Whether you are purchasing a home, a car, or a piece of technology, signs of quality can be found in every purchase, but more often than not, we overlook those signs and purchase the wrong thing. In this series, I’ll be highlighting different signs that can be found in a purchase, and hopefully, you can use them to make the right decision the next time you catch yourself thinking about buying something.
After buying a house, you’ll want to know what to look for to see that it is the right house for you. I have noticed for years that the wrong things can make a great house feel awful. You need to know the signs and you need to watch out for them.
Let me tell you a story about buying a house. If you have been through the process, you know it involves a lot of headache and stress. It’s not quite that dramatic – but it’s not far off. I remember many years ago, I had just closed on my first home. I was so excited to get it all done and settled. A few weeks later, my real estate agent sent me a list of things to check on. I was relieved. The only thing that really bothered me was something about the furnace. I thought I had already handled that long before I had closed. As I continued through the list, I began to think that something wasn’t quite right. When I got to the furnaceMy family and I started looking for a house last June. Since then, we have traveled through countless neighborhoods looking for a place to settle. A week ago we found an apartment that met all the points of our apartment search. We made an offer and signed the contract, but after a few minutes doubts began to creep into our souls. There was a thought in my head that just wouldn’t go away. Did we buy the wrong house? My husband was confident in this decision, but I had a nagging suspicion that it wasn’t the right one for us. I hate making decisions, and I’ve convinced myself that it’s buyer’s remorse. When we moved and adjusted the colors, everything fell into place. Isn’t that so? There is a sense of lightness and space in some of the houses. This house was not one of them. As soon as I stepped over the threshold of the house, I felt the darkness. There were no windows on the east or west side of the house, and sunlight came in only through the front windows. There was no umbrella on the patio table because the sunlight NEVER penetrates this part of the garden. The front yard was huge, but the little hill in the back yard was small and quirky. Where should we have garden parties or install a hot tub? Is it even possible? If so, wouldn’t the room feel cramped and confined? I called our contractor and asked him how much it would cost to put new windows in the house. We also talked about tearing down the walls so the light would go from north to south. Our current house wasn’t perfect when we moved in, but I think it looks great now. I thought we could make some changes to bring this new place to life.
You have bought a house but you are not happy with it
My husband and I spent hours studying the floor plan. We agreed on what to change and in what order. First we would fix the problems in the backyard, then buy a lighter color floor and add recessed lighting. Later, we replaced the front stairs and carved out the windows on the east side of the house. We have a long list of things we would like to change or fix. Despite my doubts, I was convinced it would work. We know a skilled contractor who will make the house beautiful in no time. Price and location are the most important aspects of homeownership, and both have served their purpose. We would avoid the small garden and other inconveniences. We are trying to buy a condo in a tight seller’s market, and I have convinced myself that we have no other choice. The next day our realtor called us and presented us with several diagrams of our property and an addendum to the conservation easements. It seems that the sellers forgot to note a fairly large conservation area on their property. Suddenly that all-consuming feeling came back. I was sure we were buying the wrong house. It’s a complex situation that we can’t solve right away. Sellers don’t know where the sanctuary begins and ends. We were planning to modify the backyard to build a larger patio and retaining wall. If the land extends to the side of the house, nothing can be built outside. My husband and I discussed the details and decided not to close the deal. My emotions overwhelm me. I’m glad to be rid of the house, which doesn’t seem ideal, but I’m sad to be leaving the neighborhood we love. Above all, I feel immediate relief.
We would have bought the wrong house.
We wanted to buy the wrong house. Will we ever find the right home? I’m not sure. We’ve been to twenty places and none of them are right for us. Every weekend I put on two masks, lace up my boots and wander the hallways of others. I look in rooms, basements and kitchens for a place I would like to live. So far, I haven’t found any. It looks like the search will continue, but deep down I know I’d rather postpone the purchase than get the wrong house or, worse, a house I hate. So I go back to the drawing board and I feel a tremendous gratitude that we get another chance to do this. We may have made a big mistake!
Why do people buy the wrong house?
I know we’re not alone in this. Buyers buy the wrong house for a variety of reasons. In our case, I felt compelled to make a decision. We want to move before the next school year starts, and there are very few houses in this sellers market. When you buy in a hurry, you often make mistakes. Some buyers don’t spend enough time searching for a home. Others react out of reflex and fear that house prices will continue to rise. Our friends made the mistake of buying a house they couldn’t afford. Another bought a house too far from his work. Maybe you buy a house that isn’t big enough for your growing needs, or maybe you like everything about the house but think it’s a money pit. So how do you avoid these common mistakes?
Find out how much housing you can afford
First, take a good look at your finances and determine how much housing you can afford. Many first-time homebuyers look at homes before they count. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get into financial trouble when you fall in love with a home that doesn’t fit your budget. The internet is full of online calculators that can help you. To find out what your actual number is, you need to take a close look at your monthly expenses. Don’t forget to include student loans, car expenses, and other fixed expenses, including those you can’t control. Look at your credit card statements from the past few months to see how much money you spend each month. Most of us spend a lot more than we realize. Don’t forget maintenance fees, property taxes, condo fees, insurance and other costs. Owning your own home is incredibly expensive! Once you have all these figures, you can enter them into a housing affordability calculator. Once you have made the calculations, check whether the bank agrees with your financial assessment. Research the terms, interest rates and debt-to-income ratio required for a mortgage. At this time, you are not applying for credit. They just want to know if you qualify. If you are between thirty and sixty days away from making an offer on your home, now is the time to ask your lender for pre-approval. In a competitive market, you’ll need it.
Decide where you want to live
Then decide where you want to live. We now live within a mile of several grocery stores, pharmacies and the metro. It is a large neighborhood with intersecting streets and neighbors who live very close together. The average plot is less than a quarter of an acre. It is an old area with lots of vegetation and large trees that provide plenty of shade for walking or cycling. Sounds like the perfect place to live, doesn’t it? It is, except that the schools here are not very good. Their ratings are dropping fast and it doesn’t look like they will. Ideally, we would move to a similar neighborhood with better schools and more space. Decide where you want to settle. Do you want to live outside the city, with no neighbors, or do you prefer a friendly community where everyone knows their neighbors? How far are you willing to travel to buy groceries or fruits and vegetables? Do you want to live in an urban environment with sidewalks or in a shady area surrounded by green foliage?
What facilities and features would you like to see?
We now live in a 600 square foot house. The space meets our needs, but the layout doesn’t really suit us. We don’t have room for a shed in the garden, and our garage is too small for a car, lawn mower and bikes. We don’t spend much time in our rooms, but we do like to cook together. The cramped rooms are fine, but the postage stamp-sized kitchen is too small for the two of us. To determine what we want from our next home, we took a close look at our current home. If you are looking for a new home, I encourage you to do the same. Make a list of essentials and niceties. Take this checklist with you to open houses and adapt it as you evaluate other homes. I’m willing to live with small rooms, but I want an open floor plan. My husband is willing to give up large windows and natural sunlight for a large garden. If you are buying a home with someone else, discuss your needs and find a way to compromise. Here are some features you should discuss in advance:
- Page size
- Size of the house
- Number of green spaces (size of lawn or number of trees)
- Shady (surrounded by trees) or sunny open grassy areas
- Privacy or proximity to neighbours
Think long-term. Think about your future
Now our kids like to play ball and soccer on the lawn. One day, in a not too distant future, they will travel to the homes of their friends and participate in other activities far from home. Do I need a house with a flat driveway where my son can play ball, or will he be bigger than this hobby? It’s hard to say what the future holds. Be open to the interior and exterior spaces of your new home. Do you need extra rooms for your future children, or do you need less space when your children are independent? Do you need additional home office space for you and your spouse? Do you need a large basement where your kids can entertain their friends? If you like parties and barbecues in the open air, do you need a spacious garden? If you want to start gardening after you retire, do you need a sunny place to grow fruits and vegetables? It is easy to think of today’s needs without thinking of the future. Consider both options when choosing a new home.
Search in the neighbourhood
In some parts of the country, you don’t have to worry about the quality of the schools. This is not the case in the Washington, D.C. area. We began our housing search by looking at the rankings of primary, middle and high schools on the Niche and Great Schools websites. Then we started looking for areas that were in the top four or five. Instead of getting in the car, we started searching by zooming in on Google Maps. We opened a map, looked for a specific high school, and started looking at properties within a five-mile radius. My husband and I want to live in a small community with wide, open streets where our kids can ride their bikes without fear of traffic and fast moving cars. Using Google Maps, we can quickly exclude houses without roads and houses with busy roads. We can also determine the distance between grocery stores, gyms and restaurants. We drove around the areas that could be surveyed and began our search with a tour. With this information, we can search for specific homes that may come on the market.
The ideal house may not exist
We quickly realized that the perfect home doesn’t necessarily exist. The house with the big kitchen had no garden. There was a small living area in the house with a backyard. After visiting several open houses, we came up with a list of desired features.
- Proximity to good schools.
- Open floor plan.
- The backyard is of a decent size.
- Neighborhood with contiguous and walkable streets.
We began to look at the new objects with a different attitude. We can repaint and wallpaper, but we can’t just move kitchen appliances or create extra space in the basement or garden. After nine months of searching for a new home, we resigned ourselves to the harsh reality of buying a home in a seller’s market. Not everything we are looking for may be in the price range we want.
Find out what you can and cannot change
I didn’t like my first house when we bought it, and I wish I had saved the money to renovate it sooner. When we changed the paint, added recessed lighting and replaced the outdated chandeliers, our home changed from someone else’s home to our own. Part of me wonders if I would have felt the same way about the place we left. Would I regret not buying the house and turning it into a place I loved, or were there features and problems I couldn’t solve? I’ll never know.
Haste can lead to buying the wrong house
I felt defeated when I left the last house, but I am also grateful that we took our time. Fortunately, we still have a few months before the next school year begins. I would prefer to move before the end of the summer, but we can stay in our house. We currently live mortgage free, so we don’t need to rush the move. We also switched to homeschooling this year and could have continued to do so for a few more months. I keep reminding myself that children are resilient and adaptable. It’s better to wait to buy the right house than to rush out and buy the wrong one.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if I bought the wrong house?
In the world of real estate, there are many factors to consider when making a purchase—location, price, amenities, and more. But there’s one important factor that’s sure to catch your eye: square footage. Since the 1920s, the square foot has been the “gold standard” of home measurement. But what does that mean? The size of a home is determined by how many square feet are inside and how many square feet are outside. If the inside and outside areas of a home are the same, then the home has the same number of square feet. Buying a house is a big decision, and you should take your time with it. But, what if you bought the wrong house? The secret is that you should use the “wrong house” to your advantage, and building a house around it. The easiest way to do this is to have a good understanding of what kind of house you are buying.
Can I sell the house I just bought?
Buying a new house can be exciting, stressful and exciting all at the same time. You’re looking at the place you’re going to call home for the next several years, so you want to make sure it’s perfect. Unfortunately, the process of finding and buying a property can leave some people house-shopping their neighbors’ homes instead of looking at their own. The first step in buying a house is getting a mortgage, which can cost a few thousand dollars. The second step is buying a home insurance policy. The insurer will run a check on your credit history in order to determine how much insurance to charge you.
What to do if you hate the house you bought?
If you’ve ever bought a house and can’t stand the place, you’re not alone. A recent survey by Zillow found that 44% of homeowners who bought a home within the last year have found the home they purchased to be less appealing than their ideal home. Why is this? One reason is the sheer size of homes often does not meet the buyer’s needs. Another is that compared to the typical single-family home, houses with too many rooms may not be as functional. And, lastly, buyers sometimes consider the cost of homes they ultimately don’t like too expensive. Have you ever purchased a home, only to later realize it was a horrible decision that you wish you could take back? If so, you’re not alone. The National Association of Realtors reports that between 10-15 percent of homebuyers regret their decision to purchase their current home.
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