Though it is often fun and exciting, house hunting is a very serious endeavor. If you make a good choice, you’ll own a secure, comfortable home that meets the needs of your family. If you make a bad choice, you’ll own a hazardous, uncomfortable home that doesn’t meet the needs of your family.
My husband and I have been house hunting after our move across the country. We want to make the right choice! How can we make sure we do this? We believe that we’ll make a good choice if we use these simple, commonsense criteria to guide our decision making.
Important things to consider when purchasing a home
The price of the home
If a home is priced outside of your budget, then there’s no reason to even consider it. We’ve taken a close look at our budget and know exactly how much we feel comfortable paying towards a mortgage each month. Of course, mortgage lenders use formulas that consider your income and expenses to determine how much of a mortgage you can borrow. You can’t borrow more than your lender will allow, so this amount is the upper limit of your budget. However, you can always borrow less than the amount for which you qualify. In our case, we qualify for more than we actually feel comfortable borrowing, so we’re letting the lesser amount—the amount we’re comfortable borrowing—set our budget.
Homeowners can attempt to sell their home for whatever price they’d like, so it’s a good idea to work with a real estate agent to evaluate the market conditions in the area where a prospective house is located. By looking at similar houses that have sold recently, you can determine if a house is being sold for more or less than what it is worth.
The characteristics of the home
Layout and size
Before looking for a house, consider listing the things you need in a home. I say need because we all have a large number of things we like. Without an unlimited budget and a large selection of properties, it is unlikely you’ll find everything you like. The size of your family and your lifestyle are good things to consider when listing your needs. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? Do you need an open floor plan or will a closed one work? Do you need a one-story home? Do you need a large yard? We need a home that will accommodate our family as it grows, so we’re looking for one with sufficient bedrooms, a large yard, and an open floorplan.
Condition and maintenance needs
All homes require some maintenance, but some will require a lot more than others. Older homes, poorly-constructed homes, and/or homes that are in disrepair will typically require more to maintain than newer homes, well-constructed homes, and/or homes that are in good repair. Unless you have special training, a professional inspector is needed to evaluate the condition of a house. If you’re in the market for a fixer-upper, then you may intentionally choose a home that needs a lot of work. However, if you’re like us and prefer a house that is more move-in ready, then you may pass on those in poor condition and those with very high maintenance needs.
The location of the home
Proximity to work
Most families have at least one member who works full-time outside of the home. If this is true for you, then you’ll want to consider how far a prospective home is from the workplace. You may need to limit your search to certain areas in order to avoid a long, grueling commute. We live in a large metropolitan area, so this is a pertinent consideration for us. My husband takes advantage of public transportation, so we are also considering the locations of park and rides.
Proximity to stores and other facilities
Consider a typical month. How often do you attend church? How often do you go to the grocery store? How frequently do you visit the library, the mall, and restaurants? If you purchase a home that is far from these facilities, how will that impact your life? Depending on your lifestyle, you may want to limit your search to houses that are near these facilities.
Taxes, fees, and restrictions
Homes located in certain areas have extra expenses and restrictions associated with them. Here are some things you’ll want to consider:
- Property tax rate
- Special taxes levied on a home because of its location in a particular neighborhood or subdivision
- HOA fees and restrictions
- Deed restrictions
- Increased insurance expenses due to the home’s location (floodplain, near the coast, etc.)
The neighborhood characteristics
Because I have a young child, I really want a house that is in a neighborhood that has sidewalks and that is close to parks. If you don’t have kids or you don’t go outside that much, then this may not be important to you. However, you may be looking for a home located in a neighborhood that is comprised mostly of retirees. Think through the characteristics (demographics, walkability, type of homes, etc.) you’d like in a neighborhood and do some research before choosing to buy a home in a particular neighborhood.
The resale value of the home
Even if you intend to stay in a home for a long time, there is always a chance you may end up selling it and moving somewhere else. Because of this, it is important to consider if a home has good resale potential. Homes that are in good condition, are located in desirable areas with good schools, and have updated kitchens and bathrooms tend to have better resale values.
This is a lot to consider, but a home is such a significant purchase that we really need to make wise choices.
Do you agree that these are the most important things to consider or are there other things you think are more important? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.