Not prejudging. Some things are pretty easy to quantify: number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, price range, and cities. Then when you plug those parameters into a home search, you can usually find a pretty long laundry list of homes that meet the criteria you put in. What's difficult (actually, impossible) to tell the real estate search engine is why you chose those parameters. You have reasons that are important. It might be that you need the extra bedroom as a home office, or that you'd prefer another master bedroom because you have a lot of house guests. It might be that when you come home from work, you want to feel like you're in a completely different world, but actually have only a ten minute Silicon Valley commute. It might be that your child has special needs and that school district provides an exceptional environment. It might be that you need a prestigious address in order to maintain or establish your status in your profession.
Some reasons are easier for my clients to talk about than others. (See the article Determining Your Must-Haves When Buying a Home.) And that's the reason why I feel it's critically important to look at your home search from your perspective, without bias or judgment. After all, ensuring your goals are met (and that delirious happiness that I'm always referring to happens) first requires a discovery phase of sorts to develop a true understanding of the issues at hand.
My clients often ask themselves a number of questions before they contact me and I'd like to share with you some of their thought process.
Is a Piece of Your Story Here?
No two family's searches are the same. Every individual brings their own experiences, desires, motivations, biases, expressions, and aspirations to their Silicon Valley home search. There are some recurring themes, though, and I've written articles to help my clients think through their situations.
On Being Ready to Own a Home
1) "Do I want to stop renting?" Many of my clients own homes and are looking to upgrade. Many rent. There are emotional and financial reasons why people choose to buy a home, and most make that transition from renting. Some don't like the thought of "paying someone else's mortgage". Others want more control over their home, the terms by which they live there, and what changes they can make. There is a premium for land ownership in Silicon Valley. That premium comes with a number of benefits which you may or may not value at this stage in your life. (See the article Reasons People Stop Renting and How to Get Started.)
2) "What are things I should get settled before starting my home search?" The easy financing boom of the past few years resulted in people, particularly those who weren't careful with their finances or were overly-aggressive without a backup plan, getting in trouble on their mortgages. (See the articles When Not to Buy a House and How to Lose Your House.)
3) "Do I feel it's the right time to do this?" It's a big step with a lot of moving parts and life-changing ramifications. It's reasonable to have some reservations --- for a number of reasons --- but many people who've overcome them never look back. (See the article Emotions in Real Estate: From Fear to Elation.)
1) "Can I afford to buy a home in Silicon Valley?" Many of my clients have gone through the exercise of determining how much they can afford, financially and psychologically, and how much they're willing to spend, then comparing it to the inventory available in Silicon Valley. (See the articles How Much House Can I Afford Financially? and The Thought Process Behind Making an Offer on a Home.)
2) "When is a good time to buy a home in the Bay Area?" For some, the summer is the best time because it allows them to move without relocating their kids during the school year. For others, it means trading off available choices for potential bargains on homes that have been on the market for a while. (See the article The Yearly Cycles Behind the Silicon Valley Real Estate Market.)
3) "What are the local markets doing in Silicon Valley?" I do research by analyzing raw data, hitting the road, talking with agents, and executing my own transactions. And I have opinions which are based on that experience. While I don't have a crystal ball, I do make my best effort to answer questions directly, openly, and tactfully --- using good sources and many times representing both sides of the argument. Your opinion and the final decision, as always, is up to you.
4) "What money do I need where to buy a home?" Fortunately or unfortunately, the Silicon Valley housing market moves quickly and a strong offer often depends on being able to execute an offer, in an organized fashion, just as quickly. Having the right amount of money in the right place for making an offer, and subsequently, a down payment, is the first step. (See the article Preparing Money For Buying a Home.)
Deciding on a Home Search
1) "Are schools important to me and my family?" Many people want the best school districts in Silicon Valley for their children. (See the section Silicon Valley schools.) Others believe that a good school system is the key to increasing property values. (See the article Investing in the Right Bay Area School District.) And some want the best school district for their price range. (See the article Silicon Valley School System Bang-for-the-Buck.)
2) "What do I truly want in my next home?" The truth. If you allow yourself to say aloud , that's the first step in being able to get it. The next step is understanding what you're willing to trade-off. (See the article Determining Your Must Haves When Buying a Home.) These trade-offs are critical to understand because you may otherwise spend a lot of time tilting windmills for a perfect home that may just be an illusion. (See the article Why the Perfect Home Wasn't So Perfect.)
3) "How to I upgrade from one home to another?" Moving up from one home to a larger home poses some logistical challenges, but they can be mitigated with some planning. The key is to know what you're going to do in each of the multiple scenarios that can occur when going from one home to another. (See the article Keeping Your Sanity While Moving Up to a Larger Home. It also applies to people relocating.)
4) "How do I go about starting my search for a home?" People who live in the Bay Area will obviously have an easier time getting started than people who don't. And some families have to juggle schedules in order to make time for the entire family to look for a home. But there are techniques you and I can use to make your home search easier. (See the article Reducing Your Stress When Searching for a Home.)