When you’re at an open house, sometimes a specific feature grabs your attention. A sweeping turn staircase greets you when you walk in the front door. Perhaps Society Hill townhouse actually comes with a garage, albeit a very small one. The house in Collegeville might have a brand new deck overlooking the Schyullkill Nature Trail. The kitchen island in an older colonial in Hatboro could be the ideal size for baking cookies with your friends or family.
And the happiness you feel could lead to an emotional purchase decision.
Stop and catch your breath. Take a few minutes to soak in all the appealing aspects of the house, and then remember to ask questions about the less appealing features like the age of the HVAC system and recent hikes in real estate taxes. Installing a kitchen island is possible if you really want one, and a lot of houses have nice decks and turn staircases, but only you know if you can truly afford the taxes or a new heater when the old one gives out a few months after settlement.
To avoid a purely emotional purchase — and potentially some amount of buyer’s remorse — take the time to research potential neighborhoods before you start the actual house hunting. If you work in Center City, check a local map for the nearest regional rail station’s location. If you commute to King of Prussia, find out how long it takes to drive on the PA Turnpike at rush hour. Know the average taxes and resale values of homes in the areas where you hope to live. Then, when you find your dream house in the neighborhood you’ve always wanted to live in, you’ll have the confidence and ability to act quickly, an increasingly frequent requirement in today’s booming Philadelphia real estate market.
Prior to submitting an offer, make a list of the pros and cons for each house you toured on a certain day. Compare your list with your significant other, if you are making a joint purchase. And know that if you miss out on this one house, another will come along at some time in the future that may be an even better fit.
Yes, it’s okay to fall in love. Just make sure you bring along someone who can point out your home’s potential flaws as well. That person could be your real estate agent, who can and should ask the tough questions you may not want to ask. It can be a friend or relative who is not investing his life’s savings in the property. Have it be someone who will remember to ask for the seller’s disclosure and read every page of it before you make an offer…because people aren’t perfect, and neither are houses.