You’ve decided you want to take the plunge into homeownership, but there are multiple decisions you need to make before you can really even begin your home search.
Undoubtedly, finances will play a huge factor in your home search.
If you find yourself looking at houses, then it is probably safe to assume you have looked at your budget. If you haven’t taken a really good look at your finances up until this point, this is definitely the time to do so. Check your credit score, determine your credit worthiness and look at all of your monthly expenses. Once you have a clear picture of your finances, take the time to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Doing this will dictate the price range you should be looking into when shopping around for houses.
Knowing your budget will also help you determine if you can afford to be looking into a property that requires some renovations or if you should be focusing more on a turnkey home within your price range. Some properties might just need cosmetic work and you do not necessarily have to get it done right away. However if the home requires much repair, can you afford the price of the home and the renovations right away?
What type of home are you looking for—Condo or Single Family?
As with many other important life choices, there are pros and cons of each option. Many people know immediately what is right for them and they cannot be swayed. For others that might not be so sure, it is worth weighing those pros and cons.
Pros: Less maintenance, no snow removal, no lawn care, possibility of pool, gym or other amenities on site
Cons: Restrictions on what can be done cosmetically and structurally, Home Owner’s Association fees
Single Family Homes
Pros: Privacy, freedom to do as you like with no restrictions on painting or renovations, mortgage but no HOA fees
Cons: Maintenance is completely your responsibility, including snow removal, lawn care, repairs
Location is the next factor you should be considering.
Are you planning to stay in the location you currently live or are you moving to a different area?
Once you’ve decided on where you want your home search to take place, research things such as the crime rate and school district. You might think the school district isn’t important if you don’t have children, however the school district affects your property taxes, making it an important factor to consider when researching property and determining your potential expenses.
When considering location, also check your commute and the availability of public transportation, if needed. You might find you fall in love with an area but it’s a long or inconvenient commute to your place of work. Determine ahead of time if the property is worth it in the long run, or you might find yourself regretting your decision.
If you do have children, are there any playgrounds around? Are there neighborhoods that are safe to walk or ride bikes? If you are a family requiring childcare, find out if there are childcare centers close by or if there is before and after school care available through the school system. Check out the different options and see if you are comfortable with what is available.
The absolute “must haves” in your home.
What do you have in mind for your dream home that you will not compromise on?
For instance, have your already decided how many bathrooms and bedrooms the house must have for you to be happy? Do you absolutely want a garage or a basement? Before you begin your search, determine what areas you might compromise on and what you will not.
Though buying a house is a unique and personal experience for everyone, the above factors are important to consider regardless of your circumstances. Buying a home is a huge commitment and a life-changing event. With a clear path to what you want, there is less chance of regretting your decision later.