Whether it’s your first home or your 10th, there are things you need to get right when purchasing a house. Your expectations must be clear before you sign the contract, pack a box or pick up a paintbrush. Some things will go better than you planned, other things will be worse, but all of it will be exciting and get you closer to your ideal home.
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Study the housing market in your area to see where properties are moving fast. Try to get comparable sales data on houses that are similar in size to what you want so you have a ballpark of what you can expect as far as price, renovation needs and time on market.
Renovate or Move-In Ready?
If you’ve never renovated a home but have watched a lot of home improvement shows, do not attempt any big strikes unless you have the budget for a contractor and the time to get the home repaired before you need to move in. Demolition looks easy because it is. Putting things back together is not.
That being said, there are renovation tasks that are actually easier than you’d expect. If your home has prefab cabinets in the kitchen and you hate them, elbow grease, a sanding block, and good paint can make a world of difference. If you have the budget to replace them, measure with care and order something you like better.
If the cabinets are built-in, also called stick-built, be aware that pulling them out will be labor-intensive and replacing them may be challenging. If you can see the wall inside the cabinet and none of them are a stock size, you likely have stick-built cabinets.
Make sure to invest in the “work” rooms of your home if you do plan to renovate before you move in. While bedrooms can easily be freshened by a coat of paint and new carpet, your kitchen and bathrooms actually need to work once you live in the space. Update these spaces into something you can live with for at least a couple of years before you start unpacking. Too often, these updates are left for last and the renovation process is messy and protracted. Living with a refrigerator in the living room gets old quickly.
If you’re selling your current home to be able to buy the new one, do some financial legwork to get ahead by at least two payments. Your new mortgage may be contingent on closing out the old one, but if you must move, such as a relocation for a new job, having a couple of payments in the bank of the mortgage holder on the first house can give you some flexibility as you work to sell the original space.
Also, don’t be afraid to get creative with finance plans if the first sale falls through. If the seller you’re buying from doesn’t need the payout immediately, see if you can lease the new home for a time while you sell yours.
Money and Time
Your new home may give you visions of grandeur. Should you invest in a decor you love? Absolutely. However, it’s critical that you make sure you have the funding in place for the big expenses before you shop for things that you want to update. If the windows need replaced, carpet can wait. If the plumbing includes lead piping in your water lines, the patio must wait.
Updating the basement won’t be worth the expense and effort if it leaks when it rains hard.
Tips and Tricks Before Moving Day
Paint the entire interior of the home before you move in. Even if you’re using the exact same shade, fresh paint will make everything feel much cleaner. Make sure you also paint or patch the interior of the closets, as these can feel dark and dank if left undone. Go with a light shade of paint and paint the ceilings and walls the same color in closets.
When friends offer to help, let them. Nearly everyone can handle a paint roller, and if they can’t, put them to work cleaning. Work each room counterclockwise and from the ceiling down. Wipe down ceiling fan blades, pull all the light fixture globes and pull the light switch and outlet plates for a good washing. You’ll need to remove them for painting anyway.
Get the carpets professionally cleaned or replaced before you move in. Scrub the vinyl flooring and the tile with a bristled brush to free up dirt in grooves and grout. Move your family into a fresh, clean space.
A final trick to freshen the air: find a cleaner that smells good to you. Something citrus is often nice. Plug all the sinks in the space, add a couple of inches of water to them and splash in a bit of your favorite cleaner the day before you move in. Take care not to overload them; you just want a hint of fragrance. Drain the sinks as you need to use them.
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