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How Airbnb Is Helping Me Figure Out What I Really Want in a House

August 11, 2020


Jillian Pretzel

When the coronavirus hit New York City, my husband and I panicked.

We were living in Brooklyn, and I was in my second trimester of pregnancy. Terrified of getting sick—and possibly passing the virus on to my baby—we decided to play it safe. We left the city, and booked an Airbnb listing in a small town in Pennsylvania.

We’ve been staying in this temporary home for months. It’s a nice house, but very different from any of the suburban homes or city apartments I’ve lived in. It’s older, larger, and much farther from the center of town than I’m used to.

But I sort of like it.

This move has given me a new perspective on homes and, as I’m searching for a place to live after the virus clears up, I’m starting to reevaluate my housing must-haves. After going from a big city to a small town, I’m figuring out what I really want in a home, learning which things I need—and what I can do without.

Here are some surprising lessons I learned about what I want once I’m ready to buy a house.

Having room helped me realize I don’t need that much room

living room
This is one of the rooms we barely use, ever.


I chose our Pennsylvania rental in part because it had many rooms and a lot space. After quarantining in a studio apartment in New York City, I thought a big house with lots of space would be a luxury for my growing family.

So I was shocked to find that, once we’d settled in, it was way too big.

In fact, this four-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home (which included a finished basement) felt unmanageable after only a few weeks. Though I was happy to be out of our cramped Brooklyn apartment, I hated climbing two flights of stairs throughout the day. I hated trying to clean such a large space. And I hated needing to call out to my husband to find out which room he was in.

In the end, I realized that I probably could have saved some serious cash renting a smaller house. But at least I know this before I rent or buy my next house!

Outside space is gold

This house has big front and back yards.


I loved the extended outside space of our rental. In my family home growing up, we had a square yard big enough for just a table and chairs. In New York City, I had nothing but a window.

I was never bothered by this, though. If I ever wanted to spend time outside, I’d simply go to a park or drive to a hiking trail.

But when I got to Pennsylvania, I appreciated the patio, the large front and back yards, and the nearby nature trail. I went on walks nearly every day and loved being outside.

While I thought the appeal of being out in nature would wane after the weather started getting warmer (and the mosquitoes started biting), I found that, even in the middle of July, I still loved sitting on the porch and going on daily walks.

With a baby on the way, I started to realize how much I’d value that quiet nature trail when I wanted to walk with the stroller. I wouldn’t have to worry about crossing busy streets or loud noises, as I would in Brooklyn.

Now I know I’m ready to compromise on some home perks for a big yard.

More bathrooms are not necessarily better

It turns out we don’t need as many bathrooms as I thought.


Our Brooklyn apartment had just one bathroom, which seemed so inconvenient to me.

In our Airbnb rental, I expected having three bathrooms to be a serious luxury, but I soon learned that we basically had the same problem: We were always waiting to use the downstairs bathroom, because neither of us wanted to go upstairs. Plus, we preferred that same bathroom’s shower/tub combo, so I once again found myself rushing to get out of the bath so my husband could take a shower.

In the end, I decided that apartment living, with just one bathroom or an extra half-bath, was probably just fine for our family. It also means fewer bathrooms to clean.

A central location isn’t all that important

When we first leased our Brooklyn apartment, we loved being close to shops, restaurants, and subways. But I soon realized that being “close to the action” isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. With the coronavirus raging, those shops, restaurants, and subway stations became liabilities.

In Pennsylvania, far away from everything, I worried we’d be bored. But surprisingly, I loved it.

I was happy to be farther away from people, and felt safer in regard to the virus. But that wasn’t the only reason I liked living in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve learned that the most centrally located home isn’t necessarily the best one. There can be perks to living a little more out of the way, like cheaper real estate, more land, and more bang for your buck.

With so many people working from home and commuting being less of an issue, a more remote location may not be just acceptable, but also preferable.

Don’t buy a home before you rent something similar in the area

I’m not sure if we’ll head back to Brooklyn, or find a home somewhere else.

Jillian Pretzel

Staying in a new place can give anyone valuable perspective.

Using a friend’s swimming pool might make you wish you had a pool. Or visiting the suburbs might have you thinking you should move there, too. But to really know if a place is right for you, you should ideally stay there for a while, because only then will the pros and cons truly sink in.

As such, before you purchase a house anywhere, you should first stay at an Airbnb, VRBO, or other short-term rental in the area that’s similar to what you want. It works as a road test to help you figure out what you want.

Personally, I’m feeling better prepared for the home-shopping process than ever before. I’m excited to see where we end up.

The post How Airbnb Is Helping Me Figure Out What I Really Want in a House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

That’s So 2018! The Most Outdated Home-Buying Advice You Should Now Ignore

January 29, 2019

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There are few things more stressful than buying a home. That’s probably why nearly everyone who’s been through the home-buying process is happy to give you some advice.

It’s a nice gesture, really. It’s just not always helpful.

The problem is that when you’re talking about something as fluid as the housing market, the rules change quickly. As such, there’s a good chance that any advice you get—no matter how great it was at one point in time—is now outdated.

So now that 2019 is well underway, it’s high time to point out some home-buying advice that once worked well but has passed its expiration date. Of course, it varies by market, so check with your real estate agent to be sure, but by and large, you should take these once-wise words below with a huge grain of salt.

Wait for spring

There’s no doubt you’ve heard this piece of advice before. “Who wants to move when the temps are low and when there are so few homes on the market?” Despite what you’ve been told, though, Sebastian “Seb” Frey, a licensed real estate broker in the Silicon Valley area, says this advice is actually pretty outdated. There’s no need to wait!

“Yes, there’s more inventory [in the spring] but there’s more competition for it, and sellers are more optimistic about getting a higher price then and so less willing to negotiate,” he says. “Buy when you find the right property that will meet your needs for today—and the next five to 10 years.”

When it comes to your dream home, don’t let a small factor like the weather make decisions for you.

Wait for home prices to settle down a bit

Likewise, if you live in an area that’s been more of a seller’s market over the past few years, you may have been told to wait until the market (and those sky-high prices) settle down a bit before really beginning your search. But Frey says that’s now bad advice. The reason? Rents are also high.

“Paying high rent now and hoping that you’ll find a better deal two or three years down the road [won’t work],” he says. Instead, he says, “The better advice is to make a smart buy today for a property that will appreciate over the long term.”

Entering a volatile home-buying market may sound scary, but it’s important to look at the long-term repercussions of waiting.

Focus mainly on the type of house you want

Traditionally, you figured out what kind of house you needed (How many bedrooms and bathrooms? What size garage?), and then went looking for it. The house itself was the main attraction, and the neighborhood was just an extra factor you considered down the line.

But Daniel Martinez, a real estate agent in Houston, says that in 2019, that method is completely backward. Instead, you should find your future neighborhood first, and then see what houses it has to offer.

“The way cities and communities are evolving cannot be ignored, and we see this shift reflected in home buying,” he says. “My advice to buyers is to go beyond measurements. Before looking at homes, take tours of neighborhoods and narrow down areas that are the best fit for you and your needs. Then find homes that you can afford within those pockets. Ultimately, the property doesn’t make someone happy, it’s the life and the community the area holds that makes and creates the happiness you’re looking for.”

New construction is always the best choice

In the past, buyers have been told that if they have specific wants or needs, new construction was the way to go. It makes sense—if you’re hand-picking every finish and knob, it probably will end up being exactly the house you had in mind.

However, New York real estate agent Fiona Dogan, with Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s, says that as we move forward in 2019, new construction may no longer be your best bet.

“New construction is slowing nationwide, so while home buyers last year may have turned to building in order to obtain their dream home, 2019 is the year of the renovation!” she says.

“Now, you should identify homes that—with a little bit of work—will meet your needs. You can find a great house, invest just a small amount of time and money, and end up with a place that’s just right for you and your family. The right real estate agent will help you identify properties and help you envision what’s possible.”

Make an offer with room to negotiate

Once upon a time, it was a smart move to make an offer on a house that was just a bit under the price of what you were actually willing to pay. That way, you had room to negotiate when the seller came back with a higher offer. But real estate professionals say that’s not the way you should be thinking anymore.

“The housing market in 2019 will be slightly different from what we experienced in 2018 when it comes to pricing and negotiations,” says Howard Margolis, an associate real estate broker with Douglas Elliman, in New York. “In regards to negotiations, what was once the premise of offering 10%-15% below asking is not necessarily the case anymore, and it’s a strategy I would not recommend. In today’s market, a truly motivated seller is less inclined to engage in the back-and-forth of a real estate transaction, and listings are priced closer to the final sale price.”

A better bet is to base your offer on comps—aka similar property sales in the area. Home sellers know what their house is worth and aren’t likely to bend to a lowball offer.

Whatever offer you make, do it fast!

The housing market in recent years has been a nightmare for buyers in many areas—but times are changing.

“For the most part, 2018 was a seller’s market, meaning there were tons of buyers and not a ton of homes for sale. This resulted in a lot of multiple-offer situations,” says Mark Cianciulli, real estate agent and co-founder of The CREM Group in California. “During this very competitive time, many real estate agents were advising their clients to write offers as soon and as high as possible—sometimes without even seeing the home.”

But this reality is waning—and that’s good news for buyers. Cianciulli explained that toward the end of 2018, buyer exhaustion started to set in—meaning buyers got sick of bidding high and still losing. This meant those high-priced houses went untouched, and prices are finally starting to fall.

“In 2019, I would advise buyers to take their time, appropriately assess the home and its price, and write an offer based on what you and your agent believe it’s worth,” he adds.

Of course, if you find a house you love, it’s still not advisable to dawdle—but you don’t have to move at lightning speed this year, either.

The American Dream is house with a white picket fence

If you’re ready to settle down into a home—especially if you have a family—you know exactly what you’re supposed to be looking for, according to popular standards. At least three bedrooms in the middle of a nice neighborhood, with large closets, a good-sized yard, and a white picket fence. It’s the American Dream—at least, that’s what you’ve always been told.

Except, according to Heather Schuck, a real estate agent in Austin, TX, and founder of TheShiftAgency, that’s not always possible in today’s market.

“With low inventory and a competitive market, you have to get creative,” she explains. “Owning a home can take many forms, whether that’s splitting the purchase of a duplex with another couple, buying a town home near campus that can be rented out down the road, or perhaps a fixer-upper. A first home doesn’t have to have a picket fence, it just needs to be a good financial decision.”

The post That’s So 2018! The Most Outdated Home-Buying Advice You Should Now Ignore appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.