstrous dining room table – I found that I understood.
When my husband and I first started on the path to buying a home six years ago, we were adamant that our new house would fit the over-sized sectional sofa we’d purchased immediately after our wedding. Six years later, that sofa has been in the trash dump for years, and we’re selling a house we bought to fit it.
Moral of the story: Furniture comes and goes, but property lasts forever. Don’t buy a house to fit your furniture; buy furniture to fit your house.
#2: No, You Cannot Have It All
Another potential buyer quickly checked our property off their list when they discovered we had a small-ish lot (I say “ish” because it’s not all that small; size – like beauty – is, after all, in the eye of the beholder).
What those hopeful homeowners didn’t realize is that the larger the lot, the more yard work it’ll take to keep it up. When my husband and I shopped around for our first house, we too wanted to have a lot of space outside, only to discover that – in our price range – the amount of yard was inversely proportional to the amount of square footage in the home.
Moral of the story: Ultimately, most homeowners have to decide whether they want more room indoors or outdoors and make a compromise. Take on a larger house, and you’ll have more housework; take on a larger yard, and you’ll spend more time mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes, and planting flowers. It all depends on your priorities.
#3: You’re Not Buying The Furniture
One of the most promising leads in our efforts to sell our house was to a young couple that considered buying the house and all the furniture in it… even though said furniture was most definitely not for sale.
I guess you could say we were fortunate that our furniture was a turn on for those home buyers, not a turn off, as is the case with so many homes on the market. Sometimes as a buyer, it’s tough to look at the house that’s on the market, overlooking the stylistic features we may or may not agree with. This goes not only for furniture, but for artwork and just about all finishings.
Moral of the story: Separate the house from the things that are in it. Your decision of whether or not buying a home is right for you should come down to the location, the floor plan, and the price – not whether or not you like the bedroom set the previous homeowners had.
#4: I Don’t Want You To Open My Cabinets, But You Should
When I’m preparing to show my house, I clean it from top to bottom, including the insides of my cabinets and closets. Why? Because I believe that any thorough buyer should be looking precisely where I don’t want them to look.
Here’s what they should be looking for; rather than inspecting to see if I’ve organized my closets by size, season, and color, or whether or not my dishes are chipped on the rims, they should be trying to see if there appears to be enough room for everything. Is the coat closet in the entry way up to the brim with not only coats but off-season clothing? It could be a sign the closets in the bedrooms are too small. Are pots and pans spilling out of the kitchen cabinets? It could be a signal there’s not enough storage space. I even try to keep my attic tidy, just in case potential buyers want to use the drop-down stairs and take a look.
Moral of the story: If the current homeowners can’t seem to fit all their stuff into the home’s closets, why should you expect any differently? Unless the homeowners are obvious packrats, over-stuffed cabinets and closets could be a sign of a home that lacks storage space.
#5: Talk To My Neighbors
Another one of our most promising showings happened when, much to our surprise, our neighbors across the street initiated a conversation with the potential home buyers.
When buying a house, you’re not only buying a piece of property, but you’re buying a piece of the neighborhood as well. Of course you’ll run an inspection on the home, checking for problems with the roof or plumbing, but what about on the people who live next door or across the street? It’s just as important to know the neighborhood as it is to know the home you want to purchase. My husband and I make a habit of going on walks – with our kids in their strollers – through any neighborhood we like to see if the residents are friendly, dogs are properly chained, cars speed down the streets, etc.
Moral of the story: Great neighbors – and a great neighborhood – can quickly become the best (or worst) part about your new home. Your Realtor won’t be able to help you out on this one; you’ll have to tour the neighborhood and talk to some of its residents yourself to see if it’s a good fit for you.
Reader, what would your biggest piece of advice be to someone looking to buy your home?