My move from Michigan to Florida felt both exciting and terrifying. I considered renting for a bit, but my preferred lifestyle choice is home ownership. I had an offer in hand for my house in Michigan. I had been browsing the listings for about 9 months and had visited the specific area a couple times so I had a good idea of the market. I had spent the summer wrapping up the rest of my renovations on my house in Michigan, and had some ideas for how I wanted my new house to function. I started working with a realtor as soon as I got down to Florida. I gave him my list of requirements, we found a great foreclosure in one of the best areas in the city, and I was able to secure financing and close within two months of moving down.
BUYING A HOME IS NEVER AN AREA WHERE RECKLESSNESS IS ALLOWED. You must go in entirely as a businessperson. Always carefully contemplate whether to rent or buy. Your home takes up far too much money and time and is far too big a commitment to not be made without careful consideration.
Before any house shopping starts, it’s important to be realistic about wants vs needs and get your list together. As you shop, you may add more to your list. Just be honest about the category it belongs in, and whether or not it is something you could add in later at a cheaper cost.
The Deal Breakers
- Reasonable commute to work. The immediate area surrounding my work was mainly condos and small pockets of overpriced houses, and Tampa Bay traffic is a nightmare, so I wanted to branch out a bit more. It’s important to be strategic in location, because it’s the only thing about a house that you can’t change.
- Safe area with a low crime rate
- Quiet area – removed enough from the main roads that I wasn’t listening to cars/construction.
- The actual house had to be made of cinder block with tile floors
The Necessities (Must have or be cost effective to add/replace)
- Two+ bedrooms and two+ bathrooms
- Driveway and garage. No interest in street parking. I wanted safe space for my tools and my bike and any projects I wanted to tackle.
- Good layout with open concept
- Good roof, good windows
- Good air conditioner, heat pump and hot water tank
- Fenced yard or the ability to put up a fence
- Updates more to my taste if there were any made
The Nice-to-Haves (Probably wouldn’t pay to add)
- Master bathroom
- Master walk in closet
- No pool – I didn’t want to maintain it
Changes/improvements made over the first year (with cash!):
- Installed a new code lock on the front door – no keys needed! Also put padlocks on the fences and replaced most of the door handles.
- Painted a silicone acrylic on the flat part of the roof – effectively saving $3k that the roofers wanted to charge to replace the portion of the roof
- Garage – hired an electrician to remove some faulty electrical, replaced the opener and the track, bought in a new washer and dryer
- Repaired some walls and repainted every room in the entire house with the same color – Rhino by Behr
- Kitchen – Replaced the appliances with stainless steel, replaced the sink with a stainless basic and new faucet, replaced the outlets with brushed nickel plates
- Replaced the faucets, shower heads and cabinet pulls in each of the bathrooms
- Landscaping! Ripped out bushes, trimmed trees and hedges, planted new flowers.
- Planted a vegetable garden and laid down patio pavers.
The house was completely livable when I moved in. After the endless work my first house entailed, I took my own advice to find a place that could be lived in with little to no changes so that I would be able to make any changes at my own pace. It was much calmer overall, being able to take the time to figure out which changes would actually add to my life.