How to choose between two houses

Hank Bailey
Hank Bailey
Published on March 15, 2019

This weekend I am taking a couple out looking at houses.  In two days we’ll cover a lot of ground as we have over 30 homes on our list that appear, on paper at least, to meet most of their “must have’s.”  In this type of scenario, with so many on our showing itinerary, we may find several that seem to be a perfect fit. If this happens, how do you decide which home to pursue and which one(s) to leave behind?

It’s not a hard solution, but one I’ve found quite effective with my clients over the years. Develop a ‘pros and cons’ list. In truth, the list works best for small family groups – singles and couples – as the more members of a family there are, the more compromises as a group you’ll no doubt need to make.

Location, Location, and Location some more ..

Since location normally is the most important factor in determining a home’s market value, let’s start here to determine if location also offers a functional value to you.

If you have children, choosing between neighborhoods is sometimes a factor that’s made a bit easier. Many with kids want a neighborhood with other children and a reasonably close proximity to the best schools, along with parks and recreation. These many times will top the list within the decision-making process.

Other homebuyers desire to go deeper in their due diligence. For example, what do you know about the neighbors? It is true that by looking at how well the neighbors keep up the exterior of their home and yards will tell you a great deal about them, but a trip through each neighborhood of interest during different parts of the week and especially during the evening hours when kids are home from school and after the work day will tell you even more about whether this is the community for you. Depending on when you do your drive-by you may be lucky enough to hear or see something that you’d find undesirable — such as that yapping dog, rooster crowing from behind the neighbors house or loud music — that will knock the home out of consideration.

I’d definitely suggesting using schooldigger.com and greatschools.org to research the local schools. You may not be thinking about future value right now, but that doesn’t lessen its importance. My wife, for example, tells me every time we’ve bought a house that before we even close, I’m thinking about “resale” value.  That’s because homes near quality – high rated – schools hold their value better than those near poor-performing schools. Not just that, they appreciate more in value too!

Additional considerations about a homes’ location include:

  • Commute time to the office.
  • Is the neighborhood near amenities you like to frequent?
  • If homes in one neighborhood are selling faster and at a higher value than the others, make note of that.
  • If you’re concerned about crime, contact local law enforcement with questions.

Comparing homes

When comparing several homes, look beyond the attractive staging (or lack thereof) to see the “bones” of each home. This includes the design or architectural details, floorplan, and a feel for the soundness of the structure.

Your primary concern is probably going to be your lifestyle, so determine how well each home fits. If you have a dog, for example, and one house has a fenced yard and the other does not, that is something to note. The number of bedrooms and bathrooms are always important, but don’t forget about storage space, space to entertain and outdoor amenities.

Consider future plans as well. These might include the possibility of starting a family or dealing with an empty nest.

Scrutinize the features of each home that can’t be easily changed without spending a lot of money. This includes the flow of the floorplan, the number of bathrooms, outdated kitchen and bathrooms, closet and room sizes.

Finally, don’t forget your wish list. Which home hits more of your hot buttons items? Does one home have more of your “must have’s” than another?

I know it’s hard, but try to remain unemotional during the process. If you find yourself going back to a particular home because of the “updated kitchen” yet another home has more of what you want, your emotions will keep pulling you back to the former.  Yet, it is possible to update the kitchen in the other home too! So, see past those things that can be changed, but don’t miss the things that you’d be stuck with if the home doesn’t check off as many of your ‘boxes.’

Another great piece of advice. I’m sure you have noticed something new in a movie you watched for a second time. It’s the same with houses. You may have missed something during the first showing that stands out to you upon seeing the home a second time. Take an additional showing tour of each home to help you decide.

Here’s the downside to taking too much time though. In a fast moving real estate market, like the one we’re in today, this won’t accommodate a lot of extra time to think and compare homes and you may need to make a quick decision. In that case, my advice is to pick the house that feels like ‘home’ when you walk in the door.  I’ve seen it so many times where a buyer steps into “that perfect house” and they say, “this is it…”

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