Many years ago, my sister had a Chicago apartment as close to the El as the one Elwood Blues inhabits in this scene from The Blues Brothers. Her apartment was nicer, and considerably more spacious, but from her back room, I swear you could open the window and almost touch the train tracks.
She got used to it. And we got used to stopping every 8 – 10 minutes into a phone conversation to let the train go by. Point is, it was just one imperfection (albeit a large, noisy, rumbling one) at a property that had lots of other things going for it. It was less than a block from Wrigley Field. You had your choice of a ton of great bars and restaurants, every night of the week. And, obviously, it was close to public transportation.
I bring this up as we’re seeing more and more buyers suffering from “paralysis of analysis”, especially when looking at new construction. They’re spending days fretting over whether a lot is too small, or too big, or too close to the road or too far from the park, or whether they’re getting all the upgrades they want at exactly the price they want to pay. Meanwhile, a less picky (some would say more realistic) buyer swoops in and snaps up the property they’re interested in, leaving them wondering what went wrong.
No house or property is perfect. But there are plenty that will come close. For buyers, the key is to have a clearly defined list of “must haves” vs. “like to haves”, and a real understanding of what it means to be flexible. Here are a few reasons why:
Inventory is tight
There are just fewer homes on the market in most areas right now than there were a year or two ago. So there are more buyers vying for fewer houses. When you see a home that has you checking off most of the “must haves” on your list, be ready to jump…and fast.
Builders are no longer giving away the farm (or the kitchen, or the bonus room)
Builders aren’t throwing in extra incentives for free as much as they were during the worst part of the downturn. They don’t have to…if you won’t buy at their price, they know there’s someone coming in the door behind you who will. So if you want the upgraded Silestone counters, or custom cabinetry, be prepared to pay for it.
The price is right (but it may not be for long)
Low prices coupled with historically low interest rates make right now a great time to buy. But the longer you wait, the more likely it is that you’ll pay more. Prices in many neighborhoods are already inching up. And does anyone believe interest rates won’t, at some point, start climbing again?
Buyers also need to think longer term. Do you plan on living in the home for five years? 10 years? Than make sure you don’t eliminate a good deal based on a situation that may only exist for a year or two (a vacant lot next door, a pond that may require a little extra supervision in the short-term for young children, etc.). If you’re in it for the long haul, a little extra effort/tolerance now can pay off down the road as home prices rise and the area improves, etc.
With a little flexibility, and a little vision, buyers have a lot of great opportunities available to them today. There will never be a 100% perfect home (at least, we haven’t seen one). But what looks like an imperfection today could be the one thing that makes you, and your family, look back on your time in a home and think, “That was perfect”.