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Wise advice for first-time homebuyers

Moving in: you need to consider many things before buying a new home

Dear Heather,

We are first time homebuyers and everything we like seems to be priced higher than we can afford. How can we identify the must haves, from the want to haves?

First-time buyers

Dear first-time buyers

First home options are endless. From a large backyard, to an ocean view, a swimming pool, patio, gourmet kitchen with the most up-to-date appliances, plenty of space to entertain friends or a gorgeous master bedroom suite. No first time homebuyer’s wishlist is the same.

However, in reality, it is not always possible to find a first home with everything.

Bermuda is small and houses are expensive, so don’t be misled by HGTV. It is made specifically for television and your entertainment. Plus you can’t compare US prices of houses, renovations and contents because it is not the same.

The reality here is that sometimes you cannot even find a second home with everything you are looking for.

So, you must decide in advance what items are “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” on a first home wish list.

To help first-time homebuyers, I have provided the following tips to help determine what you will need:

1, Know your budget

The first step to creating a list of “must-haves” is to be realistic about what is affordable and determine a budget.

Get preapproved by the bank, before you go house hunting, and enlist an agent to help with the home search.

Your agent with years of expertise understands the local market and can help you find comparable homes in a price range that you can afford.

If you look at properties above your budget, you will be very disappointed when you look at properties that you can actually afford.

2, Find that perfect “location, location, location”

Everyone has heard this phrase before when it comes to real estate and, while the surrounding neighbourhood and home itself may improve over time, the physical location will remain the same.

You should determine in advance how close you would like to live to your work, schools or extended family.

A short commute to work, proximity to family or having easy access to roads, bus routes or ferry routes are often “must-haves”.

The location will also determine some home amenities that are impossible or difficult to have within your budget.

For example, proximity to the Botanical Gardens may be a top priority because you have children and a dog.

You may be able to eliminate a property with a large yard, but going beyond Paget or Devonshire might be a deal breaker.

But remember, you can add on if everything else ticks the boxes.

3, Determine non-negotiable accommodations

A comfortable place for everyone in the family is always a “must-have”. For a family with a boy and girl, three bedrooms may be non-negotiable.

For a family with grandparents living at home, an extra bedroom on the first floor may also be non-negotiable.

After determining the budget and neighbourhood, the most important factor is that everyone living in the home has a comfortable place to stay.

4, Pick a lifestyle fit

After fulfilling the most important needs, you should find out what features of a home will best fit your lifestyle.

If you love to cook and entertain you may want a home with a large kitchen, but not be so concerned about a luxurious master bedroom.

Or, if you love to spend time outdoors you may compromise on a large family room for a big backyard and a covered porch.

5, Have a vision

When looking at a first home, you should avoid getting distracted by paint colour, too much stuff or flooring that may not fit your taste.

These things are an easy fix and always worth compromising on.

If everything else about a home fits the wish list, a new coat of paint and a little redecorating are easy finishing touches on your dream home, and constitute changing decor rather than “necessary work”.

At the end of the day, be very realistic about your expectations for your price range.

Your first property is rarely your “lifetime property”.

Concentrate on your family’s comfort first and foremost.

Then build as much equity in the property as you can, while making minor improvements along the way.

When you are ready for your second home you should be in a strong position to move forward.

Heather Chilvers is among Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty’s leading sales representatives. She has been working in real estate for nearly 30 years. Contact her at hchilvers@brcl.bm or 332-1793. All questions will be treated in confidence. Follow Heather Realtor Bermuda on Facebook and @heatherrealtorbermuda on Instagram