I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!
The House-Buying Experience: Looking at Houses (Advertising)
Time to start knocking off the aforementioned topics for new posts, one at a time: Here are some things I learned about buying a house recently: 1. Your Realtor (yes, I'll bow to pressure and do the capital R thing) is going to want to show you lots of houses you would never want to live in. This is the digital age. You're going to get an email digest from your Realtor just about every day with new listings added based on some search terms your Realtor put into an MLS database. Don't take these emails too personally, because they certainly aren't generated personally. The good thing is, you can look at a lot of places without driving around or actually going into them. 2. Of the houses you get excited to go see, many will be junk. I say this as a first-time home buyer with a moderate budget in Vermont. Maybe there are places with lots of spacious, modern houses in good neighborhoods in a first-time buyer's price range in your market, but there aren't a whole lot of those around Burlington. If you are looking at stand-alone houses, here are some terms you are likely to hear and what they might mean: "Great Condo Alternative" -This means that the house is priced kind of like an average condo in your area. For us, this usually meant that the house was undersize with major compromises.* "As-is, Handyman's Special, Fixer-Upper" -This means don't expect to deal with the Seller on any compensation for things that are wrong with it. If you plan to be relatively poor once you start paying your mortgage (like us), don't go for something that is going to require a large ongoing construction/remodeling budget. There's also a difference between out-of-date decor and basket case structural problems. "Ready for Your Touch" -If by "Touch" you mean "Hours and hours of labor and trips back and forth to Home Depot" "Many Updates" -This means the previous owner is probably trying to flip. They want you to pay their profit margin for the work they did. Most of the time, half of the work they did was work I would have wanted to tear down and start over with. Why pay their profit margins for stuff you either wouldn't have done or would have done better/differently**? "Convenient to shopping, restaurants, and more!" -You'll be sharing your street access with the local MegaMall 3. Photos can be deceiving, but almost never in a negative way. If it looks bad in the pictures, it will almost always look worse in person. It is amazing what can be cropped out just by moving the camera***. I'd think much more about location and desirable attributes and simply ignore the photos. 4. Know your neighborhoods. I wish we had spent more time getting to know the various neighborhoods we were looking in. I really like where we ended up, but we almost bought in a neighborhood I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have liked as much. I'd suggest driving a practice commute to and from any neighborhood you get serious about, as well as going there at different times of the day and days of the week. **** 5. Finally, set your B.S. detector on "kill" from moment one of the process. Everybody else involved in this transaction wants it to happen as fast as possible with you paying as much as possible. Remember that when you look at ads, when you go to see houses, and when you start second-guessing yourself or trying to rationalize your way into a too-high offer on a house you don't really want all that badly. Nobody you interact with on the marketing, offer and sale of a house is going to be there when the first mortgage payment comes due. *I'm a huge fan of small houses and have heard the Tumbleweed Tiny House guy speak before, but most existing small houses will have come about as a result of major compromises, rather than fabulous design. In our case, a house in our most desireable neighborhood was on the small side, slammed to the setbacks with no hope of adding on, and had bedrooms entering directly into the kitchen with no doors. Oh, and the toilet tank hung over the bathroom doorframe and there was only a smal stand-up shower and dubious room for a tub. This house listed for $95 per square foot more than the house we ended up buying. **What I usually saw was cosmetic updates done to the ignorance of structural or efficiency-related ones. Look for tile board instead of tile in bathrooms, new cheap carpet over bumpy, squeaky floors, or ultra-textured wallpaper (over who-knows what, but there must be a reason they went for that ugly textured stuff). I saw a couple of new kitchens in otherwise basket-case houses. ***A roll of toilet paper on a pedestal dispenser in the bathroom photo, however, is a sure sign of a bathroom that is too small/misconfigured to mount one on the wall! ****Every real estate book in the world tells you to do this, but it's key.