There are some things in life that people just expect you to know how to do. Like gracefully dispatching of the creepy guy who tries to hit on you at your favorite bar on Thursday nights. Or coping with road rage. Or baking a full-scale cherries jubilee for your niece’s third birthday party on a moment’s notice. (Okay, maybe that last one is just me.) Is it fair for them to expect so much of us? Were there classes about these vital life skills written into the general education requirements in high school? No. Are we expected to know them anyway? Alas, yes. Yes we are.
House hunting is one of these unspoken complications of life. Sure, it sounds simple enough to walk around a few houses and then point to the one you want. But anyone who has undertaken this bold journey will tell you that there are more than a few booby traps set along the way. Just because the traps exist, however, doesn’t mean that they’re unavoidable.
Read on to learn how to dodge those little suckers like a true Indiana Jonesette.
Make a list. You might think you know what you want. However, it’s not impossible that the sight of that huge disappearing-edge pool might drive more practical thoughts of whether your bed will fit in that miniature master bedroom out of your mind. Making a list of exactly what you want ahead of time can save you hours of searching – and keep your heart from running away with your head. Helpful tip: take a gander at the pros and cons of your current place and start listing from there.
Do the due diligence. Research things like average house prices and neighborhood statistics before you start shopping. Hey, you know the drill. The early bird gets the worm, and the savvy shopper gets to the 50%-off shoe rack faster than all the competition because she’s discovered the unlocked side entrance.
Get pre-approved. Know how much mortgage you can really afford. Guessing is not your friend here. You don’t want to spend weeks tracking down the perfect place only to discover that it’s 100k over your max budget. Bite the bullet and get preapproved first.
Take notes, and pictures. If you’re like most of us, you’re going to be trudging your way through an awful lot of houses before you discover the diamond in the haystack. And, that being the case, after a while things are bound to start getting muddy in the old noggin. Take notes and pictures as you tour. Then, once you’ve narrowed it down to the top contenders, make a comparison chart to help you decide between the finalists.
Wear comfy clothes and shoes. We know, you’re gorgeous. But save the six-inch Louboutins for your fabulously chic housewarming party, or you’ll be attending it in a wheelchair, having crushed all of your toe bones to dust in the everlasting trek from house to house that led you here.
Chill. House hunting is one of those activities where all the horror stories you’ve heard are probably true … and waiting to pounce on you. So be prepared. Understand that this is most likely going to be a stressful undertaking, and make time for yourself to relax. Otherwise you’ll burn out fast. Remember, it’s a marathon; not a sprint to the finish.
Become a super detective. Especially if the houses you’re looking at aren’t brand new, it’s in your best interest to ferret out the tiny-but-treacherous issues lurking just below the surface. If there are rugs, pull them back. If there is furniture, move it out of the way. Turn on the lights and appliances, test the water pressure, measure things, open closets and cupboards. Dig up any unpleasant surprises before you sign the contract.
Do a double-take. Love at first sight might be grand, but when it comes to houses, love at second sight is even grander. When you arrive at a new place, do a walkthrough just to take it in. Then go back to the front door and do it again, but with a more critical eye this time. You might be surprised at some of the things you overlooked during round one.
Sunrise, sunset. Visit the houses you’re seriously thinking about at different times of day. What looks like a tranquil place at 10 in the morning might turn into an unexpected block party at night. Scouting around the clock will help you to gauge noise, traffic, and neighborhood activity in general.
Think outside the sightlines. Okay, in general, forward tends to be a good direction to look. But when it comes to touring homes, it’s not the only direction. Ceilings might have water damage. Floors might have stains. Glance beyond your usual sightlines, or you’re going to risk missing something.
Bring a friend. Despite all that vicious gossip you heard in second grade, when searching for homes, four eyes are better than two. Invite someone to tag along with you during your house hunt, whether that be your man, your bestie, or your mother. Odds are they’ll catch some details you would have missed and think about things you might have overlooked.
Don’t rush. It’s a crazy market out there, and after you’ve been in the thick of it for a while, you might be tempted to throw caution to the winds and start placing bids on everything in sight. But don’t give in to the dark side. Remember, this is a big decision. Make it carefully. You’ll be glad you did. We promise.