Anytime you need to make an important decision in life, it’s essential to have a system that takes into account the practical elements and the emotional ones that you can reasonably expect to arise. Buying a home anywhere and at any time is a big deal for most people. It is, after all, where you live. You will celebrate, love, play, sleep, eat, work, and grow in your home. If it’s the right home, it’s a reflection of your soul, of who you truly are.
One common method I hear people describe for choosing their next home you purchase is “to look at as many homes as possible and pick the best one.” They exhaust themselves looking at hundreds or thousands of homes online. Then, they drag themselves through dozens of homes, getting overwhelmed, exhausted, and ultimately, disappointed.
After selling hundreds of homes, I’ve never actually seen this method work in practice. What home buyers are actually doing while “looking at as many homes as possible” is identifying two categories of their priorities: must-haves and deal breakers. If all the decision makers (anyone who will be living in the home, including children, or anyone involved as an investor) spend some time thinking about and deciding on their must-have and deal-breaker criteria, you should have such a clear idea of what you want that you need to look at fewer than 5 homes in order to find the one you want, and because you know ahead of time what you’re really looking for, you will spend fewer than 20 minutes per house and can find the home you want to buy in less than 2 hours.
Let me define must-haves and deal-breakers so you can get to it.
Must-haves are features of the home and location that you absolutely must have, that you cannot live without. If you have 3 children, for example, you probably cannot buy a 1 bedroom condo with no parking, so your must haves would include the minimum number of bedrooms you can live with. Your must-haves must also be realistic within your budget. If you must have a panoramic view but you want to live in the city limits of Portland and spend less than $200,000, you are out of luck, so you will need to decide if it makes more sense to rent, live outside the city, or move to another part of the world where you can afford a panoramic view. You can ask your realtor if your must-haves are realistic for the price range you can afford.
Deal-breakers are features of the home and location that are so impractical, offensive, or abhorrent to you that you would not buy a home that had one under any circumstances. Deal-breakers often include features like condition (a home that needs significant repairs), ugly or scary neighboring homes, or walkability to stores, cafés, or schools. There is no point in considering a home that includes a deal-breaker because even if you buy it, you will not be happy living there.
How many of each should you have? The answer may seem contradictory, but I suggest no more than three of each. There is a good reason behind the limited number: it compels you to choose the most important criteria on both ends of the spectrum. You must push yourself to determine what you care about most, and if you are buying the home with other people, your lists will be combined increasing the total number of criteria for the purchase.
If you spend some reflective, thoughtful time up-front making these short lists, you have the best chance of an enjoyable purchasing experience and ending up in a home you love.
Juli Gun is a Principal Real Estate Broker representing both sellers and buyers with Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty in Portland, Oregon. To contact: Cell +1-971-808-9618 or email firstname.lastname@example.org