When you’re ready to buy a home, it’s easy to get caught up in the beauty and excitement of the process. You may find yourself so thrilled or so stressed that you get overwhelmed and lose sight of some essential details.
It can be hard to slow down and give the purchase the attention it needs, but by realizing what you should consider before you start the process, you can keep these essential things at the front of your mind to make a smart purchase.
Know What You Can Afford
Another tip that comes before ever walking into a home is to know how much you can afford. Run the numbers and examine your budget. Get pre-approved for a mortgage before you go house hunting. This way, you stay on budget and you don’t look at dream homes you can’t realistically purchase.
If you haven’t already, you need to start saving money for the down payment. A good rule of thumb is to save 20% of the home’s total cost. Determine how many months or years it will take you to save that amount of money, and then create a plan to buy a home within that timeframe.
Choose the Right House for You
Before you ever step foot into a potential home, you need to do some homework first. Make a list of the things you want and the things you must have. When you walk into a home, if it doesn’t have all of your musts, cross it off the list. Be sure to consider the materials the home is made of and their energy efficiency, so you can keep your heating and cooling costs down.
With that said, it’s important to be realistic and work within your budget. By showing your real estate agent your list of wants and needs, they can help you determine if you’re being realistic and show you properties in your budget that meet those requirements.
Be Realistic About Projects
It may sound nice and look dreamy on TV to buy a fixer-upper and make it amazing, but is that realistic for you? Even if you don’t buy a total fixer-upper and instead buy a move-in-ready house and plan to make some renovations for personal preferences, you need to think about it.
The time, energy and money a renovation requires is often underestimated. Do you want to live in a construction site? Can you handle the stress of small renovations? Be honest, because this choice could make the difference between being happy and living in a nightmare.
Look to the Future
Unless you know that you’re just buying a starter home and will purchase a bigger house when you start a family, you need to keep your future in mind when looking at houses. If you want a family, does the home have enough bedrooms? Is it close to good schools? What amenities does it offer? What’s the crime rate?
Once you find a home you like, be sure to drive around the neighborhood in the morning, during the day and at night so you can see what it’s like all at times of the day. Talk to the neighbors and ask them what they enjoy about the neighborhood and if they have any concerns. Pay attention to the condition of other homes and businesses in the neighborhood — they can be an indication that the neighborhood is doing well or is facing a decline.
All of these things are important to consider in the present moment, as well as for the future. Look at how close the home is to your workplace, shopping centers and medical facilities. All these things should factor into your decision in choosing a neighborhood you want to live in.
Maintain Your Home
Remember that the work doesn’t stop as soon as you unpack the last box and put everything away. Now you have the challenge of maintaining your home and keeping everything in good condition. Know what to expect if you buy an older home or new construction. Factor in the landscaping and lot needs. Be realistic about what you’re capable of doing, and don’t take on something that needs more maintenance than you’re ready to provide.
These five tips will help you stay grounded when you’re looking for your first house so you don’t get caught up in the process and make a poor decision. Keep these tips at the center of your house search and you’ll be more likely to make a smart purchase and enjoy the home you choose for years to come.