Finding the perfect home, that perfect fit for you and/or your family is a very personal kind of shopping experience. After all, you have a world of choices laid out before you and a very narrow window of time within which to make them. If you don't speak up within this window of time, then your decision can impact the quality of life for you and/or your family for years to come. With this in mind, let's take a look at some helpful, constructive critiquing techniques that put into words many of the emotional instincts that are so valuable in the home buying experience...
Be Honest, Be Clear
While most people may feel comfortable being brutally honest, others may try to sugar-coat or outright be agreeable with their feelings on a home. But you won't be doing your agent (let alone your family) a favor by worrying about everyone's feelings at the expense of your own. Everyone's feelings (aka instincts) are significantly important here - especially early on. Unlike many of life's big-ticket purchases, a home is one of the few decisions where emotional connection is an important consideration to take in account.
While you don't have to clarify why a place isn't "gelling" with you, you would do better by communicating your criticism with clear, descriptive language that ultimately helps your agent whittle down their catalog of available properties. Try this exercise on for size and keep in mind that the goal is to capture your initial instincts (not to sugar-coat your feelings), so these will work best if you answer them quickly without much forethought:
- This neighborhood makes me feel _____________.
- This home reminds me of _____________ and that is _____________.
- This neighborhood is too _____________ (secluded, crowded, rural, noisy, etc.).
- This neighborhood isn't close enough to _____________.
- The thing that stands out to me the most about this home is _____________.
- I do/do not want to move on and take a look at the next home - here's why _____________ (I simply love this place, we're off on our goals, etc.).
- I do/do not want to take additional photos - here's why _____________ (because there's a lot of work we'd have to do here, I'm inspired, etc.).
- The most memorable rooms in the home are _____________.
- One thing I would change about the home is _____________ (the tree out front, etc.) and that would be _____________ (pricey or an easy do).
Instinctively, you'll be thinking of most of these as you browse properties around town anyway, but it doesn't hurt to check if there's something new that can inspire conversation. Don't feel like you can't expand on this list either - you can add all sorts of factors that are important to you and your family.
You'll fare better in the long run if you get as much buy-in up front as possible. That said, getting everyone to agree on everything is going to be tough. To help with this, you can agree in advance on assigned, tie-splitting votes for certain aspects of a home or neighborhood. For instance, if proximity to work is your most important consideration, but a bigger yard is your spouse's most important consideration, then you might both agree that they would get the "final vote" for all things yard-related while you get the "final vote" for all things drive-related.
It doesn't so much matter how you divvy up the votes as long as you're being honest, supportive and ultimately seeking a home that everyone has had some input on. Of course, only you know how your household's dynamics work. Getting buy-in from three toddlers might not be your primary financial concern. But... if you're looking for ways to involve everyone, then here are some ideas on how you might do so:
- Work: _____________ (name) will have the final vote on whether or not the commute and/or nearby employment opportunities will work.
- Play: _____________ (name) will have the final vote on whether or not the views and/or area amenities will have enough to offer.
- Lifestyle: _____________ (name) will have the final vote on whether or not the local/regional culture will be up to par.
- Social: _____________ (name) will have the final vote on whether or not the neighbors and/or schools will be a good fit.
- And so on...
As before, it may not matter what you base your decisions on, but instead that you're involving everyone and empowering them with a voice in this big decision ahead. For those with children, this exercise of giving your kids a puzzle to work on might even buy you some time on the road. It essentially goes from "Just 30 more minutes kids..." to "While we're on our way to the next stop, tell us what you thought about the last place..." (don't worry, this tip is coming from a parent of teens).
When to Document and Discuss
For some, a discussion is the best part of this whole experience (for others, not so much). Perhaps fewer still enjoy documentation, but in the end, this may be the most important role that someone takes on. Afterall, who's going to remember all those homes and all those notes at the tail end of a long, tough, and emotionally-stressful day? That said, there's no law that says you have to make this some drawn-out exercise.
A header with the home address and a few columns with household initials may be all that's needed. Then, pop in a numeric value (1-10) next to each family member's initial or name with the option for a one or two-word description (if someone's feeling negatively or positively inspired by the last home). That brings up the when - as in when to do all of this. Again, every household is different, but it might be a conversation to have on the way to the next property. Why? Becuase while you're getting valuable input and bringing everyone's voice to the table... you're also buying for time.
Everyone's energy-level can drain (it's only natural). You may be surprised to learn that the adults in the car get bored before the kids do (it can happen). This is why we've mentioned the importance of food breaks in similar house-hunting articles in the past. While this article is more about how to identify an ideal home than how to survive the process with as much remaining sanity as possible, a well-timed food break is important and may provide the perfect time to share notes on a home you've just toured.
You know your family like no one else possibly could, but just like bringing a new member of the family into the mix, moving into a new space affects the delicate dynamics of your household. And while no one can see into the future and make certain (without a doubt) that a decision to buy one home over another makes the most sense, there are some things you can plan on, communicate and/or involve the whole family in on. That's really the spirit of all of this... planning, communication, and inclusion. If you're considering these, then you're on your way to a positive and memorable home shopping experience! Good luck on the hunt!
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