As you know, I’m currently house hunting and taking you along on my adventure. (In case you missed any of my journey, you can catch up here.) I think I already mentioned that the housing market in Pittsburgh is relatively slow during the winter. Thankfully, we are on the verge of spring, and I’m already seeing signs that things are starting to pick back up. During the past couple of weeks, I looked at five houses. (Only one has potential.) However, with each house, I have gained more insight into the market and what I want ultimately want in a home. So today I thought I’d pop in and share some things I’m learning. My goal is to keep you up-to-date and offer advice for those of you who are also buying a house.
Let’s get to it!
When I first moved to Pittsburgh, the idea of living in a row house tucked into the city streets seemed idyllic. I could certainly manage with little or no yard, one parking spot, and a smaller space. However, as I began my house hunt this past fall, I realized that being in the city was great, but I needed something with a bit more space. I wanted a garage, some sort of yard, and a little breathing room between my house and the neighboring ones.
Last week on Facebook, a friend shared a house that’s about 15 minutes outside the city. Although the house was a dream on the outside, the recently redone interior was not my style, so it didn’t warrant a visit. Nonetheless, I took a drive around the neighborhood and was delighted with what I saw. There were large trees, the streets were quiet, the homes had yard space, and it felt less busy. Plus, it was still close enough to all the hub-bub of the city without being in it.
While I’m still open to a home closer in, this showed me that a house just outside the city might be a nice fit for me.
Lesson: When it comes to location, think about what you want long term. Also, be honest with yourself about what gets under your skin in your current area. Does it bother you when someone’s car alarm goes off every day? Are the streets congested, making it hard or worrisome to get around?
Also, don’t be afraid to check out a few homes outside of what you may be considering. Like me, it may cause you to think about a different location or it may offer a perspective you hadn’t considered.
Pictures Vs. Reality
On Saturday I stumbled across a new listing on Zillow and immediately fell in love. Like, punch-in-the-gut, this-is-my-house kinda love. It was a 100+-year-old home tucked into a cute neighborhood about 15 minutes from the city. It had recently been redone, mostly in my style. However, there were still several projects that I could tackle on my own. Perfect! Thankfully my real estate agent is the bomb and set up a showing for the next morning.
Being a blogger and knowing full well how photos can differ from reality, I should have been prepared for a house that did not live up to the magic of the online images. It turns out that a lot of the finishing details were ignored and the appliances that seemed new in the photos are well used and dented, The basement also has water issues.
While I am still considering this property, the reality of it definitely was a surprise to me. I walked up the sidewalk thinking I would be placing an offer, and left with a very different view. As with most things online, a house may look “picture perfect,” but chances are the photos are showing you the home’s good angles and taking advantage of good lighting and camera work. You are only seeing the highlight reel just to get you in the door.
Lesson: Don’t get overly excited or get your hopes up about any property until you see it in its entirety. If you’re anything like me, this is easier said than done. Having an unrealistic view of a place can also cloud your judgment when you find potential problems or concerns. Have patience and keep your perspective.
Nothing is Perfect
Unless you are exceedingly lucky, chances are you’re not going to find a home that’s absolutely perfect. And if you’re a bit picky like me, the search is going to be even more challenging. As I looked through the home I mentioned previously, my real estate agent reminded me that there’s going to be something about every home that I don’t like or would prefer to be different. It’s important to consider what things you’re willing to live with and what you can reasonably change. And while I was aware of this, it was a good reminder. That’s why I’m sharing it with you.
A lot of these imperfections may be caught by your “Required and Desired” list which I talked about here, but there will also be more things that come up that aren’t yet on your radar. Also, consider what will be a simple fix and what might be a much more complicated addition or alteration. For example, you can easily paint walls, add modelings, and update landscaping, but it will be more challenging and costly to replace windows, run new electrical, and upgrade the heating and air conditioning system.
Lesson: Don’t settle for a property you don’t love or feel in your gut to be home. However, remember that nothing is perfect and certain details can be changed or improved over time.
Okay, I have more advice to share, but this post is already long enough. I’ll save those ideas for another day.
I suspect you would love to see the houses I’m visiting. I haven’t included any images of them here because I feel awkward photographing someone else’s residence and sharing those photos on the internet without the owner’s permission. The only way around this would be to provide Zillow links to homes that didn’t work for me. If that’s something you’d be interested in, please let me know.
Until next time!