Shadow asked: How can buyers in a price bracket (say $50k wide) maximize their housing purchase – are there solutions to problems that are common in homes in that price range? Low ceilings, small bedrooms, cramped bathrooms, etc?
I see this as two different questions.
1. How does a buyer choose among the options in a given price range.
2. How does a buyer figure out which problems common in “compromise” houses are fixable and which should signal the call “run away!”
I began to answer the first question late last month.Take a look at that. In general, I advise my clients to be picky about location, since it is not in your control. The second priority is to establish a minimum size and a maximum repair tolerance. Then, choices are limited to smallish and in better shape, or larger and shabbier.
As long as the size compromise will not make the buyer so cramped that he has to move too soon, this is a the way to a good choice.
Sometimes, my clients are searching in multiple towns in different price ranges. For example, if a client is trying to buy a single family house in Medford, Arlington, and Lexington, that buyer will see bigger and better houses in Medford at the same price, because Medford has a lower housing cost than the other two towns. My buyers sometimes set up search different maximum prices in the different towns. For example, a $450,000 limit in Medford, but a $550,000 limit in Arlington and Lexington. Their thought is: if I am going to live in my second-choice town, I will buy there only if it is cheaper to do so. (No disrespect intended towards Medford.)
Because ownership rights are so different in condos and single family houses, this is a compromise that takes some thought. In older housing stock, there is a higher number of renovated condos than fully renovated single family houses in urban areas, like Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville. There are more newer construction or fully renovated townhouses and condos than newer construction or fully renovated houses in most moderate price ranges throughout the area. So, those that want lead-safe and newer may choose a townhouse or condo over a single family house that needs work. But, the negative is that many condos have smaller yards or shared yards. Condos also have less autonomy because of common maintenance with the other owners. Like the town choice criteria above, frequently my buyers will pay less for condos than for their own single family property. (A quick aside: Condo fees don’t really make a condo more expensive, unless they are wasteful. Most condo fees cover things that any owner is paying for anyway like water, insurance, maintenance, and repairs.)