We are lucky that we landed up in a home and a school district that we are so happy with but it’s all LUCK because truth be told, no one ever sat us down to give us some framework for finding a home.
Sometimes, the force driving us to get the heck out of our current home/apartment so completely outweighs everything else that it clouds many of the outlying gripes that we really shouldn’t ignore. For example, if you have 2 kids and a dog in a 700sqft apartment, chances are that all you can think about is space, space, space! Or if you love to cook but you live in a house with a galley kitchen, an electric stove and outdated appliances you probably dream of counters, chrome and gas. Suddenly, all that you can think about it that one feature. But when you move, and you get that sought after space/kitchen/etc, what else will be important to you? Did you give up that attached garage for a slightly bigger living room, but now, 2 winters in, you are pulling your hair out as you lug yet another bag of groceries through the snow? Did you settle on a tiny yard because the kitchen was so shiny and impressive, but now your kids are tall and clunky and they are constantly kicking the soccer ball into the neighbor’s yard?
Sure, nothing is perfect (and depending on your budget, you will probably have to sacrifice something from your wish list) but when we moved from Brooklyn to the ‘burbs, there are a few things that I wish our realtor had recommended we do (and something I ask my own clients to do):
- Get out of your space before you make a wish list. Rent a hotel room for the night or stay at a friend’s house. Sometimes you need distance from your own situation to make an honest assessment of what is important to you. It’s hard to think about anything other than what is driving you crazy when you are staring at that very space.
- Think about where you will be in 5 years time. Are you planning to start or expand your family (that can include pets as well)? Are your kids close to school age? Will they or do they play sports or are they bookworms? Do you hope to make a career change? All of these things impact what and where you will look.
- Take a look at where you spend the most time in your house and where you WANT to spend the most time. Maybe you dream of sipping tea on a comfy couch by a fireplace but in reality you spend the most time in the kitchen making breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- What does an average day look like? Are you up before the sun and home after dark most days? Is sunlight a hot commodity? Maybe natural light or a sunroom is going to be a non-negotiable.
- Map out a route from the supermarket, pharmacy, playground, urgent care, vet, pediatrician, wine shop, dry cleaners etc.
- Get to know your neighbors before they are neighbors. Drive through the neighborhoods that you are interested in on the weekends and evenings. Knock on doors – don’t be shy (these very well be the people you will be living next door to). Check out online neighborhood forums.
- Even if you have babies, get to know your local schools. Play in the playground one afternoon. Meet the Principal and ask him/her if he can give you the numbers of a few PTA members that you can chat with.
- Assess where your parents will be in 5-10 years. If you have elderly parents, will they need to live with you at some point? This may dictate what layout will be right for you. Are there 50+ communities around you?
- Factor in the expenses of living in a house above and beyond your mortgage and insurance. This is a BIG one and something I was totally unaware of having grown up in the city.
- And finally, dream…nothing is out of reach. Be realistic in what you can afford but don’t hesitate to add the icing items to your list.
I would love to hear about what questions you may have asked yourself or thought about before moving! Happy HUNTING.