Is ‘Just Right’ Sizing the Key to Buying a Home These Days?

If you’re trying to buy a home these days, you know how challenging—if not downright impossible—it can be.

Rising interest rates, sky-high prices, and low inventory have turned an otherwise exciting home shopping experience into a seemingly hopeless prospect.

But what if you took a page or two from the time-tested tale of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”

Goldilocks didn’t settle for mediocre porridge and an uncomfortable bed. Instead, after some trial and error, she found what was “just right” for her.

You can apply the same philosophy and find a house you love that’s in your price range. It starts by taking an honest look at your lifestyle and identifying the true “must-haves” that make a house just right for you. Here’s how to get started.

How just-right sizing works

We get it. Just-right sizing sure sounds a lot like downsizing, but it’s not.

Quite simply, it’s about finding a property that is the best fit and the right size for your current needs. That could mean a smaller or a bigger home.

For example, if you don’t have the skills or finances to make major improvements, don’t shop for older homes or fixer-uppers. Not a fan of yard work? Steer clear of properties with a lot of land or complex landscaping.

“A lot of the time, buyers start out with preconceived notions of their must-haves,” says Chelsea Werner, a global real estate adviser and agent with Compass. “But as we really talk about their goals, values, and needs, we adjust their criteria to make it less about what they think they should have—and focus on what actually makes sense for them.”

Let’s look at some critical factors in finding a house that’s just right.

The budget

There’s no way of getting around it: Knowing how much house you can afford should be a significant factor in your home search.

“Just-right sizing is one strategy to avoid breaking the bank when buying a home,” says Maureen McDermut, an agent at Sotheby’s International in Santa Barbara, CA. “And it could help you avoid having your home feel like a financial albatross.”

The sales price and down payment are the big numbers everyone thinks about, but other money matters could influence your total budget.

“I often want buyers to understand their total monthly costs ahead of time, which can often change the initial price point they have in mind,” says Werner.

Getting your financial ducks in a row includes obtaining a pre-approval to get a sense of your mortgage payment and identifying all the costs of homeownership, like insurance, utilities, etc.

From there, Werner suggests buyers compare their must-haves with their wish list to come up with a final homebuying budget that’s just right.

The neighborhood

In real estate, finding a home is all about location.

You probably have a few neighborhoods in mind, including an aspirational area. But what you envision for your life in pricer areas might not jibe with your lifestyle. So, ask yourself what it is about the areas you find appealing.

Is it the well-maintained homes, school district, or ease of commute to work? Whatever it is, find out if the neighborhood vibes genuinely meet your expectations. Or are they the equivalent of “too hard” or “too soft,” as Goldilocks found when she tried out her various beds?

To find out, take a drive or, better yet, walk around the neighborhood. When you take it for a proverbial spin, you might find an area differs from what you thought it would be.

The interior of the house

How big a house you need is the easy part, right? After all, you positively need three bedrooms, a primary suite, two bathrooms, and a big kitchen. Any home with less than that gets nixed from the list.

But have you considered how you will use the rooms?

“I will ask clients not to question why they want that, but what’s the reason for it,” says Noel Figueroa, a real estate agent at The Keyes Company in Hollywood, FL.

If you want the third bedroom for guests—how often do you have overnight visitors? That extra bedroom you paid extra for might end up sitting empty most of the year.

And what about that oversized kitchen? Are you pining away for one because you love to cook or just entertaining a whim that you’ll enjoy whipping up a big meal someday?

The exterior of the house

Naturally, it’s fun to start thinking of all the things you can do when you move to a new house.

One of those things might be embracing your love for trendy outdoor elements.

An expansive deck overlooking a big yard with a pool would be great for hosting parties. But what if you value outdoor pursuits like hiking or skiing over staying home and hosting parties?

“If you like to travel, you might find that a simpler home is more conducive to your lifestyle and also enables you to afford to travel more frequently,” says McDermut.

On the other hand, if you like to entertain often, focus on the elements conducive to hosting and forgo more expensive things like a pool, which can be costly and time-consuming to maintain.

When you drill down on how you live, you discover a more realistic path to a house just right for you.

 

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