The Do’s and Don’ts of Buying a Home
Now that the real estate market likely will not continue to rise significantly in value every year, it is even more important for homebuyers to make smart choices to buy the right house for them and to protect their investment long-term. Here are some do’s and don’ts I have learned.
Don't buy a house on a busy road, even if the price looks attractive. In a normal or down market they are very difficult to re-sell. Plus, it tends to be noisier and riskier for children.
Don't buy a house on a steep slope, especially a backyard that slopes towards the house, unless there is a trade-off of a million-dollar view. Steeply sloped lots are more difficult and more expensive to maintain, impractical for children, are more likely to cause foundation and seepage issues, more likely to experience fallen trees and are inconvenient for those with even mild mobility impairment.
Don't buy a house that is buyer-specific – for example, something that you like but hardly anyone else will - unless it is something that can be changed easily, like a polka dot kitchen and all ceilings painted black (seen it). While it might seem like you are getting a deal, it will be difficult to re-sell, and you are more likely to experience buyer’s remorse. Buy a house that always will appeal to a large pool of buyers.
Don't worry about days on market. Many days on market actually is an opportunity because it means something is wrong. 80% of the time it means the price is wrong, which means it is negotiable and other buyers have disappeared already. 20% of the time there is something really weird/undesirable about the house - if it can be changed easily (mirrored walls and ceilings) then good, if it cannot be changed easily (gas station next door), then bad.
Don't get caught up in a frenzy of multiple offers and over pay for a house. Those people will get burned later on. Work with me to get a solid evaluation of property values and offer accordingly, regardless of the asking price, and understand that there will always be another house if someone outbids you. Secondly, be objective and don’t get emotionally attached to the house until you have a contract on it. A house is not a spouse.
Do buy with the thought of re-selling in mind. Which properties/areas likely will always hold their value and be easy to re-sell and get you a profit when you need to sell? Drive neighborhoods, get out and walk around, and trust your sixth sense. If it doesn't feel right, probably it never will.
Do consider houses that aren't perfect. The perfect ones get a premium price, like a new car that loses value as soon as you drive it off the lot. Understand the difference between problems that can be fixed (bad paint, bad landscaping, outdated bath) and those that cannot (next to a gas station, on a busy road, in a high crime area, an architectural nightmare etc..).
Do evaluate crime stats in areas that are outside of the neighborhoods you are very familiar with but you believe are worth considering. Usually your sixth sense will be sufficient for this as long as you have feet on the ground walking around the neighborhoods, but still it is worth looking at stats. Asking a Realtor which neighborhoods are safe is not appropriate though they can help with finding data and how to evaluate it.
Do consider the current and future quality of the school districts even if your children will not attend or you do not have children. This directly impacts your family if you have school-age children of course, and tends to be reflected in future property value and neighborhood improvements. Seek online stats, talk to parents, be careful with social media as sometimes images gets skewed by people with an intent to trash or bolster a certain school district. Fake news exists, so verify your information.
If you do need to compromise (and we all do even if we are buying a $10 million house) lean more towards favoring a location and compromising on space if possible. That said, people all have minimum space comfort levels which could push you out to a neighborhood outside your target neighborhood. Don't compromise on blighted areas (the odds of change make it risky), high relative crime or what you consider to be school districts not up to your standards though.
Do plan ahead. Even though the market is starting to ease it is likely the DC metro area will stay relatively strong compared to the rest of the country so it could take some time to find the right house for you and it is best not to feel rushed or pushed into something.