"Location, Location, Location" is one of real estate's oldest and most accurate cliches. A recent Virginian Pilot article exploring the potential impact of tolls after their first year highlights how the tolls may impact local businesses and communities.
"The catastrophic impact is going to be over time," said Tony Goodwin, president of the Olde Towne Business Association. "Everybody's just fitting into those tight-fitting shoes.... We're all figuring out how to make it work."
After reading the article we felt compelled to share some thoughts on how the costs and logistics may impact your lifestyle. We want to share ways to make your home-search more enjoyable, profitable and stress free. Too often when house shopping the Realtor and buyer do not consider all the outcomes when purchasing a home.
Most home shoppers start with the same basic model of a search and sadly, they do not do enough research to hire the right Realtor up front or zero in on the very best location for their overall lifestyle. They are lead by emotion and fail to interview multiple Full-Time Experienced Realtors, increasing the odds that the client will be SOLD instead of their overall interests protected. The Realtor's responsibility is a heavy one in our opinion. We believe that our clients deserve to be fully educated instead of "nudged" into a sale by pushing the emotional buttons in the correct order as most sales agents are trained to do.
3 Critical things to consider before you are emotionally attached to any home.
1. How much can we afford?
A local, direct lender should work as a team with your Realtor. Consider how home ownership fits into your short, mid term and long term financial plan. Home equity is often the foundation of a long term financial plan yet it is often overlooked. If your Agent is not starting this conversation you should find another agent asap. It's a red flag that they may be looking to score a sale over what's best for you. And just because you qualify for a higher monthly payment doesn't mean you should max out that number. If you do then you could wind up being "House Poor."
2. Location Location Location
Many Home Buyers buy in the WRONG LOCATION. They never knew there were better homes in communities that were a better fit for them because the search process was driven by their emotion and by a salesperson's agenda to close a sale as fast as possible. Your price range will dictate to a large extent the location choices you will have. The way our local Hampton Roads MLS works is actually not a home search, it is a process of elimination. With each criteria filter added to your search, homes that you can't afford or do not want to see are eliminated from the list. Start your search with the price point commensurate with your monthly mortgage comfort level or upper limit. From here consider things like your work location and commute routes, home lifestyle wants and needs as well as education and quality of local schools. Your price range filtered out communities and homes out of your price range but you understanding what your full house needs will also remove houses that are not suited for you and your family.
A. Parse School Districts even you you have no children. Schools drive supply and demand in Hampton Roads communities and increased demand drives future value and appreciation of your largest investment.
B. Consider Commute Time and Cost. Drive the route from the neighborhoods you have targeted to your work place during rush hours. Consider cost of fuel for longer commutes, as well as time lost with your family either driving or sitting at a tunnel daily. It's not always about the money but as local governments continue to waste transportation dollars and allow private, for-profit companies to control traffic costs through our tunnels and expressways, costs will continue to rise. These companies are not looking out for us. A perfect example are the Portsmouth and Suffolk communities that are now being impacted by increased expense and or time to go around these tolls. What's more important? A 45 minute daily drive is 9 HOURS per week you will never get back with your loved ones, that's 450 HOURS per year! From age 8-18 you may lose 4500 hours with your children.
C. Never compromise the Location for the size, style or appearance of the box you will live in. Loving your space is important but Great Realtors always guide our buyers to strike a balance of Location, commute and the mid to long term investment potential, Lifestyle considerations of the community and neighborhood and the characteristics of the perfect home for your families needs.
3. The Box
The home itself is very important beginning with the Type of Ownership.
There are Condominiums which are more of a lifestyle choice than investment. Attached condos offer a more maintenance free lifestyle since the interior is all that the buyer actually owns in most cases. There are also hybrid Condo ownership models that include single family condos. They perform slower due to the increased costs from condo dues that can be as much as a few extra hundred dollars per month. Due to government restrictions to financing condos and the shear number of available supply they tend appreciate much slower than other types of homes in Hampton Roads. When the buyer pool is limited, the prices can not pace with the broader market.
Attached Town Homes & Cluster Homes with Simple Ownership. Conforming financing is much easier to obtain and maintenance is reduced by the smaller sizes and shared walls and roof lines. These homes are often found in communities that have mandatory property owners associations and monthly fees. Consider the reduced outside space restrictions and be sure there are local parks and playgrounds close by for the family and pets.
Single Family Homes/Simple Ownership. Private yards and outdoor space is often associated with more freedom making this form of ownership the most attractive to the largest number of home buyers in the suburban communities of Hampton Roads. Simple Ownership refers to the "Bundle of Rights" that often convey with single family homes.
Size, Features, and Finish that fit your family needs and lifestyle. How many bedrooms do we need, number of full bathrooms, 1st floor master suites, kitchen and floor-plan layout etc. are all things to consider for immediate and future needs. Family units adjust and flex up and down as time passes. Sadly, many home buyers start their focus here and fixate on the features of the box itself. They fall prey to highly skilled and trained agents, both new home models and mass advertised firms running ad campaigns designed to get them in the car as fast as possible looking at homes to score a fast closing. It's very easy for an agent trained to "Convert and Close" to simply push the right emotional buttons at the right time to score a sale.
Charlie Laurens, co-founder of the PerfectHouse Team often shares this advice to agents as well as home buyers and sellers as he guides them. "A Great Realtor should now direct the conversation of quality location to fit your needs and financial plans. What we Realtors do for our clients is a "Heavy Responsibility." Many agents only care about when the sale will close and their buyers don't slow down to see the bigger picture because they are busy with all the emotions and complexities of buying a home. Instead, they are at risk of focusing on other emotional triggers like, granite counter-tops, larger homes or yards and other bells and whistles. This is especially true in New Home Communities, never register without a Realtor present that you trust and is representing your best interests. Homes can not be traded in as simply as cars without heavy financial risk once you have realized you bought the wrong location/home package for your needs."
The bottom line is this, You Do Not Know What You Do Not Know. More time should be invested in searching for the Full-Time, Professional Realtor, that values the relationship and creates an exceptional experience for you BEFORE you go to see houses.
Part-time or agents with firms that do not subscribe to the Realtors Code of Ethics may not be the best choice of guidance for your family. There is way more involved in a house purchase than just a web search and unlocking some doors for you to see home. And there is a reason why they avoid the higher standards of ethics required by the local Hampton Roads Realtors Association. When answering any ad or asking a questions about a home you find online from sites like Zillow, ask the agent if they are a Realtor. It isn't enough to simply be a "legal" real estate agent in Virginia, you want a professional who always is in your best interest.
Doing your homework on the professional you choose will help you make the big decision on where to live in Hampton Roads. To begin your home search we invite you to tour our full MLS search.