buying a house

i do not go about buying houses the way other people do.  i do not tend to make a big list, or to go see lots of houses, or wander around thinking about which neighborhood i want to be in.  it makes sense to do these things, but it is just not the way i go about it.

i have owned five houses (one at a time).  each one i have chosen before i even walked into it.  each one i knew was in the location i was wanting, each one had, from the outside, the possibility i was looking for.  each one i visited for the first time with trepidation-- hoping against hope that it would have all the things i had imagined it had.  i rarely looked at any other houses, i rarely thought about this house's bedroom compared with that house's kitchen.

HOWEVER-- i do not advise you to follow my example on this one.  i do have advice that you can follow if you are thinking about buying a house:

1) take your time finding the right house, but be ready to jump when you find it.  houses, no matter how long they have been on the market, have a habit of becoming attractive to multiple people as soon as they become attractive to one person.

2) buy the house with the best potential for you and your family.  what is the commute like to work? to the grocery store? what are the schools like (if you have children)? does it have room (and sunlight) for your vegetable garden? your pottery studio? your motorcycles? your dog?  AND-- because most people should not move as much as i do-- can you imagine yourself and your family here in ten years?

3) know what you are taking on and if it works for you.  this is about how big a project the house is.  does it have plaster falling off the walls?   knob and tube wiring? a yard the size of central park that is in total disarray?  at different points in my life i have been willing to take on enormous projects-- houses that take years of my life to put back together-- but you need to know up front what is involved, and whether you want to do those projects or not.

4) know what your price is before you start negotiating-- know from your bank what you can actually afford, and then trust your gut about what price feels right.  i know that is not very clear advice-- but every one of my houses has had a 'gut number' attached to it, and no matter how long i owned it or what happened in the market, the only one i lost money on was the one i did not follow my gut in relationship to the price.

5) be patient and flexible.  buying and selling houses is an incredibly stressful emotional process.  it can take days to months to work out a deal, and you will perhaps have to deal with all kinds of the personal stuff of the people selling the house.  roll with it as best you can.  take deep breaths, go for walks, watch movies, go to yoga classes-- whatever helps you to stay focussed and handle stress.  be willing to adjust your price by a couple of thousand, be willing to let go of the washer and dryer, be willing to wait another week-- keep your eyes on the prize of living in that house and you will get through whatever the negotiating process throws at you.

and good luck!


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