My wife and I just successfully closed on our first home in Brattleboro, Vemont 200 miles north of New York City. We have the key. We have the deed. To find the home I looked at listings for two years at least several times a week, using the MLS, and Google Maps Real Estate setting. We drove by 30 some odd homes for a year and did full viewings of about 15 homes. We almost bought two home, pulling out at the last minute.
I’ve bought two condos I never lived in and still own one. I made a bundle off the first pre-construction condo in 2002 in San Diego. I flipped it and got one in Santa Fe during the height of the bubble. I still own it. It’s worth about 20% less then I bought it in 2005, but it’s rented and not losing money.
- Google Maps Real Estate to find listings to drive by
- CNN Mortgage Calculator to run the numbers
- FloorPlanner.com to fantasize
- Google Spreadsheets for figuring all the costs of leading house candidates.
Lessons We Learned
- House hunting is like dating in your twenties, full of drama, unrequited love, heartbreak, bad judgement, and things not seeming what they are after several nights of sleeping on it. Brace yourself.
- If you stay grounded in your values, you’ll eventually find a house you just know is right and things will be simple and good. Don’t quibble too much on price, just buy it.
- Neighbors are key. Make sure your neighbors won’t stress you out. That can ruin any house.
- Pick your priorities and know what to sacrifice. You can’t walk to a vibrant downtown and live in the woods no matter how rich you are. We struggled, but remained fixed on being 1/2 mile from town, with enough room for a small garden and the ability to build a second unit for rental income.
- Beware of homes that have been on the market a long time. Best to focus energy on new listings in areas you like only.
- Watch the light. Drive by in the AM and PM. Imagine all seasons.
- Consider adding a rental unit. The numbers are very solid in terms of a place to put money, even from an IRA. If $30,000.00 can get you a room you rent for $700.00/mo, then conservatively you can make 20% on your money a year, and increase your real estate value.