We bought a home a year ago. Here are the 5 most salient lessons I took away:
(1) There are 2 kinds of problems you absolutely don’t want to deal with – (a) mold and (b) a bad foundation / structural issue. Most other problems can be fixed with some money. These two, however, may require you to restart from scratch. Work with knowledgeable agents/reputed companies/good inspectors when you can. Avoiding these will save you a lot of money.
(2) Good agents do not put pressure on you as they’re always playing the long game. Real estate is a low transaction-high value business. The long-term effect of a bad transaction isn’t worth it to a competent agent.
On that note, the difference between good agents and great agents is the amount of after sale help you get. They help when they don’t need to.
(3) Assuming you are planning to put 20% down, it helps to have at least 30% of the home value in cash. A friend gave us a rule of thumb that folks end up spending 5-8% of the value of the home making changes. That rule of thumb turned out to be accurate in our case.
(4) Quality costs money. Quality also has a high return-on-investment. It is the first of many kinds of trade-offs we encounter on this journey.
(5) Speaking of trade-offs, buying a home is an exercise in trade-offs. There is no perfect home – unless you have an unlimited budget (and if you do, let’s face it, you’re probably not reading this blog :-)). There is a ton of good advice – but your mileage on all of it may vary as different people optimize for different things. There were certain things we were looking for in a home that resulted in us finding one with significant trade-offs – in our case, a long commute to work – that many folks we know would never make. But that gets to how personal this decision is. If you love what’s good about your choice and don’t mind what’s bad about it, you’re golden.
(Bonus) The benefits of a feeling of permanence are underrated.