Buying a home is a major financial and life commitment that you’ll be living with for the foreseeable future. While that can sound a little daunting, being aware of this, and zeroing in on what exactly you need in a home can make the process a lot less stressful.
The first step is to define what the “perfect” home is to you. Start by making a list of your “must-haves,” “would likes” and what would be nice, but not necessary. If you’re buying with a partner, make sure you compare lists to further parse them down. In addition to your lists, you’ll also need to ask yourself some questions, such as:
What can you really afford?
Before scouring the market for your ideal property, you need to know what you can afford. By getting pre-approved for a mortgage first, you'll know exactly how much you can borrow. Your budget should also allow you to put funds aside each month for emergency maintenance. Lastly, think about any potential changes to your income you may face in the next 5-10 years, how they could affect your ability to make payments, and whether there are any safeguards you can put in place.
It's not uncommon for buyers to find their perfect home, only to discover too late that the area it's in is far from ideal. Take note of what you like about your current neighborhood and what you would change and keep this in mind. Take the time to explore the two-mile radius surrounding the property. Drive around in the daytime and at night to get a feel for it. Test out your rush hour commute to work as well. And even if you don’t have children, the school district is important for a future sale.
Have you done homework?
Carrying out thorough research on a property and area before you buy can take time and money, but the benefits far outweigh the cost. Look at general property values in the local area and study how they have changed recently. This will help you decide whether the asking price is fair.
A professional home inspection will cost a few hundred dollars but could end up saving you thousands in the long run. If they find any potential issues with the home, you can request the seller makes repairs on the property or use it as a bargaining tool to lower the price.
Are you buying for tomorrow?
A perfect home isn't just for now, so visualize whether you can see yourself living and growing there. You also need to look for the potential in the property if you decide to expand or refurbish parts of it. You might not be planning to do this anytime soon, but it's important to know you'll have the option later.
Ask yourself these questions, and remember, the perfect home is one you build yourself. Don’t worry about minor issues or details, there are always things that can be changed or different. And working on these things will really make your house a home.