By Emell Derra Adolphus
Congratulations! You’re moving in with your partner and are about to enjoy two to five years (depending on if gays or girls) of uninterrupted living-together bliss. But before you even think about calling a house “home sweet home,” here are six things to keep in mind, courtesy of realtor Jim Shaffer of Jim Shaffer and Associates Realtors.
1. Don’t judge a book by its cover
Looks can be deceiving, says Shaffer.
“The surfaces of the home such as paint, flooring and countertops can generally be changed inexpensively where as the bones of the home such as roof, foundation, plumbing and electrical are often very expensive to repair or replace.”
The lesson here: quality over cuteness. “A good buyer agent will be looking at these items on behalf of their buyer,” he explains. “I find most first-time home buyers are wowed by the finishes and often overlook the important items. That’s where we as agents can help to keep the focus on the big ticket items.”
2. Love your toilet
If you’re going to pump up your home’s looks before moving in, start with the kitchens and commodes, says Shaffer.
“I always say, ‘kitchens and bathrooms sell houses,’ and I continue to find this to be true,” he explains. “Because buyers are often attracted to the finishes of a home and know that these two cosmetic updates are among the most costly, starting with the kitchen and bathrooms is always the wisest investment.”
3. Making a mess early on saves you from making a mess later
One of the most stressful things on a relationship is a remodel. “If your relationship can survive a remodel, it truly is a strong one,” says Shaffer.
So if you must remodel, start with the messy projects, he explains. “If your budget permits, I highly suggest focusing on the ‘messy’ projects such as hardwood floor refinishing and painting first.”
4. There’s no “I” in couple
If you’re living together, moving in should be a “together” effort.
“Speaking from experience, it is always a good idea to make a concerted effort to make the home ‘ours,'” says Shaffer. “I have found that involving both partners in the beginning of the home shopping process sets the stage for success. I always ask that both partners are involved in my initial buyer consultation. This is an opportunity to meet and discuss individual needs of each partner. I find the meetings I facilitate often expose needs of each person that the other might not have been aware of.”
Moving in together also presents the opportunity to combine the stuff you both need and sell the stuff you don’t, he explains.
“When my husband and I bought our first home we decided to sell our furnishings from our previous homes and purchase everything new for our new home. After all, who doesn’t love shopping!”
5. What does your home say about you as a couple?
Have you completely thought about why you are interested in this particular style of home? Here’s Shaffer’s take on some popular architectural styles: “Colonial: We are hoping to have a family someday. Most buyers with children prefer to have all bedrooms on one level. Ranch: We are buying our forever home, because ranches have few steps they are ideal for buyers looking to ‘age in place.’ Bungalow: We appreciate the historic character of the home. These buyers are preservationists. Townhouse: We love our freedom. These buyers are looking for low maintenance home ownership.”
6. ‘Trust your heart,’ and your realtor
Finding the perfect home for you as a couple can often times mean finding the perfect realtor that understands you and your partner as a couple, says Shaffer. “When choosing a Realtor, look for one that has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the community you intend to buy or sell,” he explains. “A local professional will bring knowledge of the neighborhood market and be sure to help you get top dollar when selling. This agent can also help buyers with knowledge of upcoming listings and what to expect with the process. In the end, trust your heart.”