After years and years of scrimping, you finally feel confident enough about the amount you have saved to invest in your very own house. You’ve waited so long for this time that you are utterly flabbergasted that the process isn’t as easy as digging in your sock drawer for the small fortune you’ve gathered, shuffling the deck of business cards you’ve accumulated over the years to contact one (pick a card, any card) from the legions of real estate agents you’ve encountered, meeting the chosen agent, driving around with her (they say female agents are less oily) that afternoon to shop for a house, pick the one you like best, and then maybe sign a contract before dark?
If you truly believe that the process of acquiring your first house is that easy, then I’ll have to chortle at your charming naïveté. The dreaded reality, however, is that there are plenty of considerations for making this investment, which could potentially be the biggest you make in your entire life.
To Buy or to Build?
First, are you sure that you want to buy instead of build? There are many advantages to building from scratch. After you’ve chosen your neighborhood and bought a parcel of land. You can work with a contractor or architect to carry out the execution of your dream home. You get to have a say on the materials used, the layout of the house, the features and small details, etc. You can scout around for the cheapest place to buy materials and save money on that. You can even work on your home at your own pace. After the hard and technical stuff is out of the way, you can gradually add the rest in DIY fashion.
Of course, it’s much quicker to get settled in and enjoy your new home if you buy it ready-made. You won’t have to worry about all the pesky details such as permits, applications for water or power subscription, etc.
New versus Pre-owned
If you do decide to buy a house that’s ready for occupancy, do you want a new or an old structure? Let me point out straight away that houses aren’t like cars; their value does not deteriorate in time and in use, provided they are well-maintained. Buying a “used” house does not equate to a lower selling price. Why would anyone want a house that has been previously lived in? For a variety of reasons. Perhaps one prefers to live in an older neighborhood (as opposed to those new developments with clone houses)? Or location-wise, the only house selling in the area one is after is pre-owned (or “pre-loved” as some have coined)? Or one simply loves a house with a history – “it has more character”. Of course, new houses are great too. Everything’s brand new; the house doesn’t show any signs of wear and tear (or “character” as old house lovers would call them). Nothing needs to be modernized. They’re usually designed to be more energy efficient. At times, they’re even cheaper because the cost of construction these days can be low.
Condo, Townhome or Single Family Home?
New or resale, the next thing you get to decide on is whether you want a condo, a townhouse or a single family home. Each one has its list of advantages and disadvantages. Before you get into those, however, you best know which is which first. A condominium is an individually owned unit within a bigger structure. Ownership is limited to the interior of the unit – the air, so to speak - as walls, floors, ceilings, hallways are shared, with each owner owing a percentage of the property and shared facilities. A townhouse is also an individually owned unit, but ownership extends to the exterior as well as the land the unit stands on. It may share walls, but not the roof or the floor. It may also even come with a garage and a small patch of yard. A single family home, on the other hand, is the typical house we are familiar with. It is utterly detached and may be anything from single-story to tiered and turreted.
Buying your first home is definitely not the walk in the park many people imagine it to be. But don’t let that diminish your excitement. Arm yourself with the proper expectations and it does not have to be a frustrating endeavor. At the end of the day, what really matters is that you finally get to be a HOMEOWNER!