As an accountant, my mind is wired in a way where I need everything to make sense. I ask questions about pretty much everything – big or small; for entertainment or for necessity. Writing out pros and cons isn’t unusual, either. This is all because I want to be able to analyze the possible outcomes in order to make an educated decision.
So when we went to purchase our first house many years ago, we were house hunting in an area a few hours from where we lived. It was Los Angeles… Everything was a few hours from where you lived. Anyway, we needed to make the most of every meeting with the real estate agent, so I sat down and made a checklist. Each time we have moved since then, I’ve amended it to make it fitting my current interests or needs.
As you know, we used to live in Los Angeles but decided to relocate to Iowa after the kids were born. House-hunting requires actually seeing the house so we needed a plan. Our trip to Iowa was only a few days and part of that time was dedicated to actually seeing family. In our schedule, we had allotted one full day for house hunting. Before our visit, we talked with an agent. Thankfully, I still had trusted contacts from my days as a Chairperson on the Chamber of Commerce Small Business Council. We told her some of our basic requirements: school district, minimum house size and three car garage. If it met those requirements, we wanted to see it.
When it came time to meet her, she had a stack and assured us we wouldn’t be able to make it through all of them. She had NO idea who she was dealing with.
As we pulled up to a house, we made notes of the exterior and initial impression. If we didn’t like the location or feel of the neighborhood, we moved along. It took a handful of houses before our agent got the feel for what our process was: walk in, look for our checklist points, document and… Next house, please.
If you’re house-hunting and want to do it Brady-style, here is what you’ll need:
- A good agent who will let you control the pace
- A digital camera or smart phone for taking photos/short videos
- Our handy-dandy house hunting checklist. Print a stack of them so you have one for each house you plan to visit. Print out a few extras in case you tour an open house or add a last minute one to the list.
- A stapler. Attach the completed checklist to the listing provided by the agent as well as any flyers or information you pick up for each house.
To help ensure the success, here is the process you will want to implement:
- Examine the neighborhood If good, tour the home
- Take a few photos to help jar our memory if it ended up a front runner
- Make notes on the spreadsheet about pros and cons
- Rate each house on a scale of 1 to 10.
- Revisit the front runners for follow-up walk-thrus; talk to some of the neighbors, if possible.
- Go to the house AT NIGHT. You learn so much about a neighborhood when people should be home and sleeping. In a neighborhood with garages, seeing a lot of cars parked in the street isn’t a good sign. How about noise levels? You may notice there is poor lighting or even see street lights that beam into your house that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
- Make an offer
- Become owner of a new home
Our agent said she had never had done a marathon like this but thought it was great. Of course it was, we were efficient and had a goal. There is nothing more valuable to a person working on commission than their time. We knew that. She knew that. She quickly learned what was on our checklist and called out things she noticed (like gas or electric appliances or ceiling fans in the bedrooms.
Thanks to our worksheet, we were able to walk through 28 houses in 5 hours, narrow it down to 3 and make an offer for one with an offer for a second house prepared in the event the first owners didn’t accept our offer. Ultimately, our first choice offer was accepted (thanks to the agents making up the shortfall since neither of us would budge on our price) and we still live in that same house!
What tricks and tactics do you employ when you make big decisions?