I was really excited to start getting out there and actually looking at homes. One thing I quickly learned was that the homes can be VERY different than what the pictures online lead you to believe. People are very good at taking pictures in a way that makes it look twice as big, or just way better than it really is. And there is so much more to a home then just the home itself.
I started browsing homes online at www.utahrealestate.com. With Lance's job in Centerville, we really wanted to find a place somewhere between Bountiful and Kaysville. We learned very quickly that location plays a HUGE factor on the price of a house. A house that was for sale closer to Ogden for $150k would easily be $200k or more in Bountiful. For the exact same house.
We started our search a bit backwards. Instead of starting with cheaper homes, we actually began with the most expensive we could afford. Most would think this was a terrible idea because once you see the more expensive, nice homes, it tends to make the cheaper homes look that much worse.
We looked at a few homes closer to Bountiful, but they were a a bit higher then what we had wanted to spend. We figured if we found something we loved, that the higher payment might be worth the closer commute. But options were slim and even the cheapest homes in Bountiful (which were still way above our price range) would require thousands of dollars to even make them livable. So we expanded our search a little bit and lowered our budget. So even though we looked at the most expensive first, because of the effect of location on prices, most of the cheaper houses that we looked at were in much better condition than the most expensive ones we looked at. And although we wanted to live closer to Bountiful, we decided that it was worth saving $40-60k and live a little further away.
I would browse the website several times a day, waiting for new listings...price changes, anything. When ever I saw something that interested me, I would text my Realtor and let him know we wanted to see that one. Initially, we were not picky...at all. We pretty much liked almost every house we went in to. That made it difficult to try to narrow it down.
But slowly as we started seeing more and more homes, we began to realize that there were definitely things that we really wanted and things that we did not want.
Things that were important:
- Enough room to fit all of our stuff. We were ok with a smaller house if there was a big garage and shed to store things. But if there wasn't a garage, then the house needed to be much bigger and have a ton of storage room.
- We wanted something that had potential. Maybe an unfinished basement that we could eventually finish, or simply just things we could do to make it more valuable in the future.
- Location was probably one of the most important things to me. I wanted a good, family-friendly neighborhood. I wanted to feel safe walking around the neighborhood with my kids. I wanted to live on a quiet street (not by super busy street), and ideally be close to parks and schools.
- I wanted to be in the boundaries of good schools. Like it or not, all schools are not always equal and I want my kids attending the best school possible.
- A nice yard- With as much as Will and I enjoy being outside, I knew that a small yard just wouldn't cut it. I wanted a big enough yard that we could set up our pool in the summer, have a swingset, maybe a trampoline, etc.
- And of course, we wanted all of our needs and wants met for the cheapest price possible.
We looked at A LOT of homes. I think we went inside about 20-25 different homes, and I am not exaggerating. It seemed like every house was just missing that one thing. Usually, it was the neighborhood. The house and everything was great, but the neighborhood didn't feel like I wanted it to. I wanted to see kids outside playing, swing sets and toys in people's yards, etc...basically just signs that it was family friendly.
Our Realtor was great because he knows a lot about home repair. There were a few homes I liked, but he could tell they needed a new roof, or that the furnace was no good, etc. He really helped steer us clear of homes that seemed nice cosmetically, but maybe had some bigger issues that you couldn't see right off. I really appreciated his honesty and being very upfront with us.
We also had the debate of whether we should go for the fixer-upper, dirt cheap home that would require a lot of work, or if we should go for something that was move-in ready. Initially, we were led to believe that you could get a loan for more than the house cost and use that money for upgrades/repairs. Once we learned that that wasn't an option, and that we would have to have all the upgrade costs upfront, we decided that wasn't the best option for us. Our down payment was going to drain most of our savings, and we didn't want to live in a basically unlivable house until we saved enough money to fix it.
We finally found a house that we both really loved. It was newer than many of the other ones we had seen and it was it a great neighborhood. It had 3 bedrooms, a 2 car garage, and unfinished basement. We knew immediately that we wanted to make an offer. But once we got home, we started to second guess ourselves. Even though the home was great, the bedrooms were EXTREMELY small and I was afraid that we wouldn't even be able to fit all of our things in them. When the owners rejected our offer and asked for the original price, we didn't bother countering, but just backed out.
As time was passing, we began to feel the need to push it along a little faster and hurry and make a decision. Already from the time we had began until now, interests rates had gone up and we didn't want them to go up anymore. But even more importantly, the good homes were selling quickly and we were going to miss out if we didn't decide quickly. There were several times I hesitated or couldn't decide on a house only to have it off the market the next day, making my choice for me. So we knew that if there was a house that we liked, we should probably put an offer on it. Then we could really think about it and make the final decision.
Our Realtor informed us that just because we had an offer on a home, doesn't mean that we couldn't back out. There was a little 2 week (or so) period where we could still change our mind if we decided to. So we ended up putting an offer in on two homes and after a little negotiations, both ended up accepting. So suddenly we were under contract with two homes. And even though we had two accepted offers, we still continued looking to make sure there wasn't something we liked better. Soon it became obvious that these two were our best options and that we needed to decide which one we liked better.
Up Next - Part 3: Making A Choice