Playing The Slots

What are your home-buying criteria?  In Real Estate you always hear location, location, location!  While location is important the truth of the matter is maybe location isn’t even in your top 10.  

I like to use the slot machine analogy

Think of how many windows you want to come up with double cherries to get your dream house. Every must have adds another layer of complexity and means one more window on the slot machine.  Is a finished lower level a want or need? Is a fireplace in the family room a must, vaulted ceiling, cul-de-sac, 2-acre yard?  You get the idea.


I had a buyer who said he had to have a home on a cul-de-sac. He grew up on one and had fond memories as a child. This feature was a big need for him until he realized how few homes are on a Cul-de-sac. This quickly went from a high need to a bonus if he could find it

Maybe you don’t even know what you want.  You are just hoping to pull the arm and see what comes up.  Making a list of what your

Must haves
and would be nice but not necessary,

features are is an important part of the process.  The list may change 6 times.  We (real estate agents) have a saying: “Buyers are liars”.  You don’t do it intentionally but often what you initially say you need and what you end up purchasing can look very different.  (I was a lying buyer at one point in my life –see The First Time is Special)  

This is why it is important to be transparent with your Realtor.  Give me your list. Tell me if/when it changes.  As you go through the process your needs / Must haves will become clear.

You may look at 1 house, you may look at 30, but sooner or later you will walk into THE HOUSE!  It has enough of your needs / Must haves, has a lot of your wants and maybe even a few “cherries” of your would be nice but not necessary!

The Dreaded Multi-Move

The first home we sold we received an offer from the first buyer that looked at it, 24 hours after it went on the market. We were so excited!! Until we realized we needed to find a place to live! Panic set in!

This was in the early 2000’s, so closing was scheduled for 30 days after acceptance of offer. Our Realtor happily showed us every home on the market that met our criteria. Fourteen days before closing we had no home to move towards. The dreaded multi-move became a reality.

We did not have family in the area, nor friends who could accommodate our family and theirs. We thankfully were able to find a short-term rental. It was a 2 bedroom, 1 bath very small two-story townhome. Our boys were on summer break; it was going to be cozy!

When we packed up we did not know how long we would be in the rental. I knew I had to be ultra organized to make moving twice doable. Some of our possessions were going to storage. The ones coming with us were going to be stacked in every nook and corner of the town home with furniture in front of them. This was the beginning of June so I was going to put all our winter gear in storage. But what if we were in the rental until Christmas? This is when I came up with my Packing Plan.

My packing plan allowed me to sleep at night because I knew where my gravy boat was in case we were in the rental until Thanksgiving! I knew that in box 405 was the Trouble game (a metaphor of my life at the time). It let me know what boxes needed to be unpacked at the rental and which ones could live in the corners.

What I Learned from this Experience

The multi-move is survivable. I will never say it is fun, but with organization, a good attitude and my packing plan we all came out alive.
The multi move is better than satisficing. We could have written an offer on a couple of homes that were close to what we wanted, they would have sufficed, but not really satisfied.
You can make difficulties into an adventure and build strong family bonds. Our sons were 10 and 7 years old at the time. We got them involved in the Packing plan, figuring out where everything was going to fit and finding creative activities to do that summer that kept us out of tight quarters as much as possible.

Do You Want a Fixer Upper?

Do you know who Chip and Joanna are?  If you answered yes then it is possible you have thought how fun it might be to buy a fixer upper!  It is amazing the amount of work they can get done in 60 minutes.  That is of course with a crew of 20+ and someone else’s checkbook.

They make it look so easy and beautiful.  Before you fall for the smoke and mirrors of “realty TV” there are some things to consider.

Do you have to occupy the house during renovation?  It is a dirty job.  It will take double the time you expect it to. How long can you really cook on a camp stove?

Have you done this type of work before or do you have family/friends in the trades?  A lot of decent houses get ruined through HGTV wannabes.  You can build a lot of equity in a house with updates/repairs, if you know what you are doing.  However, if you don’t know what you are doing you can also decrease the overall value with shoddy workmanship.

Do you know about permits, inspections, codes and approvals?

How much is it going to cost?  You can’t mortgage 2×4’s and drywall (there is one way under a specific loan type-,click here for more information).

Is this the right time in your life for an all-consuming project?

Can your relationships survive it?


My husband and I recently did purchase and completely gut a home.  We are much older and wiser than when we purchased our first home (See: The First Time is Special).  My husband is good at repairs, we do know a lot of tradesmen, we do know about all the permits, we had enough cash, we are empty nesters…so we decided this is the time.  We thought it would only take us a few months and we had somewhere else to live during the renovation.  It turned out better than we imagined. However it took us 8 months versus the 3 ½ we expected; required many, many, many more hours than we ever imagined and cost about 1/3 more than we estimated.  


Some day the world is going to need another Chip and Joanna, it just might be you… Or you can plan on watching them Fix up another home while you sit on the couch in your move in ready home!

The First Time is Special

Buying a house for the first time is very exciting.  I remember feeling like I had finally reached “real” adulthood.  I also remember feeling overwhelmed, confused and slightly freaked out!

At the time my husband was working in the corporate world.  We were being relocated from one state to another.  We were given a 5-day house-hunting trip.  This is where the slightly freaked out part happened!  5 days to find the most expensive item I had ever purchased.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME??  It can take me longer than that to pick out my outfit for the day.  Adding to the fun; I was 5 months pregnant with our second son.

So many choices: what style of home, how many bedrooms/baths, size of garage, what community, what school district, how big of yard, old/new, updated, fixer-upper????? The options were overwhelming.  

The confusion came after looking at 12 homes in one day.  Which one had the kitchen that I liked?  Was it the blue one with vinyl siding or the yellow one with wood siding that had the yard of my dreams.  One smelled like a cat but I think that was the one with great finished basement.  How do I choose!!


Here is what I learned from that experience.  

  1. Find a real estate agent you trust and who really listens to your needs/wants.  Even if you have more time than I did, you don’t want to waste precious time looking at homes that don’t match your criteria.
  2. Find a lender you trust as well.  He/She is going to be one of your best friends during this process. They will be able to provide a pre-approval letter with minimal information.  After that they will need to know more about your financial life than you could even imagine.  Ask them what they will need from you once you have an accepted offer and start to gather that information NOW!
  3. You don’t always get what you want…but you usually get what you need!  My husband and I started out thinking we wanted a fixer upper character home.  We purchased a 1970’s bi-level.  As we discussed our life with our Realtor, he suggested a fixer-upper might not be the answer for that season. We had a 2 year old with another on the way, demanding career and we were moving to a new community.  
  4. This is most likely not your forever home.  Think of what’s important to you over the next 5 years.  How do you live? Are you a gardener or do you want to be close to the farmer’s market downtown.  Do you want to maintain a soccer size yard or spend time at your kid’s soccer games? Am I a handy person or do I need move-in ready?  Do I like to entertain or rather be alone reading a book?  
  5. Remember no matter if it’s your first home, or the 5th home you have purchased, it is always a little stressful and overwhelming, but also exciting and fun!