When Diane and I sold our last house a few years ago, I was surprised to find that a lot of potential buyers spent the majority of their time in the basement.
It was unfinished, had a pretty low ceiling and contained what appeared to the remnants of a lost civilization – if the civilization had consisted of random junk, mismatched furniture and laundry.
They certainly weren’t hanging out in the basement because of the ambience. In fact, the time spent down there was to assess whether there was some way to convert the basement into an apartment to rent out.
The potential buyers had to spend so much time down there because the easy answer (no, it couldn’t be converted into a basement apartment) was at odds with the answer they needed.
It was the first time I saw a situation that has since become quite common place. The type of buyers who thought the home was perfect for them couldn’t afford it. The buyers who could afford it, wanted something more than the house provided.
It eventually sold to a couple with a young child and another on the way. A perfect home for them, for a short while at least. I suspect that they may have moved on by now as the home, while lovely, was small, and the cost to dig out and finish the basement would be quite high.
When I work with clients looking to buy a home, I am witness to lots of conversations about whether a particular home fits their needs. Most of the focus is on the immediate change that will take place when they move. Going from a rental to their very own home. A two bedroom condo to a three bedroom house. A house boat to a structure that isn’t likely to unmoor and drift out into the lake.
While these immediate changes are often the underlying reason for the move, I always encourage my clients to try to look down the road a little bit.
Now, no one knows what the future will hold. I for example, bought some shares in Nortel a number of years ago for $42 a share, right after they dropped down from about $80. It was of course, also right before they continuing dropping. And dropping. And dropping.
While we may not be able to predict exactly what will happen in the future, we can and should consider our hopes and dreams (and sadly even our realities) when making a home purchase. For this reason, when my clients and I start their search, we talk about where they are now, where they hope to be and what the future may hold.
Whether it is a growing family, a plan for kids to head off to university or a need for a home that works well when your knees don’t work well anymore, looking into the future is important.
In the conversations I have with my clients, I often talk about the difference between a decision that is instrumental versus intrinsic.
If a decision (whether it is the home you buy, the school program you enroll in or the job you take) is instrumental, you are doing it because of where it will get you. It is an instrument or a path to a further goal.
On the real estate side, buying a home is instrumental if it lowers your commuting time or because you are tired of paying someone else’s mortgage down with your rent money. You aren’t buying the home primarily because of its intrinsic value to you, you are buying it because it gets you something else you want.
When a home is bought for an intrinsic purpose, it isn’t because it will help get you somewhere else you want to be. You aren’t looking at the home as one step in a series of steps, but rather as a destination in its own right. It is typically more of an emotional decision than a logical decision. It just feels right.
In my experience, many home buyers have a blend of these two when they buy a home. Sometimes the blend is split between the two halves of a couple, where one is looking at an instrumental purpose and if it achieves that purpose, the home itself isn’t as important. The other half is more concerned with the home itself and its character, feel and livability.
I view bridging the gap between instrumental and intrinsic purposes as an important part of my role as a Realtor. Depending on the client, I need to bring one or the other of these into their decision making process.
I want my clients to by very happy in their new home, not counting the days until they can sell to get to what they actually want.
At the same time, I want my clients to look into the future to consider what their needs will be and to ensure that this home isn’t a step in the wrong direction.
If you or someone you like wants to work with a Realtor who looks at both sides of the coin, please get in touch. I’d love to be responsible for what comes next.
ROOMS TO RENT
As the life in a building changes, the need for space shrinks and swells cyclically. The building must be able to adapt to this irregular increase and decrease in the need for space.
This lesson brings two things home for me. The first is that when you are buying a home, having too much space is a better problem than having too few space. Rooms can be repurposed if their original use is no longer applicable. If you have too little space however, you need to either build an addition or move. Both of which are much harder to do than repurposing a room.
The second is that changes you make to your home should be done with change in mind. By all means make the basement into an apartment, but leave the stairs for later in case you decide you want that space back. The more flexible your home is to changing needs, the better.