Buying a house is very likely the biggest expense of your life. It has a direct impact on your family, your quality of life, your monthly budget and even who your kids grow up to be. In the USA a typical mid-western home will cost $100,000 to $200,00 (median income in this area is $43,000 according to 2001 census). It’s such a big decision to make. Yet we really don’t spend that much time, relatively speaking, shopping for a house.
Here’s how the process works. You decide you want a new home, start looking around to see if you can afford it and ask people for advice. Then you make a relationship with a realtor, a sales person, who will help you. Unlike a typical sales person, the realtor represents you, not the seller, so ideally they’ll help you make a good decision.
You start by making a list of areas you’d like to live in. Hopefully your list is well thought out and you’re making an informed decision. Things you’re hopefully considering are if the neighbours are far wealthier or poorer than you, if you can get education that suits your standards and how convenient the location is relative to places you frequently go. You may also be thinking about the future value of your home to ensure that, should you decide to move, you can recoup what you paid for it and hopefully more.
At this point you start thinking about what features you’d like in a house. Do you want to avoid stairs? Does it need room for a garden? What size kitchen is right for entertaining guests? How many plug-ins do you need for your home theatre system?
You then give this list to your realtor who will help you find a house to meet your needs. Together you’ll search the Internet and the agent’s computer system for houses that match your criteria and you arrange appointments to view houses.
Now that you’re in the car, ready to look at a house you take your list of requirements and throw it out the window. (figuratively speaking… please don’t litter) At this point, all that matters is curb appeal. Does it make your eye sparkle when you approach it from the corner? Does the paint in the foyer look fresh and modern? Are their flowers in the vase on the table? You look at 6 or 8 and you think about the few you liked best. You think about them for a couple days. Then you arrange to see these houses again and maybe a couple others that have shown up since you arranged your first list.
But now it’s time to hurry because you’re starting to fall in love with a house and it would be a crying shame if the one you chose gets snapped up by someone else. You have a new list of requirements that you’ve created based on the houses you saw your first time around. You didn’t know you needed storage above the garage or windows with blinds built into the glass, but you saw it and it’s cool and you want to make sure you have it.
Once in the car to view the second round of houses (only a week after the first) you once again toss aside your list of requirements (yes, even the new list) and set your sites on falling in love with a house. Your realtor is getting calls from other people during this trip and really hopes you pick one today.
You like this one? Really? Good, lets sign a contract before it’s gone. We’ll hire an inspector and if something is wrong we’ll work out a deal to get it fixed. This is it, sign here, we’re done.
Total time is 6 to 8 weeks.
About the same amount of time it took me to purchase a new computer and only slightly longer than the process of picking out a new TV. The amount of money I spend on the house each month could buy me a new computer or television if I choose. The only decision that may be more important is choosing a spouse. To compare how long that took, we dated 2 years before signing a contract.