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When I went through the home buying process, I knew I wanted to get as close to perfect as possible. After all, you can’t just get up and move when you buy a house. If you don’t get what you want, you have to deal with it until you can sell the house and move out.
While you might not be able to get everything you want (especially with your first home), it’s possible to make sure you enjoy your new house as much as possible. Here are some things to consider when you decide to buy a home.
Can you comfortably afford the house you’re looking at? Don’t forget to include other expenses, such as insurance and property taxes, that will also add to the cost of homeownership.
Many people rely on the 30 percent rule when figuring out their housing costs, though that method isn’t always reliable. You can also get a preapproval letter from a bank to figure out how much house you can afford. However, the most important measure of affordability is how comfortable you are when you pay for the home.
When you purchase a house that you have to stretch to afford, it can cause more stress in your life. You don’t want to spend most of your time trying to make ends meet because of your expensive house. Modify your expectations based on your actual budget and what payment you can easily afford.
Where you live matters a great deal. When buying a home, think about your lifestyle and your expectations for the future. What amenities matter most to you?
Back when I was in the market for a home, my first consideration was the school my son would go to. I like to live within walking distance of my son’s school to make things easier for everyone involved. When I bought a home, I purchased in a neighborhood with other school-aged children my son could walk with.
Other nearby amenities to keep in mind when buying a home include:
- Night life
- Grocery stores
- Public transit access
Not all of these things are going to be important to you. Some might consider a neighborhood’s walkability to be of the utmost importance; others might be more interested in the lower costs that come with the suburbs. You might be willing to drive further to get to the store, as long as your kids have access to good schools and the neighborhood is safe.
Think about what location means to you and what access your home will offer. Try to buy in an area that fits your lifestyle choices.
Another big item to consider when buying a home is the commute to work or school.
When my then-husband and I bought a home, we chose the location partly because it was near a bus stop. I could drive my husband into work and he could ride the bus home. It allowed us to remain a one-car family for several years.
Think about how long you would be in traffic or how long you would ride the train or the bus. Is the time you spend on the commute worth a lower cost for you to live farther away?
4. Keeping up with the Joneses
As you think about location and price, don’t forget to consider the neighborhood’s economic standings as a whole.
When you move into an expensive neighborhood, it’s not just about the cost of the home — it’s also about the lifestyle inflation that comes with keeping up with the Joneses. That might not be your preference, though. If you value a spacious and beautiful home in a pricier neighborhood, there’s nothing wrong with moving in — as long as you can afford it.
Just be aware of how your surroundings can influence your spending choices and priorities, from the type of car you “need” to drive to the way you might be expected to keep up with your landscaping.
5. Number of rooms
The size of your family and your plans for the future also dictate your priorities when buying a home. Do you plan to have more children, leading to the need for a slightly bigger home to grow into? If you have pets, you might need to make sure you buy a home with a big backyard and a fence.
When we lived in our home in Utah, we liked to entertain. Guests stayed with us frequently, so we bought a home that included a guest room on top of a home office. Because of our lifestyle, it made sense to buy a four-bedroom home, even though we only needed two bedrooms for sleeping.
Think about how often guests will stay at your home and whether or not you need a dedicated home office or other work space. Your family situation is unique, and you want to buy a home that matches your needs.
6. Type of home
A recently built home has the advantage of new items. You have fewer worries about things breaking down and you know that the electrical and plumbing systems are modern.
But some people love the charm and history of old homes, and they love updating them and remodeling them. Look at your skills and abilities. Do you have the know-how to fix up a home — or at least the budget to hire those who can do the work? If you like the idea of putting in some little sweat equity to improve the value of a low-cost older home, go for it.
If you want something absolutely perfect for you, you might consider building a home. However, building a home on your own requires a lot of effort. You might need to get a construction loan and come up with a bigger down payment. Plus, you have to buy the land plus build the house.
There’s nothing wrong with going this route, as long as you have the patience for building your own home. After all, it’s the most reliable way to make sure you get exactly what you want.
Buying a home is a balancing act
You have to perform a balancing act whenever you buy a home. Maybe you need to live further away from a city center if you want something affordable. Perhaps you need to give up a degree of walkability and access to restaurants if you want to live closer to your kids’ schools.
As you shop for a home, figure out which items are most important to you. Prioritize your list and buy a home that fulfills the most important items — even if you have to compromise elsewhere.
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