There are many factors to consider when house hunting. Save time, energy and money by narrowing your focus before you hit the pavement.
Make a List
Once you've determined what your budget is, narrow your search by determining some basic characteristics for your new home. This will not only help your real estate agent service you more effectively, but it will also help you determine if you can truly afford what you want, or if you need to adjust your list to suit your budget.
It's important to separate needs from wants in this list. Needs might include the minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms, whether you need a garage or office space, the size of the yard and any special requirements such as handicap access. Also be sure to list anything you absolutely don't want such as multi-levels. Then list things that are preferences, but that you might be somewhat flexible on if all your other criteria are met. Rank the items on your list in priority order.
Start searching for homes on your own online to see if your list fits your budget, or if there's anything else that needs to go on your list.
Share your list with your real estate agent. As you tour homes, don’t become so focused on finding that "dream home” that you overlook viable options. Have your agent show you several types of homes. You may find that the home you choose is quite different from what you original planned.
Once you find something that you like, evaluate it objectively. Your agent will help you evaluate things that are inexpensive changes versus major renovations. Be willing to make small changes or improvements, but don’t take on more than you can handle. Also consider the home’s resell value. Consider how long you expect to stay in the home. You want to consider what it could cost you should you have to move in a couple of years.
Make a list of pros and cons for each home that you like. In addition to the structure itself you should consider the location: neighborhood, your commuting distance to work, the quality of nearby public services and schools and the convenience to grocery stores and other necessities.
Talk to the Neighbors
Feel free to knock on doors or ask questions of passersby. Visit the property at a variety of times of day, on weekdays and weekends, as the atmosphere may change.
- Do neighbors seem friendly and approachable?
- Are nearby homes and yards well-maintained?
- Is the noise level satisfactory?
- Is there a lot of traffic nearby?
- Will there be adequate parking?
- Is there room for your kids and/or pets to safely play outside?
- Do homes in this area tend to retain or go up in property value?
- What are the common repairs on homes of this type?