Bubbly or solemn, everyone worries

#325 in a series of true experiences in real estate
May 2000, Hills Newspapers

From the start, some buyers are excited and bubbly. They can hardly wait to get out there and find what will become home. Other people, who look at buying as a project, are more solemn.

Either way, buyers worry. Practiced worries find more than enough to keep them engaged. But those who are usually cheerful, carefree types worry too. Because the buying of a house is big. It means being responsible both for money and for choosing where to live.

Most people are quite concerned about these things. They know they can’t buy and then easily “un-buy” if they change their minds. The house they choose, and how much they spend to buy it, will shape a lot of their lives for some time.

The money part of buying has many sub-parts, some of which are apparent: What is affordable? What can I buy, make the payments on, still have money for food –and maybe even a vacation?

There are the less obvious parts: Should I lock in my loan? Will prices hold, or will I pay too much if I buy now? Will prices go up?

Selecting can be difficult, too. Almost every buyer is disappointed by what he can buy. It doesn’t seem to matter whether he is looking for a $400,000 house or one for $1,000,000, the houses he can afford are too small or too needy, they have no yard or view or privacy – or something.

Because of this, almost everyone reaches for the highest possible price. Everyone wants to get the best they can.

As the price goes up, money worries get bigger and are easily extended to repairs and wishes. How long do roofs last? If my roof leaks, where will I get the money to fix it? If we redo the kitchen countertops and buy a new dishwasher, how much will it cost?

For many first-time buyers, there are parents to worry about especially when they have loaned or given money to their kids so they can buy. Getting parents who live in an area where $75,000 buys four bedrooms and acreage to believe California prices can be a trick. And buyers often feel the need to impress their parents with their good taste and business acumen.

Every buyer wants to make a smart investment, to buy in a neighborhood that other people find appealing, a place that is safe to come home to at night, where walking in the evening is pleasant. Everyone worries about quiet and good neighbors. In other words, buyers hope that the house they buy will be a good place to live and will also be worth more when they want to sell.

Sooner or later, looking at houses results in concentrating on a particular one. “I may not buy it,” thinks the buyer, “but this one is worth looking at more closely.” Now generic worries become case-specific. “Does the sun hit the kitchen in the morning? Is the room off the bedroom cold in winter? Is the foundation strong? What about the water pressure in the shower?

“How much cash in all will I need for my down payment and closing costs? How much – including utilities and insurance – will it cost each month to live here? What will my parents think about this house?”

And, unfortunately, in our current market, there are other worries: “How many offers will there be? How high should I bid? What if I win? How will I feel?

We’ve known a couple of people who became so paralyzed by their fears once they were concentrating on a specific house, so frightened that they wouldn’t be able to make it all come out right, that they stopped dead. Even though they thought that buying was what they wanted very much, and even though this particular house fit most of their dreams, they did not make an offer because they just couldn’t.

Well, now that we’ve got you worried, what should you do? Are you going to be paralyzed? Probably not. But what if you are? Then you won’t buy a house.

If you want a house of your own, if you have enough money, if you concentrate fully on your goal, chances are good that you can make it happen. You’ll get past your anguish and enjoy the relief. “At least it’s done. Right or wrong, I bought it.”

The house you buy won’t be perfect, but you’ll make it work. You’ll repair the porch, or you won’t. You’ll build bookshelves, or get rid of your books. You’ll learn to cook on an electric stove, or you’ll manage to get a gas one.

You will do what every good-thinking homeowner does. You will find your favorite parts and be glad. You will go out and buy a metal rack for your pots and pans and you’ll start cooking, inviting friends to taste your treats.

Your little kitchen will be crowded with friends standing around watching and talking, and this will be fine, cozy and good.

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