Now that you’ve figured out the general location of where you want to find your home, think about what your ideal home looks like:
- Do you prefer a single family home, a townhouse, or a condo? Or are you looking for something with extra space you can rent on to generate income?
- Are you set on a new house? If so, how new? Built in the last 10 or 20 years?
- How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need?
- Do you mind living on a busy street or do you prefer to live on a cul-de-sac?
- Do you want a backyard, front yard or both?
- How long do you plan to stay in your home? Do you see a possible move in the not so distant future?
Answering these questions and considering the following factors before starting your home search will keep your search efficient and save you from wasting time and money on traveling all over town.
Size & Type
What style of home fits you best -- house, condo, townhouse, duplex, etc. If your main concerns are privacy and space, you’ll probably want a single-family home. But if your main concern is having to do as little maintenance as possible, a townhouse or condo might be best.
If you’re absolutely set on newer construction, it’s likely your house will have a lot more room for storage but it may lack character as so many newly constructed homes have the same features and design as all the other homes in the neighborhood. An older home will be much more unique from the houses around it, however you’ll definitely want to look for owner-installed upgrades because older homes will be a lot less modern.
Make sure to determine early on how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need and the minimum (and maximum) you’ll settle for. A large home can give you extra space for a home office, studio, guest room or play room for the kids. But it may come with higher heating costs and higher taxes.
If you find the perfect home but it’s missing a bathroom or bedroom that you need, consult a contractor to see if you’ll be able to add one when you’re ready. A contractor will know about city regulations and can advise you on whether or not adding to the home is possible.
If you don’t have or know a contractor, ask your agent. He or she may know one they can bring along when you’re looking for homes or at least pay a visit to a particular home you have in mind.
Location cannot be stressed enough. Even if you’ve figured out the general area for your search, location will still be a factor. Does the particular neighborhood you’re looking in have access to parks, shopping, schools, and public transportation? Do you mind if your house is on a busy street or do you prefer a home enclosed within a quiet neighborhood or on a cul-de-sac.
Traffic is another thing to consider. When schools let out or during rush hour, does it take an extra 10 or 20 minutes to get out of the neighborhood?
Do you want to be in a historic neighborhood? While historic neighborhoods have tons of character with more mature residents, they are often more expensive, require lots of repair work, and are governed by community associations with strict standards for renovating and home maintenance. While newer developments have more modern features, they are typically far from the city center, away from shopping and entertainment.
A newer roof or one made of an especially sturdy material could mean a lower homeowners insurance rate and better defend against wind and hail, saving you from a potential claim.
Make sure the air conditioning unit and the furnace are up to date and in good repair because repairs can be expensive.
Don’t settle for a kitchen that won’t meet your needs. While you can replace cabinets and countertops without spending too much money, remodeling an entire kitchen can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Is the home you’re looking at in a community with a homeowners association (HOA)? Some HOAs have lawn or construction restrictions and all HOAs come with some type of fee. If that fee (either yearly or monthly) is added to your monthly mortgage payment, will you still be able to purchase the home?
While it’s understandable that you’ll want the best home your money can buy, it’s usually best to look for homes towards the lower end of your price range.
The amount of money your lender pre-approved you for may be more than you can truly afford to pay after factoring in the cost of property taxes, home insurance, utility bills and home upkeep.
Before you consider resale value when looking at home, think about whether or not you’ll be able to live in that home comfortably for at least the next 5-7 years.
Does the home have enough storage space for all your stuff and enough space for you (and your family) to move around and live without feeling jammed pack? If you have pets, is the home suitable for them?
- Do you like to host large social events or family gatherings? Is the indoor and outdoor space conducive to hosting comfortably?
- Is privacy especially important to you? Is it a deal breaker if your house is too close to the neighbors? What about parking? Do you need a driveway or a garage? Or are you fine parking, or having your guests park, on the street?
- Is natural lighting important to you? Do you want big windows for the sun to shine through or do you prefer a more dimly lit space and windows you can easily cover?
You’ll want the home to adapt to your needs as your life changes. If you have a baby or a family member has to move in (like a child who moves back in after college or an older relative who needs care), will the home be able to accommodate those changes? If a home large enough to meet those needs now isn’t in your budget, look for one that will allow you to build on in the future.