You know you want to move, but have you thought about what to look for in a new home? Moving is inherently stressful, but you have to be practical and consider what you need and want in a home before making a commitment. After all, buying a new place is a big decision and not one to be taken lightly.
Tip #1: Evaluate the house as it is now
The first thing you need to do is be realistic about what you’re seeing. Is the house livable as it is right now? It’s one thing to take on renovations, but remember that renovating a kitchen – when you won’t have access to another place to cook – is far more troublesome than renovating a spare bedroom. Be realistic about what you can handle in terms of coping with a less-than-ideal living situation.
Make sure to check everything. That includes turning on faucets, flushing the toilet, and looking up at the ceilings for signs of water damage. Your inspector will go over these things, but you should look too. Your observations might help the inspector zero in on potential problems.
Finally, you should also take the time to look out every window of the house to evaluate the view. Remember that if you can see into the neighbors’ windows, they can see into yours, too.
Tip #2: Evaluate the home as it could be
This might sound contradictory, but some home buyers get caught up in minute details and lose sight of what can be changed. Don’t get distracted by ugly décor. Focus on the big picture and remember that superficial things are things that can be altered or redone to your taste.
Tip #3: Make sure the house can grow with you
Ideally, we would all be able to buy a home that was a little bigger than what we need. However, that’s not always possible. If you have one child and know you want more, you might want a house with more than two bedrooms if you can afford it. If not, try to look for a home with add-on possibilities or storage options. Other things to keep in mind are bedroom placement – you might want small children near the master bedroom, but teenagers at a distance so you don’t have to listen to loud music – and stairs. Older people sometimes can’t navigate stairs, so think about mobility issues, too.
Tip #4: Check out the neighborhood thoroughly
One of the biggest mistakes people make when evaluating a new home is that they fail to evaluate their neighborhood thoroughly. Here are some things to consider:
- Is the street a convenient place for people to cut through your neighborhood? If it is, you may end up dealing with a lot of unwanted traffic noise. A cul-de-sac or short road is generally preferable to a long, straight road.
- Who lives nearby? It’s a good idea to visit the neighborhood at different times of day to get a clear picture of what it’s like. Do the neighbors have noisy kids who are out screaming at the crack of dawn? Does the guy next door play the drums? These things might not be deal-breakers, but it’s best to know about them before you make an offer.
- What other things are in the area? It’s not enough to look at the neighbors, you should also check out Google Maps – and the street view in particular – to look for potential sources of noise and irritation.
Tip #5: Learn about the schools
Even if you don’t have children – or your children are fully grown – it’s a good idea to check out the schools in the area. Why? Because you have to be thinking about the resale value of your home, and buying in an area where there are good schools is very important if you want to be able to sell your home to someone who has – or is planning to have – kids.
Tip #6: Don’t spend more than you need to spend
As a rule, it’s better to buy a home whose value is close to the average – or even on the low side – in the neighborhood than one that’s priced high. You do need to be thinking about resale value, and if you buy low you are likely to see the higher-priced homes in the area increase your property value rather than the reverse.
Another thing to consider is property taxes. A lot of times, homeowners get excited by the prospect of a corner lot. However, in many cases the additional land is on the side of the house, and thus not as useful as it might be if it were in the back, and also comes at the price of increased traffic and higher property taxes.
Tip #7: Remember that it’s a home first
Things like resale value matter, but first and foremost you’re looking for a place to live. Your personal preferences and comfort are more important than anything else. Whatever you buy, it should be a place that meets your needs and feels like home.
Buying a home is a huge decision, and the key is to take your time. Evaluate everything, be practical and realistic, and you’ll be sure to make the right choice for you and your family.