House shopping is an exciting endeavor that is filled with multiple choices. Few are able to find exactly what they are looking for on the first day of house hunting. Most spend a considerable amount of time exploring different options. One’s initial expectation rarely matches the available homes on the market. Creating an individualized home buyer wish list can minimize stress and ease the home buying process.
Decades ago, I went searching for a new home in suburban Chicago. I initially started looking at homes in Highland Park. I quickly learned that my desired location would cause me to live in a much smaller home than I desired. I compromised by selecting a nearby suburb. In Northbrook, I found a newer and larger home without sacrificing the quality of my children’s education.
Eighteen years later, I relocated to Colorado. I used the Internet to search for available properties. My first choice was once again a prime area, Boulder. The price per square foot was higher than any of the surrounding areas and there was a limited amount of new construction. When I drove through Boulder, I ended up in a traffic jam near the university and also visited schools that were older and not as well maintained as my sons’ Northbrook schools. Did I really want to live in Boulder? I started to expand my house search.
I found Superior, a family friendly community. It met the needs of what I was looking for in a neighborhood- great schools and recreational facilities. The location provided easy access to the places I went to frequently. Additionally, I found houses that met the standards on my wish list. The only remaining compromise was whether I wanted to pay an additional cost for an amazing lot or pay for a semi-custom home with flexible options to purchase extra amenities. I could not afford both a premium lot and a house loaded with extras. I chose putting my money into a new house rather than the lot. It was not known whether some of the premium lots would always have an amazing view.
Now that my husband and I are empty nesters our home is on the market. We have decided to downsize. The Boulder Daily Camera recently cited a ranking by Nerdwallet.com that listed Superior as the Best Town in Colorado for Young Families. While the home prices in Superior have increased, real estate values in Boulder have continued to escalate at a higher rate. Superior remains a reasonably priced place to live.
I realize that my choice to build on a lot without a mountain view may not appeal to everyone. Nevertheless, I am hoping that a potential buyer will have a wish list that is similar to the one I created 13 years ago.
Which of these items would you include in your home buyer wish list?
- Area that carries a premium price or great community minus a hefty price tag
- Corner lot or middle of the block
- Lot with or without a view
- Lot that faces directly into neighbors’ house(s) or has some distance from neighbors
- Small lot- less maintenance
- Larger lot- more upkeep
- Flat lot or sloped lot
- Proximity- work, schools, neighborhood parks/swimming pool, airport, shopping, health clubs, houses of worship, etc.
- Known potential hazards- nearby landfills, nuclear power plants, airports, etc.
- Quality school system
- Newer buildings or more established infrastructure
- Park and recreational facilities- swimming, tennis, hiking and biking trails, ice skating, sledding hills, etc.
- Public transportation
- Nearby shopping/restaurants
- Reasonable taxes
- HOA dues and what is included
- Size of town
- Diverse population
- Homogeneous population
- Traffic and congestion
- Public services- police, fire, road maintenance, utilities, etc.
- New construction or existing home
- Type- ranch, 2 story, or bi-level
- Basement- underground, garden level, or walkout
- Garage-attached, unattached, or none
- Square footage
- Upgraded finishes- granite, quartz, marble, slate, imported tiles, hardwood floor, solid core doors, stained wood, etc
- Standard finishes- laminates, vinyl floors, simple tiles, inexpensive carpeting, hollow doors, etc.
- Landscaping- minimal effort or added bonus
- Noticeable structural issues
- Age of existing home (newer-older)
- Move-in condition/well-maintained
- Unkempt- many things to replace or repair
- Neutral décor
- Latest styles
- Traditional decorating
- Gourmet kitchen
- Up-to-date appliances, hot water heaters, sump pump, HVAC, etc.
- Open floor plan
- Compartmentalized rooms
- Number of bathrooms
- Showers versus bathtubs
- Storage space
- Extra amenities- recessed cans, security system, TV & phone jacks, internal vacuum system, surround sound, closet organizers, custom cabinetry, custom window coverings, etc.
Refining Home Buyer Wish List
Start with the above list. Is there anything that you would add or subtract?
Have you created a budget that includes redecorating or replacement costs? Many people opt to paint and replace existing carpeting shortly after taking possession. If so, some of the house items will not be as important since you will be redecorating.
After you have created your individualized home buyer wish list take time to organize your priorities. Can you identify 5-10 things that are your top priority? Keep those items in mind while you search the Internet for a prospective home in your desired price range. Remember to budget for moving costs, closing costs, and any decorating costs that you might anticipate. Make arrangements to visit the homes that meet your criteria.
Good luck finding your next home.
Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India and talks briefly about some of her experiences in Highland Park, Northbrook and Colorado.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, and the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards.