Are you starting your home search? Whether you’re purchasing a starter home or a forever home, selecting the right home is a daunting task. It’s not just about crunching numbers and calculating square footage, it’s also about the layout, the neighborhood, and everything else in between. While one aspect of the home might seem perfect, another aspect might not. And certain life events — like adding kids into the mix — could change your whole outlook on the home.
Here are the main things to pay attention to during your home search in order to find the right home for you:
Many online tools can assist you in your home search. While your real estate agent may be your guide to the homes in your area, it doesn’t hurt to search for properties using the following tools as well:
These tools can help you to see what is available in your area and narrow down your search based on what you can afford.
A house that meets all your other needs may still not be the best choice if the neighborhood is inconvenient or doesn’t match your lifestyle. Here are a few factors to consider when evaluating a neighborhood:
Location: If you work and play in a major city center, living close in might not fit your budget. On the other hand, the cost of your commute (gas and car maintenance or public transportation) and the commute time may be even more costly. Even the perfect home might lose its luster if you have a miserable commute. (TIP: If you want a neighborhood that’s considered “walkable,” check out the walkability score.)
Lifestyle: Living in the suburbs when you enjoy the buzz and entertainment options of an urban area probably won’t work for you in the long run. And if you want to raise a family in an area with more open space, the city probably won’t be a good fit. Ultimately, you need to decide what lifestyle you want now and consider how things could change in the near future.
Schools: Even if you don’t have kids right now, you could decide you want to have kids while living in the home you purchase — and the last thing you want is to be living in an area without access to good schools. If you already do have kids, it’s important to consider what each neighborhood offers in terms of elementary, middle, and high schools. (TIP: Check out ratings of schools by neighborhood.)
Neighbors: Finding neighbors that share a similar lifestyle can increase your enjoyment of the neighborhood and lead to a better community connection. For example, are you bringing young kids into a neighborhood with college students? That might not be the best fit. (TIP: Once you’ve moved into your new home, NextDoor can be a great way to establish a connection with your new neighbors.)
Now that you know the neighborhood is a good fit, it’s time to make sure the home itself meets a few necessary requirements.
Size: Square footage is a good starting point — after all, you probably can’t comfortably handle four kids and two dogs in just 1,000 square feet. But you need to consider more than just the square footage of a potential home. How you use the space as it is partitioned can mean as much or more to you. So, after checking initial square footage numbers, move on to floor plan.
Floor plan: Unless you’re prepared to do some heavy remodeling, the home should have enough bedrooms and bathrooms to meet all your family’s needs. This means considering future family additions and the extra space they could require years down the line (if you plan to stay that long). Also, consider how everything flows from one room to the next. An open floor plan can make even a small space seem large.
Cost of repairs and upgrades: The sale price of a home isn’t always the full picture. Make sure you know how much work the home needs (some of which will be revealed during the inspection), and whether you’re prepared for the expense and labor involved. While things like paint and carpet can be a quick, easy fix, kitchen and bathroom renovations are something else entirely. (TIP: Use a remodeling calculator to see what you might be in for.)
Don’t Get Caught Up on These Things
Resale value: While you certainly don’t want to intentionally pay more than what you could sell a house for later, resale values can be hard to predict. So don’t select a house for the sole purpose of turning a profit. Instead, pay close attention to the value you will get from simply living in the home.
Finishes or décor: A granite countertop and state-of-the-art appliances might increase the wow factor, but they aren’t worth forgoing an extra bathroom or living with an awkward and inconvenient floor plan. Cosmetic changes can be made after move-in but bigger issues could be ones you are stuck with for years. Also, home staging can be subconsciously deceptive. Don’t let current décor sway your opinion when it has no bearing on how you will furnish and enjoy your home.
Perfection: Finding a dream home doesn’t necessarily mean having to meet every single requirement on your checklist. In fact, it often means compromising in a few areas in order to get the things that are most important to you. So whether you have to let certain cosmetic imperfections go, or opt for a better neighborhood over an extra bedroom, don’t expect total perfection.
If you follow these guidelines and carefully weigh the things that are most important to you, then you’re sure to end up with a home you’ll love.
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