A Short Guide to Buying a Better Home

Jesus Prices were relatively sane, rose, rose more, bubbled, and popped, leaving the usual wreckage of euphoria induced pump and dump. Some people were hit, especially those who got in late to the musical chairs game, hadn't established economic fundamentals, or greedily tried to form business schemes around illusive newfound expertise in a field they had never studied or understood, as if wealth gained from playing in boom times would continue forever.

Others opted out, just as they opt out of most decisions and adult life generally, preferring to choose only what appears before them instead of deliberately seeking a desirable outcome and acting according in a way that will get them to their goals. You can forever sit on the fence, at least until accepting every stray cat works its undeniable erosion.

The impostors and scammed were thrown out and overturned, and then the cleanup began. Extra capacity came onto the market, readjusting prices near pre-bubble levels that now seem a bargain.

If you got in before the bubble and outlasted it, chances are you were financially conservative and stable, and accordingly your wealth has increased. Wealth makes greater wealth; debt and wasteful spending makes poverty. A disposition of responsiblity affords you many options for selecting a better home in the quiet period before prices begin a more rapid acceleration.

Of course, if you disagree with that outlook, in view of the fragility of major markets and bubbles in the developing world that could domino elsewhere, or don't want to leave the place you call home, your position is already strong and no one can move you out. You win either way.

-Jesus
February 1, 2014


First Effort
Your first house is a starter. You don't really know anything about houses, certainly not their ownership and subtle aspects of living well, so much of what drives your choice will be seen as wrong later, yet that knowledge can only be attained by making a decision. Your cash flow was limited, so your purchase was modest. Over years of living there, you've seen what is good about it, what can be improved, and what needs a new house to do better.

Second Effort
Your second house will be closer to the mark.

  • Scout the Area - Look at homes in the local area and better areas to get familiar with desirable features in a home.
  • Use Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia to look into properties. Track the ones that capture your interest and get a feel for listing prices and eventual selling prices. You'll see how competitive the market is in your price range and how flexible listed prices are when deals get closed.
  • Go to many open houses, picking the most interesting properties, even if you are not intending to purchase in the near term. You'll see variations on appealing themes and build a strong sense of layouts, materials, space, light, and other essential determinations of homes you enjoy.
  • Imagine life in those locations, both upsides and downsides. Consider the interesting and quirky designs. To what are you better connected? How will you change your life accordingly?
  • Get a good agent. If you're going to close any deal, you need a savvy and highly motivated person who can anticipate and steer past blockades, offer decades of wisdom and advice, and use contacts to smooth the buying process.

Your third house will be close to perfect, and you can only get that victory by making a succession of good efforts.