PS: What advice would you give someone who wants to buy a home?
SM: First, save as much as you can. It’s better to limit yourself spending-wise now and have a roof over your head than to go for the immediate pleasure of big or impulsive purchases. Think of the long-term pleasure, not the immediate pleasure. Prepare for the down payment and the closing costs that are often forgotten about.
Second, work on your credit score. It’s a sensitive subject, but it is important. If you don’t have lines of credit, open what you can, and try to pay off the balance every month. Also, try to keep your overall card usage under 30 percent of the credit limit. Work to keep your credit in good standing.
Lastly, know what you’re able to spend monthly on mortgage or rent. People tend to think, “Oh, I want to [own a] $500,000 or $300,000 apartment,” but that’s not how it works. It doesn’t come down to the total price. You have to account for taxes, maintenance, insurance, etc. When you know your monthly budget, you can really know your highest possible offer.
PS: Do you have any money-saving tips for people looking to improve their budgeting skills?
SM: Take your monthly budget and divide it into “must” (bills, housing, etc.), “nice to have” (going out to eat or something like that), and “I really wish” (something big, like a brand-new car). From there, you can budget out your income. My big tip though is: do not limit yourself 100 percent. You want to live life. You can still see your friends, go out, and get drinks with a budget. It’s about finding that balance so the budget can be sustainable.
PS: What do you think aspiring homeowners should be focusing on during their searches?
SM: What are your dealbreakers? To me, buying a home is like dating. You have a list of everything that you want in the person, in your partner. In reality? They’re going to have two or three things on your list.
I usually sit down with my buyers and we go through a consultation and they bring me everything they want. From there, I tell them to narrow it down to three to five musts. We’re not going to see properties that don’t have these things. For some, the musts are the number of bedrooms, number of baths, location, and a big kitchen or a big backyard — it’s up to you. My job is to bring you to reality. Within your reality, within your budget, what are the five musts we can work with? Everything else is extra.
PS: What is something that you think is necessary for every renter or buyer to have?
SM: In life, you need to be prepared for the worst. Not in the way of dwelling on the negatives, but to understand the risks that come with life. You can get laid off, you can get into an accident, your apartment could flood, etc. By preparing for the worst, you can enjoy the good times. And to me, being prepared means having insurance. I recently had a client whose neighbor’s apartment caught fire on their move-in day. It was an accident that ended up damaging not only the apartment with the fire, but also apartments several floors below due to the sprinkler system being activated. Having insurance to cover the items that were damaged or lost can help make a situation like that a little easier.