The Roller Coaster of Emotions is Real
The past few months have been one for the books. I have been excited, let down, disgusted, frustrated, hopeful, skeptical, excited (again) and beyond impatient.
House hunting is a brutal undertaking, especially when you are in your 50’s. It’s one thing to be planning for a future of filling rooms with babies or to be in your 30’s and “up-sizing” because of successes. At 50, however, the search takes on an entirely new shape and structure. Nothing too big, nor too small. I don’t want a busy community, nor do I want to live in solitude in the middle of nowhere. I want easy maintenance, but I also don’t want to spend too much and be house poor.
I have been obsessing over Realtor pages and new listings. My fiance and I have seen well over 30 houses, with our realtor at our side. We have done drive by’s to check out exteriors, and we have gone to visit Show Home parades to see what the new homes are like.
This is the first time, ever, that I have been the one to actually “sign off” on a home. The townhouse we have been living in over the past 11 months, needs to be replaced by something, that isn’t rent being flushed away monthly. The search began in January for something we can afford, make our own, and call HOME.
- Online Listings have much nicer photos than the real deal — This is probably a no-brainer. I mean marketing is marketing, and photographers know the right angles and filters to use, to make rooms look bigger, brighter, cleaner, and more inviting. That doesn’t change the fact that actually “seeing” what the images appeared to be, makes you feel deceived. Alternatively, there have been a few occasions where I was pleasantly surprised at what I “thought” the photos were, but in real life, the room was better.
- Other People’s Houses are Sometimes Nasty — I don’t want to sound like a spoiled, entitled, judgmental human here, but, WOW. Just WOW. We saw homes that had dirty underwear on the floors of bedrooms, and cat/dog feces on the floor in various rooms. One showing was scheduled well in advance, and the house smelled so bad that we could barely get through the main floor, let alone the basement. Some people don’t seem to mind showing off their homes in filth and disarray. Apparently, they don’t want to sell it that badly either.
- Make a List of What You Want in a House, Prior to Your Search — We wanted a garage, a nice kitchen, a fireplace, preferably a finished basement, 3 bedrooms, and a nice en-suite bathroom. We also needed a fenced yard, or at the very least, “fence-able” yard, for our dog, I also had a low budget for the current market, which was a challenge. I knew we may not get everything on our wish list, but it was worth searching and hoping for. It does help to give your realtor filters for your search, and it gives you better focus on priorities. It also opens up a dialogue with your Realtor to give her/him a better understanding of your style and tastes.
- Don’t Settle! After the 20th house showing, I was beginning to feel guilty for making my Realtor work so hard for us. She was excited to show us a couple of new listings, and I had hopes that they would be a good fit for us. When they weren’t, a small voice in my head told me to just pick something to make the process easier on all of us, but they just weren’t my “vision”. We trudged through 10 more after her picks, and although I felt like she was eye-rolling at my picky-ness, I didn’t choose one to just “settle”. I wanted the house that felt like HOME when I walked into it-not just something to call home.
5. Be Able to See Past Colors and Decor — Looking at how other people paint and decorate their homes can be overwhelming. Paint is an easy fix, as are other cosmetic touches. Having an open mind is essential, especially when you are viewing a home that is currently loved in.
6. Aim Higher than Your Budget- But Only “Slightly” Higher — If you have a budget of around 400,000, aim for around 425,000 or 410,000. In our economy, realtors are aggressive with offers and can help you. With that said, if you find a deal that is below your budget, jump on it. In our case, I had a budget of around 365,000. We found a home listed at 379,000 and offered 350,000 to start. After counteroffers, we landed the house at 360,000. They accepted the offer.
7. Don’t Become Emotionally Attached to Houses You Like — I made the rookie mistake of falling “in love” with one of the first homes we looked at. It was PERFECT for us and was a really good deal. It had everything on our wish list, and I could see us having morning coffee in the bright, beautiful kitchen. I had my heart set on “winning” the house, and everything after that looked shoddy and dark by comparison. When we saw it, our realtor told us that it already had a Conditional Offer. I never let that bother me, and assumed that we would get it. NOPE. It sold within the next week, and the first offer took it. I was crushed and actually went through a period of mourning for that home. I allowed myself to become emotional, rather than impartial and aloof.
8. Prepare for all the Extra Expenses — So, you bought a house. Now what? Well, now, the fun begins. You have inspectors, lawyer fees, down payment, fees for the realtor, repairs prior to possession, and endless other dollars to spend-unless the house is brand new. In my case, we also need to pay rent the same month as the possession date, so it will be an expensive challenge. Budgeting for all of the extras is taxing and overwhelming. There may also be moving costs if you hire a company to move your items, as well as the cost to have your previous residence cleaned. The costs add up quickly and can be terrifying.
9. Re-Learn Patience — To date, this has been the most challenging struggle of all. I cannot express enough, how patience and mind games can weigh you down during the process of obtaining a new home. First, after the search, you finally FIND the place you hope to call HOME. The search, in and of itself tests your patience after you look through dud after dud. Once the search is over, you put in the offer, and you WAIT. You wait, and you wait for the offer to be countered or accepted. You respond, and you WAIT, WAIT, WAIT. In my case, I obsessed over pictures of the house and tried to envision our furnishings and decor inside the rooms. I painted in my dreams, and as soon as I woke from a scattered sleep, I still WAITED. It has been killing me, trying to stay busy and not think about the new house. Once the offer is accepted, you WAIT some more, for papers to sign, information from your realtor, appointments with inspectors and lawyers, and such. Then guess what? You WAIT for the possession date, making every attempt to NOT think about it and to stay focused. This process has been one of the most “impatient” tasks of my life, and I am trying to re-learn patience. It’s not going well.
10. Celebrate Every Step of the Process — For me, I find it important to recognize the baby steps that it takes to get to the finish line. The day we found the house, I wanted to celebrate, and we had a nice dinner out. The day the offer was countered and I countered back, I felt the need to recognize my strength in not settling. Today, the offer has been accepted and I will celebrate this enormous feat tonight, by having a quiet moment or two to reflect on this journey and how far we have come in just a few short weeks. At 50, finding a new place to call HOME, especially after leaving a toxic relationship and rekindling a new one, is a HUGE DEAL. Building a home and a life together in a shell of doors, windows, and toilets is exciting. The work we have put into this as a team needs to be celebrated and acknowledged. The day we give notice at our Town House, the day the inspector gives his approval and the day we take possession will all be reasons to celebrate the work we are putting into our home and our new life together.
I have unlearned my high expectations. I have unlearned my entitlement and my former standards of having the perfect place with the perfect view and the exorbitant mortgage. I no longer see a home as being the status symbol of who I am, and I now long for comfort, coziness, and calmness. I once lived in a home that was beyond my salary, while my ex made quadruple what I did. I still paid my portion of the mortgage and it stretched me into debt.