Realty Bites: Adventures in home shopping
Today we’re going to offer some house hunting tips. And I mean tips for real people. Not the hard-to-please rich snobs you see on shows like HGTV’s “House Hunters,” who are shown touring a luxurious mansion while making comments along the lines of, “I’m not impressed with the quality of the Italian marble in the servant’s quarters.”
I can offer tips because my wife and I have been house shopping. Plus, I was a Realtor for 13 years, and my wife was in the mortgage business — a combination of experience that makes us very unique buyers: people who don’t know anything but who think they do.
The first step is to turn in your financial information and get pre-qualified to see what you can afford. After telling our loan officer the price range we were considering, we got the impression this figure was too high, based upon the way she kept asking us if this was some sort of sick joke.
So set low expectations. Picture a bad house in a horrible area. Now picture something half as good as that, because that’s probably what you can afford.
Next, fill out your loan paperwork. The better the job you have, the more home you can afford. This is why, on the application form, under “occupation” you should always write down “surgeon.” Sell it by showing up to the mortgage company in blood-soaked scrubs, perhaps carrying a scalpel. “Sorry I’m late,” you should say loudly within earshot of the underwriter, “I was busy doing surgeon stuff.”
With the hard financial work over, now comes the fun part of the home search: Meeting with the marriage counselor to work out the fights you’re having over the home search.
Your wife wants, say, a house with a nice kitchen, and in a good school district, whereas you want a house that has a satellite dish and a hammock. So you’re just going to have to compromise by getting a house with a nice kitchen and in a good school district because women make the housing decisions.
Once she has picked out a house, examine it carefully. Make sure it has all the modern features that you’d expect to see in a home today, such a roof. Otherwise that may impact the resale value.
Also be sure to check out your neighbors. You don’t want to live next to a drug dealer. Look at the guy next door. Does he have any teeth? If not, it means he uses meth. Either that, or you’re in De Beque.
Now it’s time to prepare an offer. The key to negotiating is to be willing to walk away. From your marriage, I mean. Because your wife really wants this house.
Next comes the inspection. This is where you hire a professional home inspector whose job is to tell you that your dream home sucks, while providing you with a list of needed repair items that would make Bob Vila break down in tears.
Once you know the items needing fixing, ask around to see if any of any of your friends know of a good plumber, or electrician, or in extreme cases, an arsonist.
As added negative reinforcement, be sure to show the home to your extended family. In my years as a Realtor, I learned that the excitement young, first time-buyers had about a potential house ended the exact moment their parents first saw it:
“YOU CALL THIS PIECE OF CRAP A GARBAGE DISPOSAL??” the Dad would invariably say, “HELL, IT’S ONLY 1/2 HORSEPOWER.”
“But Daddy,” the young bride would offer encouragingly, “Look at the lovely family room! We’re going to make so many happy memories in here.”
“THAT’S PROBABLY ASBESTOS IN THE CEILING. IT’LL KILL YOU WITHIN FIVE YEARS.”
So ignore the negative but well-meaning family members and boldly strive forward with your housing dream. I plan on doing this myself.
Right after I’m done performing surgery.