September 2013 Blogs

3 Home Buying Compromises To Never Make:

Say the word compromise to two different people and you’ll get very different reactions. To perfectionists, compromise sounds like lowering standards, giving up or giving in.  To peacemakers, compromise implies a willingness to be flexible to make sure all sides get their needs met.

And to homeowners, compromise can sound downright wrong – especially considering that you’re pouring thousands and thousands of your hard-earned dollars into this purchase.

When buying a home, compromises are necessary - period. Ask any million dollar listing agent: there’s no such thing as a perfect house. Whether you’re spending millions on an amazing estate or starting out with a 5 figure tract home, there will undoubtedly be something you feel like you’re missing or could be better “if only it had been built like this.”  Even people who build their own houses have regrets and things they would do differently if they could do it over again.

That said, there is a short list of items I believe home buyers should simply not compromise on – period.  This is mostly from having seen so many cases of buyer’s regret in the years after closing, in cases where no-no compromises were made.  Here are a few items I suggest you be a stickler on.

1.  Commutability of location.  I have seen old house lovers buy mid-century moderns and learn to love them.  I have watched country folk embrace urban living and vice versa.  But never have I seen someone who wanted to be less than 10 minutes from work buy a home an hour’s drive away and have the commute grow on them.

Some people simply don’t mind commuting. They might even like the mashup of having more suburban square feet, calm and quiet at home while working in a lively, urban environment.  By no means am I suggesting that a long commute is a bad thing, by definition.

But if you’re the type of person who cringes at the prospect of taking a train, bus, or bike or even a long morning and afternoon drive, and you know this at the start of your house hunt - don’t talk yourself out of it.  Chances are slim that you’re going to grow to love a couple of extra hours of travel time added to your workday. Actually, chances are quite good that you’ll grow to hate them.

2.  Saving and investing line items in your monthly budget.  Sometimes compromise means deciding what things you can do without. When it comes to home buying, the lifestyle change of sacrificing things you were able to afford pre-ownership is so common there’s a name for it: "house poor." ("House poor" really refers to this sacrificing behavior at its most extreme. Many homeowners would happily trade a few dinners out and the occasional new pair of shoes for being able to afford their home, hands down.)

Home ownership usually requires a shift in financial priorities, and that may impact the dollar amounts you would otherwise put toward savings and investing, even in best case scenarios.  If you believe that your home is a good investment, this can make total and complete sense.

But the compromise home buyers should avoid is the total redirection of cash that was previously being invested or saved into the home’s monthly mortgage payment, décor and furnishing, remodeling or other upgrades.  When you run your own personal monthly budget before you meet with the mortgage broker, don’t eliminate these line items entirely to inflate what you can afford to spend on a monthly basis.

Being house poor is unpleasant.  Being house poor and without any savings or retirement plan is really unpleasant. To boot, it actually endangers your home over the long term.  Homeowners who have no cash cushion of savings are completely vulnerable to losing their homes if they experience even a temporary loss in income due to job loss or illness.

3.  Home warranty.  If you’re very flush with cash, the mere thought of going without a home warranty might seem crazy. But there are loads of buyers who are putting every cent they have into their transaction.  In those sorts of situations, every line item on the closing statement gets scrutiny, and the home warranty is one some people consider striking out.

Whatever you do, don’t compromise on having a home warranty. If you think you’re strapped for cash at closing, chances are good it will take you a while to get used to the new financial obligations that are part and parcel of home ownership. The mortgage payment is just the beginning; there’s also property taxes, homeowner insurance, HOA dues (if applicable), special assessments, utilities you might not have been paying as a renter (e.g., garbage and water), and all the little personal touches you want to put on the place.

Over the years, many home owners reflect wistfully back on the days when they had the ability to call the landlord to fix anything that ever broke down. Truth is, even as a homeowner, if you have a home warranty policy, you do have a go-to number to call if many of your home’s major systems break down – and depending on the repairs you need, the policy might cover what ails your home.

If you decide to forego a home warranty for whatever reason, you are putting yourself in a situation where anything that goes wrong after closing is 100% your responsibility, whatever the cost.  Some buyers get confused, thinking the home warranty is redundant with their homeowners insurance, so they don’t need it. Don’t let confusion mislead you down a path of exposure:  ask your agent to include a term whereby the seller pays for your home warranty right in your offer.  Most sellers will.  If yours doesn’t, compromise on the flat-screen TV before you compromise on the home warranty.




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