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Finding Home Sweet Home

moving on up, scl moves

They say that when it rains, it pours and that’s been true for us lately (in a good way). This summer has seen new jobs for both my hubby and I and, most recently, a new house! We’ve just finished the process of selling our first home and buying our second. It’s been a whirlwind and we’ve learned a lot since buying our first place 4 years ago. We’re moving at the end of the month and I thought I’d share a bit of our experience. I’m not an expert, but if you’re thinking about moving, here are the most valuable pieces of advice I can offer you:

HIRE A GOOD REALTOR

I cannot stress this enough. This was probably the most important decision we made. Hiring the right realtor can really set the tone for your entire home buying experience. Sure, it’s going to cost you a bit in the end if you’re selling (if you’re buying, the costs are paid by the seller), but their knowledge and guidance is invaluable. We had a negative experience when we bought our first house. We didn’t really know what we were doing and we felt rushed through the process. Instead of taking the time to find someone we connected with, we essentially just called up a real estate office and took the first person who was available.

The second time around we did our research. We hired a realtor who had worked with one of our neighbours and came highly recommended. He met with us several times,  helped us understand the market, and asked questions we wouldn’t even have thought of. If you’re in the Fraser Valley area of British Columbia, I cannot recommend Scott Napier enough. He made this entire process so painless and stress-free.

STAGE YOUR SPACE

When people are looking at your house or the pictures of your listing, you want them to be able to imagine themselves living in your space. Nothing makes this more difficult than cluttered, disorganized rooms or personal photos all over the place.

I’m the kind of person who looks at photos of a listing and decides immediately whether or not I want to look at it (more about why that’s a bad idea later). When we started looking online, I was absolutely blown away by some of the listings I saw. Kitchens with dirty dishes and garbage all over the counters, rooms with toys everywhere, giant wedding portraits on the wall….you get the idea.

When we looked at houses like this, it always gave me the feeling that I was intruding in someone else’s space instead of imagining how that space could work for me.  On our realtor’s recommendation, we decluttered and depersonalized our home, putting anything that didn’t fit the bill into storage. It helped us get a jump-start on packing and get rid of a lot of things. The results were pretty incredible, making the whole place feel bigger.  A small investment in time and money (renting the storage space for a month), but well worth it in the end.

LET GO OF YOUR EMOTIONS

You love your home. You’ve made memories in it, you’ve put work into,  you’re convinced that any new homeowner would be lucky to buy it. It’s easy to overestimate the value of your home because you’re emotionally attached to it. At the end of the day, it’s just a building and it’s worth is determined by the market. Let go of your expectations of what you think your house is worth, and listen to what the market tells you it’s worth.

You might get lucky like us and find out that it’s worth more than you thought (side note: we do live in one of the hottest real estate markets in Canada right now), or you might find that it’s not anywhere near what you were hoping for. This can be because of anything including demand, recent neighbourhood changes, interest rates, seasons – your realtor can help you look at comparables in the area and get a true sense of what your property is likely to go for.

Depending on what you find, you might decide it’s not the right time for you to sell. But it’s important to know what a good, reasonable offer is based on your home and the market so you don’t find yourself unable to sell. Think about what your minimum accepted offer would be, take a look at what the market dictates you’re likely to get, and then decide if it’s really the right time to sell depending on where those numbers fall.

KNOW YOUR MUST HAVES

Have a list of those nonnegotiables that must be present in order for you to buy. This is important to communicate to your realtor and to keep in your head so you don’t waste your time looking at properties that won’t fit the bill. Our must  haves were:

  • Ensuite
  • Master bedroom must fit king size bed
  • At least 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms
  • Open concept
  • Newer build (move-in ready)
  • Near public transit
  • Easy access to the highway

Yours will be different depending on you and your family’s needs, but having this written down at the outset can be hugely helpful, especially if there are a lot of properties on the market.

MAKE A WISHLIST

Your wishlist has things that aren’t deal breakers but would be definite assets. The ‘nice to haves’, if you will. This can be helpful when you’re deciding whether or not to make an offer on a property or how much you’re willing to spend. Some of our wishlist items were:

  • Double vanity in the ensuite
  • Kitchen island
  • Green outdoor space (this can be hard to come by in the Lower Mainland)
  • No carpet

Our wishlist is really small and straightforward, but yours might have things about parking or playgrounds or proximity to shopping.

KNOW YOUR BUDGET

Banks are notorious for offering people more than they can actually afford when it comes to mortgages. Do your research, make a budget, and figure out what you can really afford and what you’re comfortable spending. Nobody wants to be house poor. If you’re planning to spend more on your new place than you’re currently paying for mortgage or rent, I recommend trying to live within that new budget until you find your new property. You’ll get to see how feasible it actually is, and you can put the extra money away for the expenses that will inevitably creep up when you move.

SET A LIMIT

Make an agreement with yourself or your partner about the most you are willing to spend. When you fall in love with a property, especially if you live somewhere where bidding wars are common, you can easily get swept up in the excitement and offer more than you can really afford. Set that limit and be ready to walk away if it goes beyond that point. There will always be another property.

LOOK BEYOND WHAT YOU SEE

Remember earlier when I talked about overlooking places because of the photos? Don’t be like me. There are a lot of great spaces that are maybe outdated or are not decorated to your taste that might be perfect for you otherwise. What would that room look like with a new coat of paint? What if that carpet was replaced with wood floors? Is the kitchen layout just what you were looking for but the cupboards are a mess? How would the bedroom look without all that furniture in it? If you’re willing or able to put in a little time or money, these places might be exactly what you’re looking for underneath all those distractions. Renovations can always be done over time, but be honest with yourself about what’s reasonable for you to take on.

CRUISE THE NEIGHBOURHOOD

Before you make an offer, take a walk or drive through the area to get a feel for it. What are the people like? Are there any shops, parks, or restaurants nearby? How far is it from work and what’s the commute like? Is there street parking nearby (huge if you’re moving into a townhouse or condo)? Where’s the closest grocery store? See if the neighbourhood fits your vibe and if you can imagine yourself living there.

GET AN INSPECTION

Things may look on the up and up, but it’s worth the cost to get an inspection done. This can help you identify any major issues or repairs that will need to be done so you can adjust your offer accordingly – or maybe walk away entirely!

DON’T OVER THINK IT!

Sometimes when you know, you know. If something feels right, meets your needs, and is in your price range,  go for it! Don’t spend too much time second guessing yourself. You might end up missing out on something that has everything you’re looking for.

Our first place has served us well, and we know that the lovely new family moving into it is really excited.  We can’t wait to get into our new home and really make it our own. We have quite a few updates and projects planned, and I’ll be sharing them, of course. I hope you’ll follow along! Have you bought or sold a home recently? Share your best tips, tricks, and things to avoid in the comments below!

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