I love programs like Love it or List it, House Hunters, and Buying and Selling on HGTV. You might say I have an addiction. But I'm not the only one. Every single one of my clients is either thinking about buying, selling, or renovating property. Real estate is often one of the biggest investments we make, and a big portion of our net worth.
However, the real estate crash left many professionals and families upside down on their mortgages or unwilling landlords for properties they couldn't sell. This limited their job mobility, kept them in starter homes longer than they wanted to be, and cast a pall over their finances for years. Now that property values have risen again, folks are asking "Do I love it or list it?".
Ask the big questions first
Location - There's a reason the phrase "location, location, location" is the mantra of the real estate world. Be honest with yourself about the location of the property you want to buy, sell, or renovate.
If you are buying, it may be ok to buy a house closer to a busy street if you are in the best school system. If you are selling, understand that your location affects the price you can get - the street, the school system, the town and the state. If you are renovating, be sure not to over-improve your house for its location.
Being in the location you want might mean that you have to spend more. It might mean you have to compromise on some of your wish list. You may need to get a smaller house to fit your budget. Trust me, you are better off in the worst house in the best neighborhood, than the best house in the worst neighborhood.
Size Matters - no longer are McMansions selling like hotcakes. In fact, tiny houses are becoming more popular. Think long and hard about how much size you want, v. how much size you need. Every child in your family does not necessarily need their own bedroom with an en suite bathroom. You might not need a formal dining room that can seat 10.
Thinking about the use your family needs to get out of the house. Do you need a family room instead of a formal living room? Do you need a basement for storage or a two-car garage instead? Does your master bedroom need to hold a king-size bed, 2 dressers, and have a walk in closet that Carrie Bradshaw would drool over?
Thing about what bigger size means financially. It means more to mortgage, more to furnish, more to pay taxes on. It means more to insure, more to renovate in the future, and more maintenance to perform. On the flip side, don't compromise on size now if it means you may need to move in a few years because you're busting at the seams.
Aesthetics - Is your bathroom stuck in the 70s or 80s? Would that new house be perfect if you could just gut the kitchen and put in stainless steel appliances and quartz countertops? Even if your house was move-in ready when you bought it, there will likely be changes you will want to make over time.
If you are buying a home, you will pay a premium for all the latest finishes and improvements. Do you really need that fancy faucet that can cost $500? If you are renovating, finishes can easily double your renovation budget. Make sure you aren't just putting in something taste-specific, and understand which renovations pay off.
Floors can also also make a huge difference. Brand new carpet is great, but do you live in the desert or have family members with allergies? Understand the price differences in all of your different options. Are you better off installing new hardwood floors or a more cost-effective laminate option? Maybe engineered flooring is a good compromise. Again think about the neighborhood the property is in and don't over-improve.
Of course of lot of real estate choices come down to money. Money to spend, money to save, and money to earn. If you want to sell, you will likely need to spend money fixing up your current house in order to get the most out of it. If you are looking to buy, a solid budget, a down-payment, a good credit score, and a steady income are really the basics.
If you want to renovate, consider what your budget should be and where you are going to get the money. Can you do small projects over time and finance them through cash flow? Or are you building an addition and need a home equity loan or a large chunk of savings?
At the end of the day, our homes are very personal to us. They are where we raise our families and make years of memories. I love talking to clients about real estate! Please reach out if you need help deciding whether to buy, sell, or renovate, and all the financial choices that go along with it. Are you going to love it, or list it?