At Lake & City Homes we absolutely believe that homebuyers should create a list of the key features they want in a home. It not only helps them remain focused, but it helps us, as their agents, narrow down the choices of homes to tour.
The problem with the wish list is that too many buyers use it as a recipe for their perfect home – assuming that there is a home out there with all of the ingredients necessary.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, with the depleted inventory of Madison homes we are currently experiencing (and have for the past seven years), our best advice to home shoppers is to replace your middle name with the word “compromise.”
In-demand Madison home features
The most popular features among the available homes for sale in Madison include the following:
Single-level homes – These include ranch-style homes and condos (we call it "single level living") and they’re especially popular among prospective buyers who hope to age in place.
Homes with more than one bathroom – Madison’s older homes, of which there are many, are popular for a number of reasons. But, if you require more than one bathroom in a home, you will be lucky to find one in our vintage housing stock. As your agents, however, we can help you look for older homes that offer the opportunity to add a second bath. We can spot such opportunities a mile away because it's a feature we're so frequently asked about.
Formal dining rooms – These too are rare in Madison’s older housing stock and if a home does offer one, the price goes up significantly – even if the home is considered a fixer-upper.
Family rooms on the main floor – This feature, although in high demand, is extremely hard to find in Madison. Typically found mainly in remodeled older homes or new construction homes. Add a vaulted ceiling or "great room" to the mix and you're almost always talking about a new construction home with one caveat: if it is a raised ranch or bi-level (typically built in the late 80's and early '90's), you will often see a sunroom addition that includes a vaulted ceiling located just off the kitchen.
Finished basements – Older homes were built with basements meant to house the home’s major mechanicals. They therefore typically lack drain tile and a sump pump, which is scary considering that Madison’s East Side was once a swamp. While it’s rare to get a basement that’s reliably dry enough to finish, it is possible to waterproof a wet or damp basement. We’ve seen most every kind of basement water problem so it depends on the house and the nature of the problem as far as what the appropriate solution is. Generally speaking, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Garages - Many older homes in Madison do not have garages. Those that do typically have either a very small garage or one that is in pretty rough shape. There are lots of exceptions and those are the ones we keep our eyes peeled for to help our valued clients land the best properties that tick the most boxes off their wish list.
In addition to specific home features, many homebuyers insist on all of the above as well as “oh, it must be in these areas of Madison:”
A walkable neighborhood – These are typically located on the near East and near West sides of Madison, the City of Middleton and Middleton Hills. In addition there are some neighborhoods located in "sweet spots" such as downtown Verona, Fitchburg, and Sun Prairie where you can walk to a variety of shops, restaurants, schools, and entertainment.
A specific school district – Buyers with kids want to purchase a home near the most in-demand schools.
You will greatly cut your chances of finding a suitable home if you are insistent on purchasing a very specific type of home in a very specific type of neighborhood – at least in Madison. So, let’s take a look at how you can get at least the most important items on your list.
Prioritize your wish list
Especially when buying your first home, it’s easy to get swept away by the fantasy of finding THE home that will meet all your needs and desires.
The hard truth is that, unless you have a home custom-built, you most likely will not find one that meets every item on your wish list.
You can, however, get close if you’re willing to compromise
So, step number one is making that wish list and then prioritizing it.
At the top pf the list goes the items you simply cannot live without. An avid cook may reserve that spot for a chef’s kitchen, while a hobbyist may crave a workshop, roomy garage, or "man cave".
Less important features go further down the list. Those are the ones on which you are willing to compromise.
Your spouse or significant other should compile his or her own list as well.
The art of compromise
So, what happens if the priorities on each person’s wish list conflict? Or, you can’t come to an agreement on who will compromise?
When it comes to making a choice between two wish-list items, give more weight to the one that can’t be changed
For instance, Jack and Diane are shopping for a condo and Jack’s hot button is an extra bedroom for when the kids visit.
Diane loves to cook and entertain and wants a gourmet kitchen. They’ve found two condos that almost fit the bill.
One has a to-die-for kitchen but lacks the extra bedroom and the other has an extra bedroom but needs new countertops.
While it’s impossible to add a bedroom to an existing condo, no homeowner’s associations will disallow the installation of a dishwasher (condo owners are allowed to make any changes they desire to the interior of their unit). In this case, Jack’s hot button should become the priority. Sorry, Diane, you need to compromise.
When not to compromise
The one thing you cannot change – ever – is a home’s location. If you crave a home with a view, a home without one will always be without one. A home on a busy street will most likely never offer you the peace and quiet of a cul-de-sac.
So, compromise away on the fireplace, hardwood floors and big backyard, but never on location-related items. If the location is unsuitable to your lifestyle, you’ll be sorry.
Despite unrealistic expectations, we have an excellent track record of finding homes that fit most of our clients’ most desired features. When you look at a home that lacks some of what you want, look at it through the lens of “possibilities” – as I said earlier, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
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Jolenta Averill, Principal
Lake & City Homes Realty