Without a doubt one of the single most important things for a couple to accomplish when they start their home search is to make sure that they are on the same page BEFORE they start looking. One of the most common sources of indecision I see in the home buying process stems from spouses neglecting to have some important conversations before they start looking for homes. In an effort to help, I've created a list of 10 conversation starters that spouses should go over before they start looking at homes. If you and your spouse go through this list you will be much more likely to agree on your dream home and the buying process will be faster and far more painless.
1. Make a List of Must-Haves
One of the first questions I task my clients with is to make a personal list of all of the things that your new home must have and that you simply cannot live without. Whether it's a two car garage, a walk-in closet or a designer chef's kitchen make a list of the things that are so important to you that you wouldn't see a house that didn't have them. This process creates an important dialogue between spouses that inevitably helps to determine your real deal breakers and the things that are most important.
2. Make a List of Things Your House Must NOT Have
Typically in any house purchase there are some sacrifices or compromises that the buyers make. The trick is finding a house where the shortcomings are massively out-weighed by the qualities. With the understanding that there will be some things in your new house that you don't love, it's important for spouses to make a list of things they cannot live with. It can be as basic as carpeted floors or wallpaper but it's important to understand the things you really don't want so that you don't waste your time seeing houses that have those features.
3. Determine Your Monthly Budget
It's one thing to be approved for a certain mortgage, but are you comfortable with the monthly payments that come along with it? If you're buying a new house, it's likely that your monthly payments are about to increase. There is a difference between being able to afford a monthly payment and being comfortable with it. Once you've received a pre-approval from a mortgage agent, it is important for spouses to have a conversation around their individual comfort level.
4. How Long Would You Like to Live in Your New House?
Are you looking to buy your first home to get your family started? Or are you looking to upgrade to your "forever home"? Either way, it's important to discuss your plans for how long you plan to stay in this new house. This decision will impact your answers in points 1 & 2 and will also have a potential impact on what type of mortgage you choose. If you plan to stay in your new house for two years, you may not choose a mortgage that locks you in for five.
It is crucial to insist that you AND your spouse feel comfortable and at home in your new house.
Take the time you need to make sure you both really know what you want!
5. Important Factors About the Surrounding Area
What factors of your new location are important to you? Are you interested in being near restaurants, parks, schools or public transportation? If there is anything that you would really love to have in your new area, it's good to discuss this with your spouse so that you can tell your Realtor where to look.
6. Commute to Work
Chances are that if you're moving to a new house, one of you is now going to have a longer commute to work. Spouses need to have this initial discussion to find out what each person in comfortable with. I've seen couples find a new house that they both love only to realize that the husband's commute just got cut in half and the wife now has an extra hour to travel. This scenario likely won't work!
7. List Your Two Most Important Rooms
Do you NEED a big garage, or a beautiful kitchen? Typically I find that people really care about finding a house where they LOVE 1 or 2 rooms. Whether it's the kitchen, bathrooms, bedroom or basement people are usually sold on one or two them. You and your spouse should sit down with each other and talk about what the most important rooms in the house are. Maybe you don't care about the guest rooms and the bathrooms - knowing this will help you decide what you're willing to compromise on and what you're not.
8. Where Do You Stand With Your Current Home?
Maybe you're a first time buyer? If so, you don't have to worry about the proceeds from the sale of your house but if you do own a house it is vital that you have a clear understanding of how much money you're going to have when you sell. For this calculation you're going to want to consult a local Realtor as well as your mortgage agent. Once you've had this conversation, you and your spouse will have a good idea of where you stand financially.
9. What You Like/Dislike About Your Current Home
You and your spouse need to make one final list. Whether you're living with Mom, or you own your own home; make a list of all of the things you like and dislike about where you're currently living. Your lists in step 1 & 2 will deal more with hypothetical scenarios and things you'd like to have, but this list is founded in what you're currently living with. Having this chat will help you get a deeper understanding of exactly what you're looking for in your new home.
10. When Can You See Houses?
In a hot market, houses sell quickly! When you and your spouse get really serious about buying a home you need to determine the times of the day and week that are most convenient for seeing homes. If you can determine these times and share them with your Realtor, they will be able to make sure to book appointments for those times and ensure that you don't miss out on your perfect home!
Following this step-by-step guide will ultimately ensure that you and your spouse spend less time seeing houses that are not the right fit and more time finding your dream home!