When buying a house, everyone has individual priorities. The buying process is a complex one and takes time. It’s easy to get off track without an experienced agent behind you. Having written priorities is a helpful way to guide you through the process without forgetting some of the features that are important to you and your family. As your realtors, we will also want to understand your prioritized list. Understanding which features mean the most will help eliminate houses that won’t work for you and compare the homes that will.
Let’s discuss the top areas to consider when buying a new house. Each will rank differently in importance for individual buyers, but all points are worth examining. If you haven’t already thought seriously about these factors, now is your chance. And, if you’re buying the home, talk it over to make sure you agree on the importance of each feature. Let’s check it out.
1. Always get pre-approved before you start house hunting.
2. Shop mortgage lenders so you get the best interest rate.
3. Don’t buy more house than you can afford.
4. Don’t forget the additional fees that come with buying a home. Down-payments, closing costs, inspections, appraisals, etc.
5. Make sure you calculate regular expenses of home ownership when figuring out your budget. Both monthly and annual expenses.
6. No matter how much you love the house, or how new it is, always get it inspected to avoid future headaches.
7. Make sure you check the zoning laws. Find out what is and isn’t permitted around your home/neighborhood preference so you aren’t caught off guard by unattractive builds.
8. I’ll help you with this part, but it’s important to get everything in the transaction process/negotiations in writing. Never take anyone’s word during the sale of a home, even if you’re friends with the other party!
9. If you have too many contingencies as a buyer, you may lose out on your dream house. So make sure your finances are set and you’re ready to move when you start your house hunt.
What to talk about that determines your home search criteria:
A. Location of the house:
Location of the house: Location location location! Buyers want to find a location that allows easy access to the places they frequent the most (work, school, shopping, recreation, place of worship, friends and family). Look for easy access to the main roads and check traffic flow. Checking this out before a purchase can help save you from hassles getting out of the neighborhood and onto the main thoroughfare or from an unreasonably long commute.
The location of the home within the neighborhood is also important to many people. Some people prefer a lot near the main entry, while others like to be away from traffic and further into the development. If there is a park, pool or recreation area, some owners would choose the closest available lot. Cul-de-sacs are favored by some, and some people like living on the main boulevard. Talk about your preferences, and ask your realtor if certain lot locations bring a higher purchase price.
B. Lot Size:
Many people give little thought to the size of the lot the house sits on. Within a neighborhood, the lot sizes might be fairly similar. Once you’re going to showings and looking at what’s available, you’ll soon see if you have a clear preference of large or small, corner or interior.
Some lots are pie-shaped; some are rectangular, and some are irregular in shape. Depending on the level of privacy, how you will use the lawn, and the length of the driveway, this might matter to you. If there seems to be a question about where one lot ends, and another begins, check the lot description and dimensions with your realtor. If you find a house that includes two lots, think about the possibilities. If the second lot is buildable, you could possibly add another building (extra garage, workshop, etc.) or you might split the property, build a second home and sell it, or sell the lot as is.
C. Number of Rooms:
Each family will have an idea of how many bedrooms they would like. Most people will want at least two, and if there are children, the number increases. Some families like their kids to share bedrooms, while others like separate bedrooms for each to accommodate different bedtimes and study habits. If you have regular visitors for any length of time, it’s nice to have a bedroom that is designated as a guest room. An extra bedroom often doubles as an office, den, kids’ playroom, or exercise room. Many hobbies can require working space and storage for supplies, and an extra bedroom serves this purpose well. Think carefully about your lifestyle and what will enhance it.
D. Number of Bathrooms:
Decide ahead of time how many bathrooms you prefer. Older homes might have only one bathroom, and buyers will often look for ways to add another.
If there is only one bathroom, be sure you can live with that arrangement if remodeling isn’t feasible. Newer homes generally have two or more bathrooms, although some bathrooms might not have a tub or shower. The size and style of a bathroom are important as well. Do you want a bathtub or shower or both? Jacuzzi tubs are popular for relaxing, and some people prefer a shower stall for easy access. If you need a handicap accessible bathroom, you can look for that, or a sizable bath that could be remodeled. Think about the people (including guests) who will be using the bathrooms, and you’ll get a clearer idea of the size and style of bathroom that will work best for your family.
E. Kitchen Layout:
The kitchen truly seems to be the heart of the home. It is where great food is created for the family and friends who gather there. When guests arrive, they usually end up hanging out in the kitchen, and because it’s a center of activity and entertainment, the size and layout are important. Be clear on whether you need a large gourmet kitchen with lots of counter space, sinks and storage or if a typical kitchen will suffice.
Each family has different ideas about cooking. There’s the person who said the only reason there was a kitchen is because it came with the house! In that case, any kitchen would do.
Then, there’s the vegetarian who cooks daily and uses a lot of fresh ingredients, or the quick cook who microwaves all the meals. Some people entertain a lot or have large families to feed. Whatever style of cooking you are into, the kitchen will require a close look.
If you have one person doing all the cooking for only two people, a modest kitchen might be adequate. Parents who are teaching children to cook healthy meals might like more space. Whatever your preferences in the kitchen, jot them down and discuss them with your realtor so you’re looking for the best option for your family.
F. Age, Condition, of Home Appliances:
Appliances are expensive to replace. Take the time to estimate the age and condition of each. You may also have some strong preferences. For instance, you might enjoy cooking on a gas stove and dislike using an electric range. For some people, these types of differences can be deal breakers. If they are for you, let your realtor know.
A typical kitchen has many appliances. If there are any you can’t do without, check to see that the home provides that convenience or that there is room to add it later. Some are easier to add than others (microwave compared to a dishwasher if space is limited). Check the washer, dryer, water heater and water softener as well as the furnace or boiler, air conditioner and humidifier. If there are fireplaces or wood-stoves, it’s good to know if they have been maintained properly.
You can make an educated guess at the age of the appliances, and your home inspector can report on it later. When looking at a home, don’t assume that all appliances will stay with the house. Check the property listing to see which are part of the purchase and which are not. If most of the appliances and mechanical systems seem dated, you need to be aware of replacement costs.
G. Age of The House:
If you are only interested in new construction, this is irrelevant. However, if you are willing to look at all houses in your price range that meet your basic requirements, you may see homes from several decades. Older homes can have a character that appeals, and they may also need more repairs and upgrades. Make sure you have the time, inclination and budget to enjoy managing these projects.
Building codes change over the years, and it would be good to have a basic understanding of some of the more impactful differences when looking at homes built under a different set of rules. Your realtor might have this knowledge or would know where to find the answers. If you’re looking for a certain vintage and style, you might already be aware of how homes were constructed at that time.
H. Purchase Price:
Before even looking, you should determine your price range and get pre-approved for a loan. Buying a single-family home is a huge investment, and there’s always more to it than just the purchase price. Think about how all costs will affect your finances and stick to your decision on price range and mortgage payment.
I. Seller’s Incentive To Sell:
When looking for homes, you will find that some sellers are more motivated than others. Some people will place their home on the market but don’t really care if it sells or not. If not, they are happy to continue living there and will try again later. With this type of sale, there is not usually much wiggle room on the price. There are times, however, when a seller is highly motivated to sell. Examples might be: an estate sale, a job relocation and need to move out of state, or someone paying two mortgages and wanting to sell and get back to only one payment. As your realtors, we will help you determine how motivated the seller might be and how to draft the offer and counteroffers to get the best price.
J. Maintenance Mode:
Unless you’re buying new construction, there is generally quite a list of potential maintenance items. When looking at the house, you are probably making a written or mental list of all the things that could use a little help. They might be repairs, large or small, replacements or additions that would make the house a home. Some items might be mainly cosmetic, and others might take a lot of time and money to complete. Be sure you write them down and add it up. Is it a reasonable list or would it disrupt your family life or present a financial crunch?
Staying true to your priorities will be important in finding the right home for you and your family. Location, lot size, bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen are as important to your enjoyment of the home as they will be for the resale. Understanding the age and condition of the home, appliances and components will help you determine how much work (and money) will be needed to maintain it over time. Once you know this, you can look at possible price offers that could make it a worthwhile investment for you.
Having a great real estate agent by your side will help you make sure you don’t overpay for a property. But keep in mind, if you submit offers that are too low, you may lose out in a hot market to a more interested buyer.
You’ll put in a lot of time and effort while looking for the perfect (or close) next home for your family. Be sure to tap into the knowledge and support of your realtor, mortgage professional, and home inspector to guide you along the way.If you have enjoyed this article and gained motivation in your search for your next family-friendly home, please share it with a friend who might also benefit.