Why You Should Shop for Houses Outside Your Budget (Really!)

published Nov 12, 2017
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(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Shopping for a home — even if you’re just at the “looking at Zillow listings” stage — can be psychological warfare. It’s all too easy to get discouraged about what you can’t afford. And for Glamour’s editor-in-chief, Cindi Leive, a reality check is exactly what she needed.

The December issue of Glamour is Cindi’s last, and as a life-long fangirl of the culture and industry of women’s magazines, I recently found myself six or seven clicks deep into reading everything I could about her. In a 2013 New York Times profile about Cindi and her husband’s search for a home, she revealed a, well… interesting house hunting strategy.

She went to their broker and said: Show me something I can’t afford.

Soon enough, Ms. Leive and Mr. Bernstein were standing in a 4,000-square-foot loft in TriBeCa that they were told had once belonged to P. Diddy.

And to her total surprise, it wasn’t all that impressive.

“The ceilings were kind of low,” Ms. Leive said. “There was a nice media room, but the bedroom window essentially looked out at a brick wall. And I thought, ‘If this is how P. Diddy has to live, we’re sunk. We’re never finding anything.’ ”

The end of that quote sounds like they left Casa Diddy discouraged, but the profile goes on to explain that it gave the couple clarity about their options. They expanded their search beyond Manhattan to Brooklyn, and found a town home for less than that Tribeca loft that had way more going for it.

So, yes, it’s a little backwards, but if your search for a home has been fruitless, you may need to step back and consider if you could use a fresh perspective.

With a modest budget, chances are there is a lot to not love about the homes in your price range (like a dated kitchen, or train tracks for a neighbor). And you’ll find that it’s all too easy entertain the thought that an extra $100k or so would solve all your problems. But ask your agent to take you to a spot that falls out of your price range, and you’ll see that the other half isn’t living quite as well as you imagine.

It just might send you over the hurdle and help you find and appreciate the in-budget home that’s been waiting for you.

(P.S. It just occurred to me that this is pretty much the Property Brothers’ show’s entire premise. Just more evidence that this tip might be crazy enough to work.)