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The Most Important Day in Your House Search

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It was April of 2016, and we were about 4 months into our marriage.  Little did we know, it was the most important day in our house search.

We were living in our first apartment together in Woodside, New York – a $1,400/month steal that boasted a corner unit with five huge windows, an 8×8’ kitchen, and roaches the size of Montana. 

Yes, we were saving money in a neighborhood “near” the cute neighborhood, all the while absolutely loving our time together and dreaming of the future.  It was perfect.

The Backstory…

Derek had begun a fantastic habit of using his commute time to Manhattan (about 40 minutes door to door) to listen to the Bigger Pockets podcast

Eventually it wore off on me, and I started to hear this podcast’s wisdom about concepts such as “house hacking” and “investing in assets.”  We also knew that we wanted to purchase a home together sooner rather than later. 

With our apartment lease ending on November 1 of that year, we figured springtime was a good time to start our house search. 

We didn’t know what, exactly, we wanted.  We didn’t know where we wanted it.  All we could figure was that owning was better for us than renting, and the starting bid in the tristate area surrounding NYC was a very high entry point. 

I was working at my desk that afternoon when Derek called on his lunch break.  Not unusual, he gave me a buzz to say hello while out on a walk from the office in midtown. 

The conversation turned to real estate, colored with a smattering of wanting to get out of the rat-race-grind among grumbling coworkers who judged his shoes.  Couldn’t blame him there. 

We danced around condos and neighborhoods and ideas of what to buy when the conversation got very direct:

N: “…but what do you want?”

D: “I don’t know.”

N: “Yes you do.  What do you want?  Just say it.”

D: “I don’t know if it’s do-able but..”

N: “ARTICULATE WHAT YOU WANT.” (editor’s note: welcome to our marriage, folks.)

D: “…I want to buy a two-family house.”

N: “Good.  Let’s buy a two-family house.”

It was done.  Decided.  No going back.  We made up our minds. 

That, my fellow homebuyer friends, was the most important day in our house search.  We decided what we wanted

And because we decided what we did want, we also nailed down what we did not want.  No condos, no co-ops, no single-family homes, no apartments, no manufactured houses, no plots of land with promises, no – no – no. 

The Most Important Day of Your House Search

Let me reiterate: the most important day in your house search is the day you decide what you want. 

In other words: “If it isn’t ‘hell yes,’ then it’s ‘hell no.’”  Let that sink in. 

“If it isn’t ‘hell yes,’ then it’s ‘hell no.'”

If you’re not gung-ho and all aboard, it’s not worth it to you.  You know in your gut. 

This applies to many things – commitment to relationships, if you want fries with that, choosing between mint chocolate chip or vanilla bean…. Hell yes, or hell no.  You know deep down which one you’re thinking. 

If I may lightly acknowledge the notion of a higher power (for us, it’s God; for some folks, “the universe”): I truly believe that when you decide, then your path becomes clear and the doors you seek will open up to you. 

We decided.  We would buy a two-family house.  No matter that it seemed impossible, expensive, and uncharted territory in either of our families.  We had decided on our goal, and that was that.    

In the throes of buying a house? Check out the millennial’s ultimate guide to buying a home!

The Benefits

Let me tell you about the benefits of making this lofty, far-out, insane decision, and how making your decision will help your house search dreams come true. 

1. Online Searching Gets a Whole Lot Simpler.

Yep.  Now, you can manipulate listing websites to exclude the things you don’t want. In our case this included condos, co-ops, and plots of land. 

During our online searches, we sometimes excluded single family homes and we sometimes didn’t.

We learned that listings can sometimes be misclassified, and didn’t want to miss out on a good 2-family that was incorrectly listed as a single fam. 

Related: Ultimate Ways to find a House from your Couch

2. Your Realtor Will Know Exactly How to Help You.

Unfortunately for them, realtors only get paid when you buy something.  It takes a lot of time and energy to show houses. 

Put yourself in their shoes: would you want to be showing someone a condo when they really want a two-fam?  No, you wouldn’t, you’d be wasting your time. 

By calling up our realtor and saying, “We want to buy a two-family,” he knew exactly what listings to send us and show us. 

Still looking for a realtor? Find one on Bigger Pockets’ Agent Finder here.

3. You Can Better Set a Realistic Budget

As I hinted at above, two-family houses do not come cheap in the NYC/NJ area. 

Our absolute max budget was $350k, with a preference to under $300k. 

For reference, in the Queens neighborhood we lived in 2016, a fixer-upper two-family house was on sale for about $850k. 

We knew we were looking for a unicorn and threw all our energy into finding it.  You can do the same!

Once you know what you want, you can better estimate its potential cost.

4. You Can More Easily Narrow Down Your Location

Buying in NYC proper was wayyyyyy out of our budget, and we were okay with that. 

By deciding on a two-family house, we opened the conversation up to location.  We made many a compromise to keep things near to my work in the city. We couldn’t be too close that our budget wouldn’t make sense.

Furthermore, we wanted a little more space and greenery to sooth our country souls.  (Note: we are still in a very urban/suburban area, thus not totally soothing our country souls, but we are a lot closer than we once were!).

5. You Can Begin Preparing to Become Landlords, if Applicable

If you’re buying an investment property, you will want to start accumulating knowledge to prepare for this shift.  Derek had some knowledge already accumulated for our big jump.

Before we were married, Derek and his cousin rented out extra rooms in their house to college students.  I, however, had no experience, other than providing the renter’s perspective. 

By making the decision to buy a two-fam, we could direct our learning to podcasts and books related to property ownership. 

We narrowed down our focus to small multifamily investing, how they related to our taxes, how to find and keep good tenants, etc.

6. You and Your Partner Will Get on the Same Page.

Most importantly, whether you’re a real estate investor or not, listen here: being on the same page of music is utterly crucial to any marriage or business partnership.  By boldly making and writing down your decision, you will work in tandem to maximize your search efforts and realize your goal. 

AND – you will know when you meet said goal.  It will be crystal clear.

Final Thoughts on the Most Important Day in Your House Search

To sum it up, we set our target. With a joint goal, we could pour all our efforts into nailing our bullseye.

What do you think? Did you have an “aha” day that set you up for house search success?

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