What You Can Learn About Buying a Home From TLC’s “Say Yes To The Dress”

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In an effort to control spending in this sluggish economy, I’ve considered giving up cable television.  After all, most of the scripted shows that I watch are on network television, and sadly, my unhealthy obsession with CNN may have more to do with T.J. Holmes and Rob Marciano than the news.  However, two things keep me paying an ever increasing monthly stipend to Comcast:  DVR and TLC.  I think the Digital Video Recorder speaks for itself.  It’s a major scheduling convenience, and I can fast forward through the lousy commercials.  TLC is a little harder to explain.  Ironically, while I constantly complain that the only programming that seems able to survive the ratings war is cop dramas and reality television, I love TLC, originally dubbed The Learning Channel, which schedules very few informational shows in favor of reality television.  What can I say?  I’m complicated.

One of my favorite shows on TLC is “Say Yes To The Dress”.  There are three elements at play in this show that make it so appealing to women:  Fashion, Dream Weddings and Drama.  As I’ve yet to be married, the first two elements allow me to fantasize about my own wedding day wardrobe, hopefully to be realized at some point in the future.  But the drama element is chock full of lessons for home buyers, both male and female.  Seriously.  Leave it to me to put the “Learning” back in TLC.  Here we go:

Lesson 1 – Budget Is Key! 

Not asking about the budget at the beginning of the appointment is rookie mistake number one.  I’ve seen it a number of times, and sadly some of those rookies didn’t make it to the next season.  If a bride-to-be falls in love with a dress and then finds out that it exceeds her budget, one of two things happens.  In scenario A, she or her family coughs up the extra cash for the dress and on a golf course somewhere, her father suddenly and unexpectedly doubles over in pain, or at the wedding reception the guests are surprised to find that Vienna sausages straight out of the can are the only thing on the menu.  In scenario B, the bride-to-be leaves depressed and in tears unable to find another dress in her budget that measures up to the dream dress.  Either way, it is not a positive outcome. 

Same rule applies when buying a house.    The first thing I tell my buyers to do is to start the loan approval process with a loan officer.  Before we start our search, we need to know how much you can afford, and more importantly, what you are willing to afford.  Those are often two very different numbers.  A good loan officer will walk you through those steps and help you determine the bottom line.  This is critical.  Even a $20,000 price difference can drastically change the locations and types of homes that are available.  You don’t want to fall in love with a home that you either can’t or are unwilling to afford.  It makes the search process that much harder going forward.

Lesson 2 – It’s All About You!

A recurring theme in the show is a bride-to-be falls in love with a dress, but begins to doubt her decision when friends and family aren’t as enamored with the frock.   You know what they say opinions are like…. and everyone’s got one.   Consulting trusted advisors when making a big decision, like what to wear on your dream wedding day or how to make the biggest financial commitment of your life  (i.e. buying a home) is a wise decision.  However, when it comes down to it, it’s your decision.  What makes you happy?  It’s your dress.  It’s your home.  You’re the one who has to live with it.  Your opinion trumps everyone else’s.

That brings me to the second thing I tell my clients.  Create a needs list first, and wants list second.  Your needs list will usually be shorter than your wants list.  What does the house have to have to be functional for you?  How many bedrooms and baths?  What does it need to be near? What is a must have for you?  Your wants list will be longer and should be prioritized.  This will not only help you stay true to yourself and choose a home you really enjoy and meets your needs, but also will help your agent assist you in making the best decision for you.  That brings me to the next lesson.

Lesson 3 – A Good Consultant Is Invaluable!

“Say Yes To The Dress” is filmed in the Kleinfeld Manhattan boutique.   It is the premiere bridal salon in the world with more than 2,000 dresses.  That can be overwhelming for a bride-to-be, to say the least.  Luckily, the consultants are there to help.  They listen to the clients describe their dream dress, ask about different styles, and inquire about the budget.  Then they maneuver the thousands of dresses in the stock room and edit a selection of dresses for the bride to try on.  Sometimes they strike gold with the first dress, or in cases where the bride isn’t as certain of what she wants, they evaluate dress by dress and continue to hone in on the perfect gown.  They know all too well that if they lose sight of the bride’s goals, the appointment can quickly turn into a disaster for everyone.   It’s their job to keep the brides on track to finding the perfect dress that melds their needs and desires. 

As a real estate consultant, my job is much the same.  Atlanta is home to nearly 5 million people.  It covers more than 8,000 square miles.  Real Estate incorporates a vast body of knowledge that is rapidly changing.  It can be overwhelming for any buyer, especially a first time home buyer.  Keeping in mind all the things we discussed above and more, a good agent will edit a selection of houses for you to “try on”, expertly navigating the system for you every step of the way, protecting your interests in contract negotiations, providing valuable, thoroughly researched information, finally enabling you to rest easy at closing that you’ve found the home of your dreams, your needs and your budget.

I hope you’ve found the above analogy entertaining and more importantly, informative.  If you are considering purchasing your first home soon, please join us for a roundtable discussion at Fourteen West, REALTORS offices on March 6th, 2010, 10:30-11:30 am.  We will be discussing the current federal tax breaks, loan options and more.   The address for Fourteen West’s office is 1411 N. Highland Ave, Atlanta, GA 30306, 404 874 6357.  Hope to see you there!

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