7 do’s to make your dream home

 

7 To-Dos to Make Your Dream Home Come True

In 1750, Samuel Johnson wrote that “to be happy at home is the ultimate
result
of all ambition.”  And there’s truth to this; for most Americans,
our home
s are our launch pads for being and doing our best in the
world, and the places where we live out our most precious, private
moments. So, if you follow our most important dreams to their logical
conclusions, they almost all boil down to having a happy home, where we
and our families can thrive and enjoy happy, secure lives.
Fortunately,
dreams do come true – and dream homes can become reality. Here is a
short list of musts for developing the vision, strategy, commitment and
effort it will take to make your dream home your actual home.
1.  Know what a dream home is – and is not.
Like anything else in life, you can’t realize your dream home if you
don’t know what it is – and isn’t, definitionally. For purposes of this
conversation, our definition of a dream home is closel
y related to our
aspirations and our visions in a couple of key ways. Aspirationally,
dream homes take some work and effort to achieve – they aren’t usually
handed to us on a silver platter.  

And
our dream homes are related to our holistic visions for our lives, as
well. By that I just mean that our dreams of home are less about owning a
particular building, and more about creating a vision for our whole
life as it will be impacted by our choice of home. We want a home that
will allow our children to flourish, that is safely located, that allows
us to personalize it and either does or doesn’t require much work,
depending on our personal preferences. By the same token, our dream home
is also one that doesn’t create problems for our lives or prevent us
from doing the thi
ngs we want and need to do.  

If
a given home is beautiful, but owning it requires us to work overtime
at a job we hate, causes relationship problems, or simply requires too
much repair or work fo
r the time and resources we have, then that home
is – by definition – not our dream home.

Here
are some other concepts of home that are often confused for dream
homes, but don’ fit the bill. Your dream home should not be defined by:

  • the
    over-the-top fantasy mansion you saw on TV (if it’s bizarrely
    unattainable, in other words, it’s a fantasy home – not a dream home)
  • some antiquated notion of the biggest, flashiest home with the most amenities
  • the most expensive home you can afford
  • your mother’s, sister’s or best friend’s dream home.

Understanding
what makes for a dream home – and what doesn’t – can help you avoid the
common pitfalls of being upset when your dollar doesn’t stretch to get
you a home like the one you saw on Million Dollar Listing, overextending
yourself, or assuming that the types of homes your friends and
relatives think are ideal for you are the same as
your
dream home. While they might overlap, they don’t always – and trying to
fulfill someone else’s idea of what your dream home should be is the
fastest way to create a nightmare home buying experience.

2.  Get and stay clear on your personal vision. There are various tools you can use to create a clear vision of your
dream home, to avoid the above pitfalls. The most important of these is
to sit in a still and quiet place and literally start writing down what
you want your life to look like after you’re in the home of your
dreams.

Don’t
start with the technical characteristics of the building: you’ll get
there
soon enough, and the reality is that your co-buyer’s wants and
needs, your budgetary limitations and the inventory available on your
local market at the time will all impact the granular details of the
property you end up with.

Instead,
start with big picture life objectives, like who lives with you; what
activities everyone does in the home that may require dedicated nooks,
crannies, whole rooms or outbuildings; where and how much you work (at
home? 3 towns away? around the clock?); how you get there and home every
day; and what you do in your down time – be it hiking, home fixing,
entertaining or strolling to the corner cafe.

3.  “Be stubborn on the vision and flexible on the details.”
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos delivered this one-liner in explaining his
philosophy of creative proble
m-solving. And it applies just as
powerfully to the creativity that is essential when hunting for your
dream home. Compromise is unavoidable. Whether you’re spending $25,000
or $2.5 million on your next home, you will be required to compromise in
order to reconcile your dream with your financials, the dreams of any
co-buyers you have and realities of the real estate market, the
inventory of available homes and geographic and
other realities.

You
may want a water view, but your wife wants to walk to the shops – and
no home exists with both of those things. Or maybe you want to keep your
payment below $2,500 per month, but you also want to buy a move-in
ready home in The Best School District Ever. And all of those things are
simply not possible with the down payment money you have in hand.

Bottom
line: you’ll need to be somewhat flexible on the precise specs of the
home you end up in as your ‘dream’ home – and the only way to do this is
to ensure that you know what your whole-life vision is. Once you have
your vision of life/home document ready,

then
you can get granular about the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and square
feet you need, as well as location specifics, brushing your absolute
must-haves and absolute deal-breakers in the most minimalistic of
strokes.

Adopting
this Amazon-style ‘flexibility on the details’ empowers your
experienced local agent/partner to suggest creative solutions for homes
that will allow you to create the happy home life you’re trying to
achieve, despite the circumstantial limitations.

In
any event, hold onto your vision of life vis-a-vis your home journaling
do
cument for later. If you end up in contract on a home and have second
thoughts, it’s a
powerful document to revisit before you finalize the
deal, to make sure the inevitable compromises haven’t completely wiped
out all traces of the life you hoped to create in this dream home.

4.  Communicate your dream vividly to those who need to know.
A fre
quently expressed dilemma of wanna-be dream home buyers is that
their agent is not showing them homes that fit the bill. In my
experience, this issue often arises when buyers’ champagne tastes and
beer budgets don’t align, and their agent is trying
hard to show them
the best they can afford, but it still disappoints.

To
make sure that you are communicating your vision and dream to your
agent with crystal clarity, consider doing some or all of the following:

  • Send
    your agent the Trulia listings for homes that reflect features of your
    dream home – or the whole enchilada, if you can find it.
  • Attend
    Open Houses and save flyers of homes months, even years, before you
    start house hunting in earnest, to share what you loved about them with
    your agent when the time is right.
  • Ask your agent to show you at least one home that reflects what they *think* you want in your dream home – regardless of price. You
    might be stunned and astonished at what your dream home really costs,
    but the experience
    can help you manage your own mindset, and
    expectations, back into the realm of reality.

5.  Mind your business.
Dreams may seem fluffy and soft, but the dream of a home is one which
requires you to click into hard-core numbers mode in order to make
things happen. Don’t fall into the trap of fixating on images of
wainscoting and tree-lined streets until your money matters have been
fully handled. I’m often surprised at how many buyers believe their
dream home is just out of their financial reach, but have so much fat
that can still be cut from their monthly budgets: money
they spend on
things they would say are much lower than their home on their priority
list.

Sit
down and comb through your existing spending patterns with a fine-tooth
comb and ask yourself whether your fantasy football habit is truly more
or less important than getting closer to affording the home of your
dreams. Talk with a financial planner and your mortgage broker about
putting an action plan in place to eliminate bi
lls that are impacting
your ability to afford and/or qualify for your target type of home. Get
clear, in your own household and spending plan, on what you can truly
afford to spend on housing every month, versus looking to your mortgage
broker to tell you what you can afford.

Making
your dream home come true involves some heavy duty bookkeeping and an
intense commitment to managing your finances in a way that lines up with
your values.

6.  Get uncomfortable. Being a grown-up is full of paradoxes, isn’t it? A few of my faves:

  • Living an easy life takes a lot of hard work.
  • With fashion and food, often less really is more.
  • I get younger and younger with every day that passes. (Humor me, please.)

Here’s
one more to keep in mind as you pursue your dream home: creating a
comfortable home might require you to do some uncomfortable things.
Writing – and sticking to – a spending plan, is one. Reading eye-glazing
contracts and hundreds of  pages of uber-boring HOA disclosures is
another.  Having frank conversations with your partner, negotiating,
managing your emotions around affordability and the like – there are
loads of uncomfortable moments that take place in and around the process
of buying your home.

These
discomforts are temporary. But avoiding these uncomfortable moments can
get you into some long-term un-dreamy drama: surprise HOA special
assessments, a decade of living in a home you (or your partner) truly
despises and years of living paycheck-to-paycheck from having
overextended yourself are a few that come to mind.

So,
dive on into being uncomfortable for this short period of time, with
the knowledge that doing so will set you up for long-term success in
your dream home.

7.  Know the difference between your vision for “this” dream home, and your long-term vision.  The
home you buy now might not be your forever home. It’s essential that
you feel comfortable with the prospect of staying put for at least 5-7
years before you buy, in most areas. But don’t feel like this home must
have every feature you’ll ever want to have in a home. Especially if
you’re buying your first home, the reality is that you’ll likely move up
several times in your future, as your career, earnings and savings grow
over time.

Also,
if your ‘dream’ home features list is particularly aggressive and/or
your budget is particularly tight for your area, you might have to
exercise serious visionary powers to visualize how you can develop the
home you can currently afford into your dream home over time. Focus on
location, expandability, and
these other characteristics of a hidden gem of a home,
and find someplace that is livable right now, but has the potential,
with your hard work, to become the home of your dreams down the road.

 

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