I realized that I've been approaching the whole home buying thing wrong. This isn't like buying a pair of boots, or buying anything really (other than the cash transaction at the end of the whole thing). This is more like dating.
And in my limited home buying experience, I feel perfectly comfortable offering all other first time homebuyers a bit of advice: fall in love at least three times before you settle on a place.
The first house I fell in love with had it all: hardwood floors, stainless steal appliances, a roof deck and a built-in sound system throughout the whole house. Until that moment, I didn’t even know that was an option.
Though, just like your first love in the seventh grade, you can’t really commit your whole life to this person. I mean, you’re 12. You’re not even really dating. You're just passing notes in the hall. That’s this house. You love it but at the same time you have no idea what love is when it comes to buying a house. People very rarely marry their first love. Most people just remember them fondly until they run into him at a mall right before Christmas and he introduces you to his boyfriend and their two adorable adopted children.
Those that do marry their first loves don’t do it in the seventh grade. They wait, until at least after high school. More often than not, they also date other people in the meantime before coming back to their one true love. So, you may look at other houses and come back to that first one and realize it is the perfect for you. Just hope that when you do, it is still on the market.
The second house you fall in love with will be the bad boy you loved in high school. You'e rebelling. You’ve looked at a few houses now and, with the exception of the first one you loved but can’t really commit to, have seen nothing but a series of bad properties. This one didn’t have a second bathroom, that one was located next to an abandoned and shuttered property. Then, you stumble upon your bad boy. This is the property all your friends are warning you about: it has a sump pump or history of water infiltration or it is located in a fringe neighborhood. But you don’t care. You can’t see past its industrial features and exposed brick walls. You love this house. You know this house is just misunderstood. It just needs someone like you to change its bad boy ways.
Maybe that's true. Maybe you are the one to turn this house around. I mean, it worked so well for the drug dealer you dated in the tenth grade, right?
The next house you fall in love with will be too good for you. I’m sorry, but it’s true and since none of your friends or family will tell you, I will. I’m not sure what the motivation is behind your real estate agent showing you this house -- it could be to test your budget resolve, it could be to show you just how good you had it with that first house. Either way, you will fall in love with this house: you will see the crown molding, and high-end appliances, the walk-in closet and the bathroom with two entrances (and two sinks) and think, this house says: “I’ve made it.”
And there is nothing wrong with wanting that or feeling that. It is just another hundred dollars a month -- you can do that. That is what, one night out with the girls a month? Done. Oh, but you're also going to need to upgrade your couch. And buy a new chair. And coffee table. And bar stools. And bedroom set. And new everything for that magnificent bathroom. And just like you never felt smart enough or sophisticated enough when you were 19 and going out to dinner with your 24-year old boyfriend and all his friends, you will soon see this house is making you feel bad about yourself. When just before seeing this house you were feeling pretty damn terrific.
Once you have finished mourning the loss of that last house -- something at the time you will be convinced isn’t possible -- you’ll find you are ready to make that commitment that seemed so foreign the first time you fell in love.