It’s often been said that “what you are looking for is seeking you”. And when it comes to real estate, the house you are looking for might pass you by if you don’t really know what you are looking for. Let me ask you this. Do you know with complete certainty what your “dream” home looks like? Whether you are a potential home buyer who is just beginning your home search, or have been looking for a house for months, this article is for you.
Defining Your “Dream” Home
If you are unclear about what you are looking for in your next home, it can lead to a roadblock that hinders you in moving forward with making an offer on a house. A lack of clarity can give rise to that feeling of “not wanting to make a mistake”. The result? You might not feel comfortable making an offer to purchase a house. And if you are seeing one house after another house over a few months and not making any offers, you may start to feel that you might never find a house! Buyer fatigue can set in and you may decide to “sit on the sidelines” and wait it out until the market changes.
Is this really the road you want to go down? I’m here to suggest that there is another way. A more productive way. House hunting needs to “begin with the end in mind”.
House Hunting: Begin With The End in Mind
One of the exciting components of the house buying journey is the opportunity to imagine what your dream home will look like. After all, who doesn’t like to daydream?
When you think about your next home and what you are looking for, ask yourself what is prompting you to move. For example, are you moving to a new area as a result of a job change? Are you moving because you’ve simply outgrown your current space? Or maybe you or a family member have a change in health and now need a different climate or a home with fewer stairs to climb. Perhaps you have been renting for awhile and now you feel it is the right time to buy a home. No doubt, you will have a very specific reason for making your move. And it is this reason that will serve as a “springboard” for creating a vision of your dream home.
It is not uncommon, however, for many home seekers to jump directly onto the internet and filter their real estate search using basic criteria, such as the number of bedrooms and baths. And it you’ve ever scrolled the internet browsing at houses, you know how quickly this can get overwhelming. With so many choices, even when housing inventory may be limited, the houses you are looking at might blur together.
You see, a house for sale that offers 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, for example, can come in a multitude of choices. And that’s just your initial search criteria! If you are a first-time home buyer, you might not know just how many other home factors to consider, let alone, which factors are most important to you. Add into the decision-making mix a spouse or partner, for example, and you might be surprised that both of you are not quite on the same page about what you are looking for in a house.
So if you are wondering how to “begin with the end in mind” in your home buying journey, read on!
The Value of Touring a House In-Person
Like clothing fabric is to your skin, a house connects to your senses. In essence, you need to “try it on”. House hunting requires an in-person experience. Endless browsing on the internet won’t necessarily give you a true sense of what it is like to be in the house.
Step away from your computer (or phone) and tour the house in-person. Ask yourself, “How does the house feel to you?” And even more importantly, “What does your heart say?” Or in other words, how do you feel in the house. Can you identify what specifically it is about a particular house that resonates with you and what you love about it? You will need to peel away the layers and discover the answer. Each property for sale that features, let’s say 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, will feel differently to you when you explore the home’s interior and exterior up close.
It is important to go ahead and see homes in-person even when you think it is not your ideal home. Why? Because each house you tour provides “clues” or insight as to what you like and don’t like. There are things that you might never have thought of. However, when you see a home in-person, you may realize that some of those things are actually quite significant to you. These things, when combined, will provide you with a clearer portrait of your dream home. And the sooner you can tour homes in-person, the easier it will be to know if you’ve found your dream home and the home that is meant for you.
Discovering the “Boxes” that Comprise Your Dream Home Checklist
When you start your home buying journey and identify those initial homes to tour in-person, it is best to have a “barometer” that can reflect how each home differs from one another and guage how you respond to each house. A barometer? Okay. Let me explain.
When home buyers look at a home in-person, there is a lot to observe beyond whether the home has, for example, an updated kitchen or a large primary bedroom. To help guide you through the house finding process, you can benefit by working with an experienced realtor. By tapping into the expertise of a realtor early in your home search, you will have the “barometer” you need to help you create the “boxes” on your checklist that comprise your dream home.
An expert realtor can help you “peel away the layers” of any home so that you, as the potential home buyer, know what you are looking at when touring the home. There is so much to take in when looking at a house in-person, especially in an ultra-competitive market when you may have only 20 minutes to tour the property before the next buyer showing appointment.
Seeing homes together with your realtor sets the foundation for you to discover the “boxes” that are most important to you. When I show homes to my clients, either during a public open house or at a private showing appointment, the important “boxes” are discovered early on which saves so much more time and energy. It also makes the home finding process much more productive, as well as enjoyable! And it all begins with identifying how you want to “feel” in your dream home and how you envision your life to flow in your new home. Does this approach sound like it might reduce the “overwhelm” when you are house hunting?
Initial Elements for Crafting Your Dream Home
To help you get started with imagining your “dream” home, I’ve highlighted a handful of elements to consider for building your personal checklist. They are not shown in any particular order of importance, as that is something that would be unique to you.
1. The Kitchen is often described as the “heart” of the home. If you are a foodie and like to cook and entertain, the layout and condition of the kitchen may be a deal breaker if it doesn’t match your expectations. Some home buyers, for example, may choose a smaller, updated kitchen over a larger kitchen that needs updating, yet has a center island and space for a breakfast table. One of my clients enjoys baking and so a kitchen with great counter space was a high priority on her dream home checklist. After we toured some houses together, my client found her dream home that had the perfect kitchen with plenty of counter space!
2. Gathering Spaces is an increasingly popular term used for describing various areas of the home, such as the Living Room, Family Room, Great Room, Den, etc. With the growing trend of an open floor plan design favored by many of today’s home buyers, the removal of walls in some homes can create “gathering spaces”. Gathering spaces can be customized to the owner’s personal lifestyle. As a realtor, I often get the question from my clients, “Why does the house have both a formal Living Room and a Family Room? For many buyers, all that is needed is a “gathering space” where everyone can enjoy being together. What does a “gathering space” look like to you in your dream home?
3. The placement and size of Bedrooms in a house is something that can just as easily excite or disappoint home buyers. There is wide variation in the layout of bedrooms depending on the style and overall square footage of a home. For example, in a Cape Cod style home in Northern New Jersey, there may be 2 bedrooms on the 1st floor and an additional 2 bedrooms on the second floor. In contrast, a 1920’s colonial may have 3 or 4 bedrooms on the second floor, while a ranch-style home may have all the bedrooms on the same floor as the kitchen and living room. Similarly, a Victorian, split-level, brand new construction, etc. will have its own unique layout and placement of bedrooms. Where do you envision the bedrooms to be located in your dream home? All on one floor? Or might you prefer a primary bedroom suite on a separate floor away from other bedrooms?
4. The number of Bathrooms in a home can be a deal breaker if there aren’t enough to accommodate the size of your household. It is often easier to update a bathroom than to add a brand new one. For some buyers, however, the amenities associated with a bathroom (e.g. ensuite, spa tub, oversized stall shower, double vanities, etc.) are a more important consideration than the actual number of bathrooms (full and half baths).
5. The Room Flow of the home is something that is best experienced when you visit the house in-person. Online photos are often unable to convey how the rooms may or may not seamlessly flow from one to another. When touring homes with my buyers, I frequently hear them describe a house as being “too choppy”. The rooms themselves may be great, but the overall house might not have an easy flow. Sometimes a wall or two can be removed to open up the space to enhance the room flow in the house. If you really like the house but not the room flow, you might want to meet with an architect or contractor to determine what can be done to create a different room flow that works for you.
6. Dining Spaces have become increasingly more important to potential home buyers since the pandemic. The ease of entertaining at home around a table or breakfast bar/center island is often what makes a house a “home”. How formal do you envision your dining experience at home? In many older homes, for example, the dining room is often separate from the kitchen. In contrast, the breakfast room in some newer homes may disappear completely in favor of a larger scale kitchen, and the wall to the formal dining room may be knocked down, creating a more open area that is ideal for both formal and informal dining.
7. With more people working from home, either on a full or part time basis, the At-Home Office space has become a key home design feature sought by many home buyers. Sometimes a bedroom can be transformed into an office space, or alternatively a portion of an open area in the house can be created as an at-home work space. Do you have a need for one or more areas of your dream home to be devoted to working from home?
8. Outdoor Space has taken on more significance after months of being at home during the pandemic. What does your outdoor space look like to you in your dream home? Are you imagining a home with an in-ground pool? Some of my potential home buyers want a private oasis with lots of trees, while others want an area they can create a vegetable and herb garden. And for my buyers who have pets, a fenced in backyard is often very important!
Stay True to Your Home Vision
Getting the home you want that feels meant for you is exciting and cannot be underestimated as it sets the trajectory of your life for the years ahead. When you have clarity of what your dream home is all about from the outset of your house hunting journey, you will be on the right path to help ensure the house you want doesn’t pass you by. Begin with the end in mind. Work with an experienced realtor who can be that “barometer” as discussed above to help guide you in finding your dream house and negotiate your best offer terms to make your dream a reality. After all, there is nothing like the experience of owning your dream home and having a place that is truly yours to create heartwarming memories for many years to come.
Did you miss my previous article? Simply click on the hyperlink: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/2023-housing-market-unraveling-myth-every-home-sells-above-minken/
Got questions? Reach out to me at 908-239-9261 or via email: [email protected]. I’ve got you covered from coast to coast, as needed, together with my CØMPASS colleagues in over 300 offices around the country. My mission is to help everyone find their place in the world.
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The 2023 Housing Market: How to Know if the House for Sale is Your Dream Home