Last week I opened my internet browser to find out what kind of help is out there for First-Time Home Buyers. My search revealed an unexpected truth: There are tips, checklists, and articles about the steps for buying a house, what you need to know about purchasing your first home, flipping a property, top 3 mistakes, top 10 things to know, you name it! All of them talk about the process for getting a mortgage, choosing your realtor, placing or negotiating an offer, the inspection, and the contract. There is so much information, but…… what happens between choosing the realtor and placing the offer? We are missing the most important part of all: CHOOSING THE HOME!  

Deciding on one of the biggest investments you will ever make, whether it is your forever home or your starter apartment, is a happy and exciting event, not the cause of so much frustration and stress.  So, why is it that no one talks about how to decide wisely? Is it because it is subjective? personal? An individual choice? There is no doubt that all those reasons are right, but there is a way to ease the selection process and make it meaningful and purposeful, a system to help you get the confidence all newbie home buyers need, and for that matter, all property buyers.

There is so much information, but…… what happens between choosing the realtor and placing the offer? We are missing the most important part of all: CHOOSING THE HOME!  

So, where do we start? With you! Your lifestyle, your future plans, your needs, and your budget. It is all about you. Think of these as the 4 wheels of a car that need to be aligned for it to run smoothly. 

A word of caution before we get going, please know that if you are sharing your decision with somebody else, this is the time to bring him/her/them on board. Two or more people looking for a house can be very tricky. You are supposed to work as a team. Let’s face it, you may not be fully aware of what they have in mind or, as I call them, the untold expectations: the ones we simply take for granted or assume everybody knows or expects too. Not communicating those expectations can bring surprises along the way. No kidding! You may be shocked to find out that your partner prefers a larger bathroom than more kitchen storage. Start the conversation early and before you begin touring homes. Avoiding heartaches and arguments is already a good reason to make that a priority. So, start off with the right foot, some pen and paper, zero judgment and a good dose of open and sincere communication.

Now, you are ready!  And the first step is identifying your lifestyle. The following questions will get you started: 

  • How many hours do I work from home?
  • What hobbies or interests do I have?
  • Do I teach from home?
  • Do I constantly have overnight guests?
  • Do I store a large number of seasonal items?
  • Do I have collections to display
  • Do I have a physical disability
  • Do I love watching movies, cooking, listening to music, etc? 

As you answer truthfully, consider your future plans too: whether your family will grow or not, changes in your career, new hobbies, family dynamics, etc. A good look into your immediate future will add value to your search. Once you have considered these two key points, you are better prepared to determine what you will need in your new house. Your lifestyle will tell you that. 

Your next step is prioritizing your needs based on what matters most to you, the ones that impact your day to day life the most. I also recommend to 

  1. Divide the rest of your needs into medium and low priority, 
  2. Write down the reason why each one is a priority. This may seem trivial to you, but trust me! It will keep your focus. 
  3. Make sure your “team” goes through this exercise together and if you worked on a separate list, compare notes, priorities, and reason. The ideal scenario is that you will have one clearly-defined list of prioritized needs. 

In the late ’90s, our little family of 3 moved from Toronto, Canada, to my native country of Panama. Motivated by my dad, I got involved in real estate and specialized in foreigners who, relocated by their companies, were looking for a place to live. It didn´t take long to realize that most people start their home buying journey with an idea of what they want and like, but as they see the options in the market, those wants and likes start shifting. 

Our clients were faced with conflicting decisions, like choosing between an older and more spacious apartment with a large balcony, and a newer and smaller unit, but with a great social area and swimming pool. Some had never considered they could afford an oceanfront condo or that living in a trendy neighborhood surrounded by restaurants would be attractive to them. Moreso, the more they saw, the more they wanted. The more they wanted, the more they deviated from their budget. Result: confusion and not knowing what to choose. The only solution was to bring them back to what was important to them from the very beginning, analyzing their reasons and deciding which ones were a must and which could be compromised. 

Do not start your home buying journey without defining your must´s, but make sure you understand why they are important to you. Download my Free Guide and use it as a compass to help you navigate back to you, as you enter ‘home buyers territory’. You got this!

Jessica Velazquez designer

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