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The Art of the Possible

Many buyers go house-hunting with some specific “dream house” in mind. It’s a natural tendency to believe “your” house is out there.

And while there are plenty of great houses in the market (and probably one that’s right for you), it’s also likely the house you buy will be not quite the house you pictured. That’s why I like to say that one of the key factors in buying a house is to master “the art of the possible”.

Really this is a discipline that helps in making any deal. But in real estate particularly, “the art of the possible” means setting up three factors in your favor:

  • Determination that you will find a house in your budget range
  • Flexibility with at least some of your criteria, understanding that no house is perfect
  • Willingness to understand that you cannot really appreciate a house until you see it

With a focused but flexible set of criteria and a sharp eye for what is easy to remedy in a house vs. what is “a lot of work”, you should be able to find a house in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, it helps to work with a buyer’s agent that knows your taste and your market and who can make a good match. But you also will need to contribute some flexibility and a willingness to buy what’s in the market.

If it seems like there’s nothing in the market that appeals to you, that’s fine (of course). But it may mean you’re looking in the wrong place, in the wrong price-range, or there are other factors that are keeping you from accepting what the market tells you. It’s almost an axiom that people who think they know exactly what they want and won’t compromise, rarely buy a house.

The best way to make “the art of the possible” work for you is to have a general sense of what you really require (number of bedrooms, price, condition, general location, a general type of construction) and then fit those criteria to what you find as you look at different properties. If it seems like you’re consistently satisfying some but not all of your criteria, it’s a good time to revisit that feature that always seems missing; and ask yourself if it might be unrealistic to expect it.

Except for properties with significant drawbacks (bad location, high renovation cost, obsolete construction style), many properties will work for you far better than you might have thought, once you make it your home. Certainly, you should not allow yourself to be dissuaded by the way the place is decorated. Their stuff won’t be there when you move in!

As with most major endeavors in life, you’ll need to keep an open mind about buying a house. Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised. Or to find a great value that doesn’t quite fit your preconceived notion of what a “great house” is.

The art of the possible drives benefits when you find a house you like, put in a meaningful offer, and buy it. Otherwise, you’ll just keep on looking for that perfect house that, probably, does not exist.