The eight easy steps to home ownership

Buying a house is like buying a car.

Wenling and I bought a new car recently. During the process, I took notice of the path we were on and how closely it resembled the “learning curve” homebuyers follow.
It went like this:

We weren’t sure what kind of car we wanted, so we started by looking at our options and our needs.

I wanted a small car because I like the feel of tooting around, zip, zip. I like the feel of a sporty little convertible. I can see myself tooling along a scenic road with a mountain on one side and the ocean on the other, the sun is shining, the sky is bird egg blue…I was thinking a Mini, Mazda 3, and good on gas, logic chimes in.

Wenling is more practical, she thinks of others, she had a lot of “what if” scenarios: What if we want to take my parents to Niagara falls, what if we have to pick up Colin and his family at the airport?

Of course she’s right, what was I thinking? We are still at that age we need (and want) to take our girls and their friends to the movies or half the soccer team to a game in London.
As we go through life, needs change. That is true of cars and houses. Having a fenced backyard for the kids is great when they are 6 and 8 but what about when they are 16 and 18? In the words of Ferris Bueller “Life goes by pretty fast”.

Looking at needs. When you’re buying a house, look at what you need now but think about how life will change and what your needs might be like in 5 or 7 years time. That’s some advice. It’s expensive and troublesome to move.

Back to the learning curve. When shopping for a car the process we went through went like this. The comparable for house shopping is included.

We talked about what we wanted and needed. Before shopping for a new house, brainstorm, talk about what you want, what the new house has to have and where it is. And think to the future.

When driving around, and in parking lots we spent time looking at different models and adding them or eliminating them from the list. When house shopping, drive a few neighborhoods. Look at options, amenities, proximities.

We spent a few evenings, gathering information, mostly online but also from the newspapers, a car guide book and talking with friends, neighbors and (in my case) strangers (Hey I like your car. Are you happy with your Mazda 5?). House shopping should be the same. Never be in a hurry to buy.

More researching
We visited dealerships, took test drives. This is like visit open houses, calling agents and arranging to have a look inside listings.

Even more researching
We talked with salespeople, getting more information. At some point you are going to have to talk with a salesperson. Some are good, some you might not like so much. Now is a good time to talk. At this point, if you haven’t already stumbled upon an agent you want to work with, interview three and decide on one. A buyer agent will save you a lot of time, and effort and will not cost you a thing.

Back to our new car, we finally decided what we are going to buy, after all the work above, this was easy. House shopping is the same.

Again, with enough information gathered from your agent and the process above, you will be confident that you have done a good job at arriving at the right price. Your agent will negotiate for you and let you know what’s happening, what to expect. It the case of buying a new car, we were on our own.

In our car shopping, we considered the Mazda 5, the Toyota Highlander, and others. We take delivery of our Honda Pilot next week. I know we made a good choice (and I think we did a pretty good job at negotiating the price.

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