Buying a home can be like Charles Dickens said in A Tale of Two Cities, “it was the best of times and the worst of times.” Certainly looking for your forever (or temporary) abode with the person you love can be an amazing bonding experience and very exciting. But, it can also be extremely stressful during the best of times and downright problematic in a tough buyers’ market. We want to help you circumnavigate these murky waters and enjoy the process as much as possible.
What you want, need, and have to have
The first thing you want to do is get on the same page about what you are looking for, and to do that you should each sit down separately and make a list of wants, needs, and deal-breakers. Then compare lists. Items that are on both person’s lists go onto a new manifesto. It’s okay to have things that you definitely don’t want to budge on, but there should also be an understanding that it isn’t likely that you will get every item on your “wants” list. Almost all buyers have to compromise on something on the list. It might even be a good idea to go one step further and number the wants by priority.
If location is a deal-breaker, make sure your realtor AND your significant other know. Utilize a brokerage, like 616 Realty that is local to Grand Rapids and the surrounding areas and knows the in’s and out’s of every neighborhood.
Here are some of the wants and needs to consider:
Determine your design aesthetic
This may fall into your wants and needs, but it may not. You and your partner need to discuss what kind of home you are looking to relax in, some like modern, some only Victorian, some traditional. Have a discussion about what you can live with, and what would drive you insane, like creaking stairs (I happen to love those)!
Sometimes one person goes into it thinking there has to be a spare bedroom, the other person might think it is a total waste of money and that location is more important. Discuss and come to a consensus on what is most important and how small a place you can live with (sanely).
To remodel or not to remodel
When you are willing to remodel, it opens up a lot of possibilities and doors (if that is what you want). You don’t have to compromise on your wants and needs because you can just build them in. You can look for the perfect location, the perfect price, and the perfect style of home, and then the rest is your oyster. But, remodeling comes with a lot of surprises, stress, and healthy debates/discussions/arguments. So keep that in mind.
ADVICE FROM AN AGENT:
Know your skill limit! Once you get into some jobs, you find out they can be over your head and new projects crop up, thus adding additional stress and sometimes more money.
Take on a few smaller jobs first. This gives you the momentum to keep going. Make a plan for the larger ones. What looks like a weekend project could be a month long sometimes.
Money, money, money
Like the wants, needs, and deal breakers list, you and your partner have to make sure you get preapproved and complete analysis of that pre-approval amount. A bank doesn’t factor in your lifestyle choices like a vacation to Cabo every year, eating out 2-3 times a week, dog grooming, etc… Only you can protect yourself from becoming “house-poor.” Having your dream home is a huge priority, but having to work 60 hours a week to pay for it, may not have been part of that dream. As a team, determine a “set in stone” maximum spending allowance. This will keep the peace, now and later.
Prioritize one another
Above all else, make sure that you feed and nurture your relationship through this process. There will be some stress so be prepared for that, but maybe you can make a plan for what to do when one of you is becoming overwhelmed: a night on the town, dinner out, a spa morning, a hike. Just make a point to do some things that you love to do with and for one another, and before you know it, you will be doing it in your very own new home.
One of the essential keys to any functional loving relationship is communication. In real estate, it is just as important, if not more. The better you and your loved one communicate and set your expectations upfront, the better the home buying experience is going to be for all parties. And, don’t just talk honestly and openly with each other, but with your real estate agent as well. Going into the home buying process with a 616 Realty agent who listens and has their clients’ backs, along with a couple who has a clear vision of what they are looking for will lead to not only a dream home but a dream experience (or at least a very positive one).