Once upon a time there was a perfect young couple who bought a house…. a beautiful, wonderful “forever home.” They had 2.4 children and the home expanded to meet all their needs. Playroom? Done? Mudroom with cubbies? Dance studio for their little diva? Theatre room for the teenagers? The home just kept growing and growing in all the right directions. The children grew up and went to Ivy League colleges and the beautiful, wonderful “forever” home contracted back to a more ‘manageable” size with the master on the main level and a much smaller yard that was easier to keep up. The perfect couple had a perfect life in their forever home and everyone lived happily ever after. Once upon a time and happily ever after? That’s how all good fairy tales begin and end, right? And since I’m writing a post about “forever homes” the concept of fairy tales feels especially fitting. Don’t get me wrong or think me overly cynical. I’m the biggest softie out there and I adore the idea of a perfect home. So much so that I’ve spent twenty-plus years helping my clients find their perfect home. But, while most people intuitively know that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” home, they do seem to want to believe in a forever home.
So what would I say to that perfect young couple if they landed in my office seeking their “forever home?” I’d be excited and enthused and thrilled that they were taking the leap into home ownership and then I’d ever-so-gently try to explain that a “forever” home is a bit of a fairy tale and that setting their expectations that high is bound to lead to disappointment. I’d double down and help them find their “just right” home… the home that is right for them right now.
To be honest, most young homebuyers don’t ask to buy a “forever” home. Most realize that a “starter” home is just that, a wonderful place to start. Most know that they won’t live in the first house they buy forever. It’s just not practical in this day and age. But, if I can pull a few key ideas from the “forever home” fairy tale and use it to help my young couple focus their search, we almost always find a really fantastic “right now” home.
Most often, when buyers tell me they want to find their “forever home,” what they really mean is that want a home that will grow with them. That means it’s my job to pull out my crystal ball and look into their future and the best way to do that, I’ve found, is to look to the past. Yep… the past. Especially when I meet with first-time homebuyers, I ask lots of questions about how they lived. Were they in an apartment or a house? Downtown or suburbs? Did they spend Saturday mornings hanging out in their yoga pants, sipping lattes in front of the TV or did they lace up their hiking shoes and head for the hills? Did they drive/bike/walk to work? How often did they go out? Quiet dinners at hot bistros or loud bars with happy hour? And often, I look even farther back into their future. How did they grow up? What was their childhood home like? What did they like about that? What did they dislike about it? Usually this line of questioning gives us some really good starting points. I learn whether we need to be looking at hot, chic urban lofts or quaint and cozy cottages in the burbs. I know whether or not they need to be a few minutes from some great eateries or will be happier on a large lot in the country.
Once we narrow down our search for the “just right” home a little bit, I ask them to imagine a few things they might not have thought of. For example, if they expand their family while living in this house, is a master suite on the main floor really such a great idea? Unless they want to be climbing stairs for midnight feedings, they might want to opt for bedrooms on the same level! And that fancy pants walk-in shower in the guest bathroom? It’s not so great when you’re trying to bathe a wee one. Also, storage becomes a BIG issue when my clients start multiplying. Apparently, kids come with LOTS of stuff. Lots and lots of expensive stuff that you’ll want to keep. So, while an attic or a loft above the garage might not seem important on the we-don’t-have-children side of things, it might be a big deal in a few years. Similarly, a teeny tiny lot with a fire-pit isn’t so enticing when you’re trying to play ball with your munchkins. Obviously, it’s impossible to know all the curves that life will throw – and that, after all, is why a “forever home” is pretty much a fairy tale. But, with a little planning and future-gazing, finding a “just right” home that will grow and transform with rapidly changing lifestyles is not only possible for first time homebuyers, but likely! Next week… forever homes when you’re upsizing!