What to consider for your Home Wishlist?
With the holiday season upon us, we’ve all been thinking about our wishlists. This time of year means putting together a list of things we’ve been pining after, whether we actually need them or not. While most items on your wishlist fill a specific want or need, a home has to balance several (often competing or conflicting) wants and most of us can’t have everything we want, especially in a market like NYC. Coming up with a wishlist for a home is hard enough, but it can be particularly tricky for those who are not purchasing alone, and it’s always important to get on the same page about the basics before beginning your search.
Budget is not really a wishlist item. It is the elephant in the room affecting the feasibility of your wishlist items or how you might need to compromise among different wishlist items. The budget question is much more involved than simply deciding how much you want to spend. Unlike a new coat or pair of shoes, a home’s purchase price is usually paid off over a period of many years and there are ongoing expenses that have little to do with the purchase price. The purchase price only tells part of the story and must be weighed against other factors like monthly maintenance costs and how much you might want to spend on renovations. Budget must take into account your liquidity and ongoing obligations, as well as your comfort level in making the investment.
Location versus Size
If you have a defined budget, location versus size is a hugely important consideration. Sometimes this is a sliding scale (a slightly larger one bed in one neighborhood versus a slightly smaller one in another) or it may be more drastic where the price of a studio in one neighborhood may get you a single-family house in another. If there is a real need to be in a certain area or have a certain size home, this may significantly narrow your choices. Even then, I always ask buyers why they are drawn to a certain neighborhood. There may be a neighborhood you never heard of that has the same qualities at a price point better aligned with your budget.
Commute is one of the biggest factors that can affect your quality of life on a daily basis, so it can be a deal breaker for some and rule out certain areas. Especially if you are sharing your home, you should consider each party’s commute and try to find an optimal location. However, this may not always be necessary. If, for example, one of you works from home, you can focus on the preferences of the commuter.
By definition people like amenities, but you can’t always get what you want. For example, many of our buyers in Brooklyn want the aesthetic of a brownstone, but that usually means an elevator or doorman won’t in the cards. With highly-amenitized buildings (e.g. those offering gyms, playrooms, wine cellars, pools …), remember there is a price for these luxuries, which means higher common charges. It’s important to consider whether these amenities would be nice to have or are really worth paying for now and in the future. You can always cancel a gym membership, but common charges are not optional.
Some people are excited by the prospect of renovations while others sprint the other way. You should get on the same page about your appetite for a renovation and educate yourself about the realistic costs. If you want to sprint the other way and purchase something that is brand new or already renovated, it’s important to evaluate the home for the quality of the work done, how it will stand the test of time (beware of passing trends), and how well it fits your lifestyle.
While these may seem like obvious considerations, many buyers do not think about them until they are getting deep into the search. If you don’t have all the answers from the get-go, fear not. Some answers will crystallize as you explore the spaces. I have had many buyers say they are “open to renovating” only to discover that the apartments they end up considering all have brand-new finishes. The wishlist will evolve, so it’s critical to have open dialogue with everyone involved throughout the process.