Looking for a home
Once you find a real estate agent and decide the types of homes you want to look at, it’s time to start looking. But before you do, you’ll want to consider several factors that will help your agent select homes that work for your budget and lifestyle. When deciding what you really want in a home, figure out items that are absolute “must-haves” versus things that you would like but can live without (“nice-to-haves”).
To make your home search as efficient as possible, think about your price range for a home. At this point, you may not know exactly how much money a lender? will approve for your mortgage?, but hopefully you will have gone through the pre-approval? or pre-qualification? process, which will give you a good idea of how much a lender will lend you. Also, think about how much you plan to put toward your down payment? as well as a budget range for a monthly payment. This can help you determine how much you can afford to spend on a house.
When it comes to location, consider if you want to be near parks, grocers, schools, hospitals, and other community amenities. Do you want to be able to walk to places or have more land? Then think about your commute to work. How important is the length of your commute? Is parking or access to public transportation important? Do you want to be near family and friends? Ask yourself these questions, and then narrow down to a few neighborhoods so your real estate agent can show you homes in those areas. Keep in mind that location typically impacts costs.
Age of home: fixer-upper vs. move-in ready
There are pros and cons to both older and newer homes, but choosing between the two comes down to what fits your lifestyle, budget, and preferences. Some people seek out an older home or fixer-upper due to the lower purchase price or wanting to do a lot of renovation work themselves, while others may only want to do minor updates and are looking for a home that’s move-in ready. There are cost implications with both options. A fixer-upper could be less expensive now but could cost more once you get into renovation work. A move-in ready home could be more expensive upfront, but you won’t have to put as much money into renovations. If you don’t want to have to worry about home improvements for a while, a newer home may be a better fit.
When searching for a home, it is important to focus on both the interior and exterior features that are important to you. Interior features have a lot to do with the size of home you want and need. Think about how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need. Are things like open floor plans, sunrooms, and eat-in kitchens important to you? Do you need a handicapped-accessible home or bedrooms on the main level? Other interior features to consider are bonus rooms, finished basements, laundry, separate dining room, walk-in closets, and fireplaces. Exterior features such as a garage, yard, front porch, or deck should also be factored into your search. If you want things like a big yard or a pool, it’s important to also understand the costs of maintaining these features. Check out our homebuyer checklist for a list of features to consider during your home search.
Energy efficiency elements can be found in many aspects of a home and reflect a home’s overall health. Factors to consider include window types and condition, insulation, sealing, appliances, HVAC, and water. One thing to note: Homes that are less energy efficient can wind up increasing your utility bills, which costs you more money in the long run. Updates that improve energy efficiency can help keep good air in, keep allergens out, reduce mold, and improve the overall comfort and efficiency of your home.