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The art to finding a home, not just another house.

Homes are not all about money. It is true, owning a home is typically how the American middle class builds wealth, but a home is not a house either. A home is what one makes of a house. A home is where one grows, recharges, shares, mends, and loves. While a house is something impermanent, transitional, and less loved, so how does someone go about find a home and not just a house?

The first thing is first, produce order from chaos. Before beginning to look at houses, take an inventory of the beloved spaces and places from memories. Identify memories of places that induced feelings of safety, relaxed ease, and relief. As a practice of meditation or thought, list them out and identify what specific characteristics helped those feelings come to life. What qualities did these places share and try to discover why they stand out from others. Make what is essential, clear, and in mind. Clear goals save time and aid in accountability.

A day in a life, practicality for living. Our next thought experiment will dive into what works well now? What has worked in the past? What will need to work well in the future? To do this, we will need to discover how long the house will be home? What might happen in life during that time? What plans need consideration? Again, lists are great in clarifying these goals. Financially speaking, the longer a home is kept, the better off financially one will be. A priority for an honest broker is to help their client stay in a home as long as possible. Selling a home is a pricey proposition, and the longer life works under the next roof, the larger the return by a significant margin. Surprises happen, but with proper preparation, most surprise situations are avoidable.

Do not forgive one criterion to the detriment of another without due consideration. Setup the criteria that work for life; commute needs to be X; schools need to be Y, the home must have Z, and so on. A typical example of sacrificing something for something else has to do with the commute. Logically homes that are farther from the city center are more affordable. Often our eyes are larger than our wallets. If there comes the point that a renegotiation of criteria must occur, do not take it lightly. It must be decided in this example, whether a lessor home wins over a longer commute and more beautiful home. Again with the lists, pros and cons must get mapped out. Drive the commute during high traffic. Do due diligence. Make sure whatever sacrifice is about to be made can be sustained long term. Make sure happiness will be maintained.

Quality in construction matters, even when not afraid of doing a little work. A lesson, I learned the hard way. Do not be blinded by beauty, location, or any factor that is so perfect; it creates a blind spot for glaring construction issues. Being objective is essential when excitement runs high. Those overlooked construction concerns will become points of resentment toward the home, the builder, the last owner, or whatever down the line. Making sure the cost to repair is calculated into the offer and schedule the repairs to be completed as quickly after closing as can be accomplished. Often people move into the home, life happens, and the repairs get shelved never to see the light of day. People end up living with those issues, and the house never entirely becomes home, and the owner a bit sour about it.

One person’s trash is another’s treasure, but still everyone else’s trash. It can be hard to know what not to buy, especially the first time around or even the second time around. People do not know what they do not know. For example, maybe someone from Delhi might consider the noise level on 23rd Ave E in Capitol Hill to be perfectly fine, and so they would be pleased in a home they found on 23rd. Unfortunately, all other buyers in Seattle would find that scenario to be a deal-breaker. Alternatively, another buyer might find a home with one bedroom on each floor to be perfectly beautiful, while 80% of the remaining buyers find that to be functionally obsolescent. The point is to be open to advice. Do not buy a home for others, but do be aware of how personal taste impacts value and make a judgment call. After all, happiness is valuable too, but it will never hurt to have more information when making big decisions. If personal taste is going to cost $100,000 over five years, that is a decision one could make with full knowledge.

Fools rush in and out. Most bad decisions are a combination of impatience, lack of knowledge, and poorly defined goals. Purchasing a house is a big financial decision. It is exciting, but that will wear off. Picking a home is like picking a partner. Things that did not annoy in the beginning will annoy after six months. Incapatablitiy rears its ugly head, and suddenly remorse replaces excitement. All avoidable with preparation, a check on reality, and planning for what is to come next. Follow our guide, and excitement will stick around and will ripen into a productive partnership. After all, home is where the heart belongs.

Remember to keep an open mind at the beginning of the search. Use the search as a funnel of knowledge. As knowledge grows, shrink the parameters using what has been learned and not before. As they say, people do not know what they do not know. Take notes while on tour and keep a rank of the toured homes. Toss the homes that are not worth remembering or considering out of mind. Keep track of only three or four homes. For those who are analytical, use a weighted balanced approach. Create a scoring system based on priorities. Apply that score to each home. Most of all, make sure whatever home rises to the top feels right. The feeling will be evident once the inventory becomes familiar.

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Matt Miner

Real estate guru and Seattle know-it-all


In everything that I do as your REALTOR®, I have one guiding principle in mind: To make certain that your home-buying or selling experience is a happy, successful, wonderful life experience! We build trust and security with our clients using knowledge and transparency.