Purchasing a home can be tricky. We’ve done it a few times — four to be exact — and we’ve learned a few things in the process. Just to fill in a few personal details so you can see our needs; we have five children, all of whom were still young and living at home when we made all of these purchases. When you have children, there is so much more to consider when buying a home. Here are three important things we’ve learned.
1. Look at the neighbors
When you buy a house, you buy a neighborhood. We carefully considered this in each of our searches. Look at the homes on your block to see if properties are well groomed. They don’t have to be lavishly landscaped, but need to be at least nicely kept. If trash is cluttering up parts of the yards, you may want to move on. The way people take care of their property is usually an indication of how they live their personal lives, not that your neighbors need to be perfect. That’s not reality, but there are some indicators of decency.
Notice if children are playing outside, riding, bikes, etc. That’s a good sign. You want a neighborhood that will welcome your children.
2. Pray for guidance
Several years ago when we moved from southern California to Salt Lake City, Utah we had a few things in mind that mattered to us. We told the realtor we wanted a formal dining room, an entry-way hall, and a master bedroom with a bathroom. Also, brick would be nice. Interestingly, we didn’t mention any of these in our prayers. We simply asked God to guide us to a home that we could afford, with good schools for our children, a church where we would feel welcomed and a home we could enjoy as a family.
As it turned out our prayers were answered, but none of the requests we made of the realtor were. On a whim, he took us to a wood-frame house that had been remodeled, had no entry hall, no formal dining room, and no bathroom in the master bedroom (remodeling took care of that later — if there was one thing this old house knew how to do it was be remodeled).
In spite of what it didn’t have, when we walked into this house we knew we were home. There is a feeling you get when you find the right place for your family, especially when you’ve been praying about it. It was within our budget, the schools were perfect for our children including our special-needs child, and the people we met at church became our dear friends. We enjoyed this home for the next seven years.
3. Be willing to compromise a few things to get most of what you want
. When we moved to a different city, the searching process began, again. The only thing we told the realtor we didn’t want was a split-entry home. (When will we ever learn?) You guessed it, the house we fell in love with the moment we entered had a split entry. It had everything else we wanted, including all of the things we prayed for, yet again: good schools, church, within our budget, and a home we would enjoy.
The house had never been lived in but was a year old. The day the realtor took us to see it the price had dropped $4,000, putting it in our designated range. We asked why it hadn’t sold. He said, “It’s the color. You’ll see when we get there.” The wood siding on the top half was a salmon/pink color. Dreadful. The bottom half was brick. Perfect. We thought if we really liked it the color could easily be changed. So we went inside. The entry, though split, was roomy and beautifully designed. The rest of the house was just right.
We have lived in this house for many years, and yes, we did repaint. Actually, the paint started to peel within the warranty time, so there was no cost to repainting it a different color. We considered it a tender mercy from the one who guided us to the house. As home designs changed we remodeled to update it. No way were we going to move away from this neighborhood.
All of our kids basically grew up here. They loved the neighborhood, as did we, and still do. It backs onto a small ravine where the kids spent hours exploring and, in the winter, sledding. Now the grandkids love it for the same reasons. Our kids say, “Please don’t ever move. We love coming home for visits.” We have no plans to move, at least not in any near future. Maybe when we can no longer navigate the split entry stairs. Although, studies show that stairs in a home are excellent for keeping owners healthy. We don’t mind them at all. It beats a membership at the gym.
Follow these three suggestions and you’ll likely end up being happy with your decision. If you go beyond your budget, your house will own you instead of you owning it. Be practical, not extravagant. When you walk into the right house, it’s almost like you’ll hear it whisper, “Pick me! Pick me!”