What makes a house perfect, or close to perfect, truly depends on who lives there. Every family or individual is going to have different needs and requirements for what they look for. It is therefore important when house hunting to look for a place, that at its core, meet these requirements or has the ability to be changed to meet these requirements. The bones of a house are those things that are permanent or can’t easily be changed.
So, what is permanent or can’t easily be changed in a house? One thing is location. Because location is, for the most part, pretty permanent, I recommend when looking for a home that location become one of your top priorities or a starting place for your search. You don’t have to choose just one location, but do make sure that you know where you would live and where you wouldn’t. Think about how far you would have to commute to work, how close you are to family, schools, and access to community resources (rec centres, shops, parks, etc.). In a seller’s market, be willing to be somewhat flexible on location…could you live 10 minutes outside your preferred area? Would you be willing to trade single family living for a townhouse or condo to live in your preferred area or would you be willing to move further out to live in a single family detached home? Also, when considering location, keep in mind that just outside a popular neighbourhood will likely soon be up and coming as popular locations often expand.
Strata bylaws (if applicable) and zoning are other considerations that can’t easily be changed. For instance, if you have children or pets (and you’re buying in a strata), then you need to ensure there are no restrictions that would prevent you from living in a certain complex, or renting out a certain unit (if you’re looking for an investment property). Also, be very aware of property zoning and determine in advance what you want to use the property for. For instance, if farming is of importance to you or running a business from your property is important, then you need to ensure the zoning for that property would permit that.
Other considerations, that aren’t always easily changeable, are things such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the layout, and the square footage. In a seller’s market, however, it’s important to house hunt with a flexible mind and be open to creative ideas. For instance, if you’re looking for a five-bedroom house and you find a house that has good bones (i.e., it’s your desired location, it’s the perfect size, it has that open concept you want) but there are only four bedrooms, consider ways that you could create a fifth bedroom. Is there a den that you could buy a wardrobe for to create a fifth bedroom? Is there a loft space you could close in to create a fifth bedroom? What do you need the fifth bedroom for? Could you combine the purpose of another room to eliminate the need for a fifth bedroom (for instance, have a space in the family room for an office, use a closet as an office, have two kids share a room, etc.)?
Now, let’s consider what doesn’t make up the bones of a house. Really, this is anything that can easily be changed such as décor and paint. FOR THE LOVE OF HOUSE HUNTING (and investing) do not let things that can easily be changed influence your overall decision as to whether to buy or not. For instance, do you really want to pay $10K more for a house because it has paint colours you like, when you could hire a painter (or do it yourself) for the fraction of the cost? OR are you willing to miss out on a house because the paint colours don’t appeal to you or it doesn’t have crown moulding, or it’s messy, or the appliances don’t match? When you focus on the bones of the house, and put all other things aside, the better investment you will make when it comes to purchasing.
Fiona White – REALTOR® with Sutton Group – West Coast Realty