"Can you believe this schedule?" my son incredulously asked at last week's U of A orientation. "My first class starts at 8:00am . . . who goes to college to get up that early in the morning!?!" he moaned. No worries, by the afternoon gathering, Case has successfully transferred out of every early computer-generated classes and replaced them with others more in line with his educational goals (a later starting time). Since his assigned dorm is a few block off campus, he'll need those extra minutes to make it to most of the big lecture halls. Ah grasshopper, so much to learn and so little time!
Not surprisingly, this was a conversation being repeated by nearly every incoming Freshman and their accompanying parent in last week's session. It seems that early morning hours aren't favored by these young college bound kids. Get real; as the "low man" on the totem pole, they were quickly learning that Freshman have very limited choices. It seems that every student wants a schedule that runs between 10:00am and 2:00pm - preferably on Tuesday and Thursdays only! Hmmm . . . as these naive students were being reminded, that's what's better known as "being a Senior." Until they've earned their dues, these kids may have to settle for less than perfect.
So too, do many first-time buyers. With limited budgets, they often find out that they cannot afford to get everything their hearts desire. Guess what? Even those with relatively BIG expense accounts, rarely get every amenity they require either. (In life, we all make choices.) You can afford a coveted location, but must settle for a smaller home than you currently own. You may purchase that recently renovated Queen Anne you truly adore, but forfeit a guest bedroom. You may acquire a spectacular panoramic Bay view, but have virtually no usable garden space on what's sure to be a downsloping lot. (Get the picture?)
Regardless of how much money buyers can afford to spend, it is likely they will need to concentrate on those items that are most essential to them and prioritize their "wish list" accordingly. Community? Check. Schools? Check. Transportation? Check. New appliances? Not so much. Whatever your needs, you will very often have to pick and choose.
The truth is, I have yet to help a buyer purchase the "perfect" home at any price point, although that's always my intention going in. ( Perfection only exists in airbrushed photos on the cover of men's magazines.) In a strange twist of irony, it is often the "fixer" buyer that demands the least from a home. Why? Because they typically are the only buyers with ZERO expectations! Head's up! ALL homes, whether new or old, big or small, traditional or modern, typically have their share of unique challenges - every single one. (For the record, It's worth noting that these small imperfections often turn into the most interesting aspects of a home over time.)
Some challenges will be apparent going in and others will be discovered only after taking title, but let me prepare you from the start - your new home won't be perfect (and neither will your kids - college bound or not). Some imperfections will be "inherent," as in stairs to the front door and others will be "fixable," such as outdated kitchens and bathrooms. Regardless of a property's attributes or detriments, every home requires some adjustments along the way and to be perfectly frank, a bit of a "reality check" from the start. Remember, homes have histories and depending on those histories, they often have stories that carry forward - to you . . .
The important thing is to discover what you can (or cannot) live with (or without) and adapt your search to these clearer guidelines. Investigate, assess, refine and keep an open mind (you may need to expand your "box" in some cases) and you will be ahead of the game. With clear expectations and real perspective, you should find that most of the perceived flaws with respect to your homes, are truly "gold-plated problems." (They are.) Moreover, once you actually take possession of your new home, you are more likely to meet any unforeseen surprises with grace; as part and parcel of home ownership, instead of second-guessing your decision. (For me it was a massive redwood tree that required removal within two weeks of moving in and an overdue remodel that has yet to be tackled.)
Here's the good news - you are happily ensconced in a home! (Yeah - you're one of the lucky ones.) It may not be perfect, but it's progress (kind of like my son's new schedule.) While you may not get everything you want in this first, second or even third home, you are very likely, getting everything you really need. (Got that son?) Congratulations - Go Wildcats!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.