You've prepared yourself to by a new home in every way possible, now it's just time to do it! If only it was as easy as handing someone the money and poof- you're a home owner! This is where things star to get compliacated.
After driving around neighborhoods and keeping an eye on multiple listing platforms such as Zillow and Realtor.com you should be able to start gathering what kind of home you're interested in purchasing and which types of homes fall in line with your budget and financial goals. It's your job, not your agents job to determine what you want and whether those wants are realistic.
In order for you agent to help you find the house of your dreams, you will need to be very clear in what kind of purchase you are willing to make. Plus the more you know in advance, the less likely you are to be distracted by a great feature in a home that may otherwise not work for you and your family.
Try taking your max price and running it through a mortgage calculator. This will give you a general idea of what your monthly mortgage cost will be. Make sure to include, taxes, insurance and other associated costs such as PMI (private mortgage insurance). It's important to note that just because a home is slightly above your max price, that does not mean it is unattaniable. Depending on the market, sellers will sometimes take a lower offer. On houses that are slightly over your budget, remember not to fall in love with the home. You set your max budget and if they do not accept a lowball offer, you have to walk away.
Of course you should know how many bedrooms and bathrooms you are looking for-we strongly reccommend having at least 2 toilets (houses with multiple bathrooms sell for more money, faster)
Also, more and more people are working from home, consider whether or not you need a home office or a large garage space. Think several years in the future, if you have small children or are thinking of expanding your family it may be a good idea to get a home with a large yard or more square footage (spoler: they do get bigger!)
Location is one of the few things you cannot change about your home. You probably know which city you want to live in, but are there nearby options that could aslo work? Compare the ammenities like nearby parks, downtown areas that include shopping and resturants etc...
Pay attention to the smaller details like commute time. You may be tempted to ignore it, think about how much time you're willing to spend in the car. Try driving the commute during rush hour so you can get a good feeling of what it will be like when you move in.
While it may not be relevant to you, consider the school districts. Homes in a good district sell faster and for more money than houses in a mediocre or worse district. Kids or no kids, you’ll still enjoy the benefits of that district when you go to sell. However, a good school district often comes with higher property taxes. Make sure those higher expenses are worth it by looking at similar homes in both districts—at least online—to compare pricing.
Are you looking for something more polished, or something with which you can force appreciation? If the latter, you should know which projects you’re willing to take on. Home renovation shows might be a great source of entertainment (move—that—bus!), but the projects on TV are never as simple as they seem. You might walk into an older home and think, Well, I can just tear down that wall to open up the kitchen. Instant value-add! Though the idea is tempting, you might regret that decision down the road.
Make sure you consider your DIY skills before diving into showings. What projects might you be willing to tackle to add value to a home? What’s completely off the table? This depends entirely on your own abilities, or at least your willingness to learn any new skills needed to execute your plans.
You might be happy to update the paint, landscaping, and appliances but not be willing to commit to any major projects that involve a contractor (like moving walls, repairing the foundation, updating the electrical service, fixing the roof, or any other high-ticket items). Maybe you’re fine replacing the floors, but you don’t want to deal with windows. Just make sure you know your limitations so you can avoid those items should they come up.
A basic understanding of big-ticket problems will help you immensely. Follow our DIY inspection checklist to learn what to look out for. Red flags like mold, water stains, or cracks in the ceilings or walls can indicate major leaks, for example. These signs of water damage might instantly knock a home from the running—and save you money on an inspector.
Important note: We recommend all home buyers hire a home inspector during closing. However, a keen eye for potential problems means you’ll notice problems sooner and make decisions before the offer stage.
A house should suit your lifestyle and preferences. Make a list of the things you can’t live without. Do you need a big kitchen? If you’re a big entertainer, you might want an oversized patio. Or are you a woodworker who needs significant garage space? What about a school district—do you care? If you don’t want to renovate, does the current floor plan and home design suit your tastes?
Likewise, make sure you write down anything you can’t live with, like a high-maintenance backyard or being adjacent to a busy street.
Knowing the answer to each of these questions will give you a clear idea of what you want. That way you’ll be able to keep your eyes on the prize when you start looking at properties in person.
You should be able to make three lists that you can send to your agent: must-haves, nice-to-haves, and deal breakers. Sometimes your price range means that you can have it all, and sometimes your price range means you’re going to have to make sacrifices. These lists can help convey to your agent what is important to you—and help keep you on track when you see the shiny bells and whistles of an updated home.
While finding a home can take weeks or even months, finding the one takes thirty to forty-five days of searching on average. The fewer deal breakers you have on your list and the more cities you’re open to living in, the easier it will be to find a suitable home. Conversely, the more particular you are, the longer it will take.
There is no right answer—you like what you like, and even better, you know what you want. You’ve set yourself up for success by avoiding any rushed timelines, so if it takes a little while to find your home, that’s okay, too.