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!

Buying a House with IBC: What I'm Learning - Tips for Buying a Home

 

City Living

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.

Buying a House with IBC: What I'm Learning - Tips for Buying a Home

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!

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Comments

  • laura at

    Love the observations! Just be careful with water issues! Where’s there’s water …The great news is listings go up as we head into spring! Good Luck! It’s a fun ride! laura

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Yes. I know. It’s such a bummer when you see a home you love and then one detail (aka water) can throw the whole thing off course. I’m so excited to see what spring has to offer!

      xo Michael

  • Sandy Williams at

    I live in the very dry hot Interior of British Columbia and I look for where the sun sets and rises on the house. I love coffee in the morning looking at the rising sun and in the afternoon when it is usually over 100F, I want shade on my deck. So many decisions!

  • Debbie Meiser at

    Just something else to think about….consider where the sun rises and sets in relationship to the house. Sometimes a house will have a great patio/deck/porch but when it gets the afternoon sun all day it may be less than desirable to use….same for interior rooms of the house and window placement (which is something you can’t change….or, at least not very easily! Good luck house hunting! I’m a born and raised Pittsburgher….you WILL find something you love!

  • Amy Davis at

    Would love to see the Zillow links

    • nancy at

      Me too and I can’t imagine anyone objecting to more exposure.

  • Twopies at

    Check out the traffic patterns too…nearby railroads? Expressways? An article I read said to go by the house after school, and in the morning at school bus and rush hour time. Check out crime. Check with the city zoning department to see whether they are any proposed zoning issues…all things most buyers don’t think about. And I would add (having moved more in my life than a normal human being): when you find the right house, you will know. You will just know. You’re kinda obsessed…

  • Mikael at

    My daughter will be looking for a house this summer and your posts have been so helpful! She’s working on her required and desired list now!

  • Deb at

    We’ll be looking again soon. Thanks for the reminders. P.S. You could call your next post “The IBC’s of house buying.” Lol

  • Tricia at

    Yes, please share the links, especially the one you are still considering. The owners may appreciate you posting them. More potential buyers for them! Good luck. I love getting to follow you on your search for a new home.

  • Teri at

    Share the links!

  • Dawn Spencer at

    Heck to the yes on the Zillow links! Love that idea! I have bought and sold several homes and your insight has been wonderful. Some great reminders and some new thoughts. My only addition or advise so far would be to enjoy the house search experience and have fun with it. Try not to let it overwhelm you. That can really just suck all the fun right out of it. I have to remind myself that I am very fortunate to be in a position to choose a home to purchase, as many are never able to. That usually puts my perspective back in line and helps me get over myself. Thank you for sharing and good luck on your search!

    • Dawn Spencer at

      Ugh! TYPO alert. I hate typos. So much! For the record, I do know how to spell advice.

  • Laurie at

    House hunting is very exciting! I made a list of what I thought would make the perfect home. We found a house that made my heart skip a beat. Later, I came across that wish list. The house had nearly everything I wrote on my list including a pool! The only problem was the pool had been filled in. Ha!

  • Debbiecz at

    When we were house hunting in a very tight market it was a blessing to have a partner who could walk away from that “picture perfect” fixer upper. One house I loved we didn’t even go past the front door. He pointed out the uneven threshold at he front door & gaps in the window frames. Both signified foundation issues, I
    never noticed.

  • Mari at

    Yes please share the links,

  • Patricia at

    We just sold our house one year ago today. We’re now living in a downsized retirement apt and loving it. we bought our last (and first) home 33 years ago. It’s funny; we both knew it was “the one” before we even got out of the car. The kitchen was ugly, it only had one bathroom and barely any closet space. Over time we fixed all those issues and others and we lived there very happily.
    When it was time, we sold it to someone else and it’s her dream home now. When you find the one, you know.

  • Pamela Smith at

    We bought a house last year after living in our previous house for over 20 years. I knew the area I wanted it to be in, but even my mom said I was limiting myself too much. We looked for about 4 months in all different areas, but guess what? The house we found was in the exact area I wanted! Ha! Good thing come to those who wait! I agree with several of the others too. You will know its the right house as soon as you walk in! Enjoy the ride!

  • Viviana at

    Love the images you did share with us! Those chairs are great and the lighting is amazing too. Hope you find the perfect house for you soon. Here in Southern California, everything is an arm and a leg. Even rent is ridiculous for the most part.

  • Carole at

    I’m enjoying your house hunting posts. My husband and I lived in a duplex for a short time after our marriage, and are currently in our third house (where we’ve lived the longest). We own property, and although we love the space (I grew up a country girl), the amount of time involved to care for all of that property takes a lot away from living life.

    There’s always something that needs doing, whether it be outside, or inside.

    One thing I will tell you, I discovered quite by accident that not all states require a inspection prior to buying (Oregon does). If yours does not, I would highly recommend it. An inspection will spot all sorts of things that may not be visible to the naked eye, and will give you some bargaining power in the event that the house is one you want.

    Have fun looking! I love looking at houses, and often go to open houses just because. lol

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