Picking A House

Liz and I are in the process of visiting homes and are considering purchasing a house here in Missoula. It's been something we've been thinking about for a while, but it's only now that I have a stable job and paycheck that we're actually in a position to qualify for a loan and be able to look in earnest.

I'm finding this to be an incredibly interesting process, how equipped we feel to make a decision regarding a home doesn't match at all the magnitude of the purchase. For Liz and I this home will be the single largest purchase we'll have ever made in our lives, even the down payment will be the single largest transaction we'll have ever done.

I have a notoriously hard time making purchasing decisions, which both my wife and Zack Ali can attest to. My problem is that I so easily fall into two traps:

1 - Details

Getting lost in the details, and so rather than understanding what I want/need out of a purchase, I'm stuck comparing a feature list and trying to maximize what I think is the objective value of the object (this one is better because it has X over the other item's Y, totally ignoring how important feature X is to me to begin with).

2 - Fantasy

The other trap that I frequently fall into, and I think many people join me in this one, is creating a fantasy around an object, rather than being able to place it within the context of the reality of my life. Instead of picking a house that I'll use in a way that currently fits my life, I'll begin to fantasize about how this house will enable me to change my life in all these interesting ways and will let me pick up a whole host of new hobbies. It's almost as if I begin to invent problems the house will solve for me.

We've heard different advice about purchasing a house that we're trying to implement. Advice like viewing the house as simply an investment, or coming up with prioritized use case scenarios.

Buying a house feels like the experience of having a kid or getting married. My experience tells me that it's overwhelming, impossible even, and that I might not be up to the task. My observation however tells me that it's commonplace, tons of people are getting married, having kids, and buying homes.

What's so interesting about a home purchase is what each person fills the house with in their mind before they decide to buy it.

When we look at a house, Liz and I are filling it with furnishing and uses in our minds, and those may or may not be compatible.

I might look at an empty garage and think workstation or storing our vehicles in there, and Liz might see an office.

I might look at a downstairs bedroom and think it'll be an office for Liz, while she might have been eyeing a bedroom upstairs. I might think our current set of furniture is good enough for the living room, while Liz will see it as being too empty with only that.

We're trying to front-load those conversations as much as possible, but it's intimidating, because it doesn't feel like you're just picking your house, but also trying to decide a lot of what'll be inside of it as well.

Implicit in those furnishing and uses are your dreams. I'd like a workbench in the garage because I have this fantasy of buying an old Ford 100 and restoring it. Liz wants a big garden because she has a fantasy of us growing a lot of our own food.

Determining how much of the house we are filling with reality versus fantasy is a challenge.

The larger the house, the more room there is for fantasy. The larger house invites possibilities, it invites you to stuff it to the rafters with "stuff".

We're learning a lot about each other and about what we want, which is what we seem to do whenever there is a big life change looming. I hope we'll soon be posting about how we found this amazing house and how happy we are... I hope...


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