Looking for a house can be one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do. It’s a chance to realize your dreams, put down roots and build equity while living under your own roof.
It can also be daunting, though. In buying a house, you’re making a long-term commitment that involves how you want to live, how you’ll bring up any children and your financial situation.
Because of this blend between exciting and daunting, people looking for a home need all the help they can get. Here are 10 tips to help as you search.
Buying a home is a chance to get the features and amenities you need, as well as some of the things you’ve always wanted. One of the savviest planning tools you can put together is a list of everything you want in a home, from the location to the number of bedrooms. You’ve probably been doing this in your head anyway! Take your time and write down a thorough list. Is a nearby dog park an amenity you’d really like? Write it down. A breakfast nook in addition to a dining room? Ditto.
After you’ve made a complete list, separate it into needs and wants. Needs are things you really must have. A reasonable commute time to work, for example, might be an absolute must in your life. It goes on the needs list. The breakfast nook may be something you really desire, but don’t absolutely need. Once you have them separated, you’ll be able to focus on homes to see. If they don’t have your needs, take them off the list.
Don’t get in the car and hit houses to view right away. Real estate as a field has embraced the web fully. You should do the same. You can look at houses that have everything on your list, both needs and wants, all online. There are multiple pictures of exteriors, interiors and yards. Many realtors make video tours of homes for sale. Get a sense of what houses with what you want are like. How much do they cost? Where are they? The more you know at the beginning, the better.
After you’ve done online research, you’ll have a better sense of the price range of houses that have the amenities you want. Figure out how much house you can afford. A general rule of thumb is that your house should cost no more than two to two and a half times your gross income. If everything you’ve seen online seems too expensive, look at other neighborhoods, or eliminate some wants.
Once you’ve figured out what you can reasonably afford yourself, it’s time to visit a lender. It will simplify your search if you get preapproval for a mortgage. There’s also nothing more heartbreaking than falling in love with a house and then not receiving mortgage approval. It can also streamline your bid if you fall in love and are already preapproved.
School districts can have a major effect on housing prices. Houses in excellent school districts command premium prices. Why? They’re more desirable for families with children to live in! As a result, demand stays high. Houses in poor school districts, conversely, may be priced below market. Even if you don’t have or plan to have children, a good school district can work to your advantage, because your house retains good value.
While nothing prevents you from going out one fine Saturday afternoon to see houses, going with a real estate agent is infinitely preferable to doing it on your own. They know trends in the neighborhoods. They know how long houses in the area take to sell, and can give you tips on what to look for. Don’t go into such a major purchase without some advice. Ask friends, family and neighbors for references to a good real estate agent.
Don’t expect the house of your dreams to be the first one you look at. You will likely have to look at many. Don’t expect the first look to do the trick, either. You should look at the houses you’re most interested in several different times, at different times of day and various weathers, if possible. Go see the first few. Let your response to the inside, outside and any yard be your guide.
Then, choose three to four favorites. Go back and examine the interior thoroughly. Focus on structure, utility and condition. Are the rooms large enough? Are they well-arranged? Don’t focus on their décor. The look is easy to change. But it’s harder to enlarge tiny bedrooms. Is everything convenient, or will a lack of kitchen cabinets require you to store food in the basement? Is everything in good condition? If faucets are leaking, plumbing repairs may be in your future. That could be OK in a house you love, but be sure to factor repairs into the housing price negotiations.
The age of the smartphone has many benefits. One is the ability to take multiple pictures easily and quickly. Use that benefit to your advantage. Take pictures of the houses you’re most interested in. Don’t ignore closets and the ceiling! Sometimes people neglect to open doors and look up. You’ll own the ceiling with a water stain just as much as the adorable kitchen, so take a series of good long looks before you buy.
Purchasing a house can be very exciting and slightly frightening. Follow these tips for an organized, practical and fun search.