The path to homeownership is a long one, which only makes it more exciting when you finally reach the point of being able to start the search for the right home for you. Buying a home is a huge step, but having the right guidance on this journey will make or break your entire process. However, as a first-time home buyer, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the housing options out there, and the inventory of homes available in your area.
When looking for the right home, there’s a lot to consider throughout the process. From your budget, home prices, closing fees, location, community, commute, and more, having the right tips to guide you in your housing search will go a long way in helping you find the right place for you.
What Does Your Perfect Home Look Like?
Before you begin your search for your perfect home, you should first make a list of what you’re looking for in a home, and what your expectations and non-negotiables are before you even begin your housing search.
When thinking of what you want in a house, start with your and your family’s basic requirements in a home, like the number of bedrooms (which of course depend on whether or not you also intend on expanding your family in the future), backyards, proximities to your work or your kids’ school, location in general, and anything else that you might consider to be needed, like a certain number of bathrooms.
To make your search even easier to narrow down, you can also make a list of features that would be nice to have, but that aren’t make or breaks for your entire home-buying process. You can move homes up in their ranking based on this list, but also don’t have to eliminate homes that might lack these features.
What to Do Before a House Search
Before embarking on your house search, it’s very important to set your budget and consider what you can and can’t afford before looking at anything. You should also shop around to different lenders and see what interest rates and loan amounts you can get for your future home, before getting pre-approved for a mortgage.
When going through the pre-approval process, you should also consider how much you’ll be able to put down on your potential home, how much you can afford each month, and other expenses that might impact your housing-related expenses. These factors can include taxes on your home, insurance rates, and the fees associated with buying a home.
Going into the housing search with a set budget and with pre-approval on hand will allow you to let sellers know you’re a serious buyer, and will let you manage your expectations as to the homes you intend to view. There’s no reason to break your own heart by going to look at houses you can’t afford, after all.
How to Look for a House
When searching for a new home, there’s a lot to take into account to find the right home for you and your family. After narrowing down your budget and what you’re looking for in a home, you should set some other parameters to make looking for your house a little easier.
Before you start your search, consider the location of your home, especially if you’re moving to a new state or area. What neighborhood do you want to live in? What school districts are right for your kids to go to? Is your preferred area close to your job, or does it at least offer a feasible commute? You should also consider the proximity of your potential area to social activities or other places you might frequent. Another aspect to take into account that tends to get overlooked until later is your area’s proximity to grocery stores and other essential outlets.
If you can, try to drive around the neighborhood to get a feel for the area and its overall feel. Does it look clean, and do people seem friendly? Does it seem hospitable for your kids and family? You can also talk to your realtor to get a better feel for a potential area if you’re moving in from a farther area. Create a pros and cons list of different areas if you’re having trouble choosing.
What to Do Once You’ve Found a House
Whether using a real estate agent (which can make looking for a house a lot easier) or looking on your own, doing your research on a home you’ve viewed and really like can go a long way in making sure you make the right decision.
Do a background check on every potential home, including how long the home has been on the market, how many foreclosures there have been in the area lately, the history of home values over the past couple of years (have they grown or depreciated in value?), how much neighboring homes have sold for, and what the property tax rates might be for it before moving forward with any processes.
You should never skip having a home inspection performed on your potential home before closing. This can save you huge amounts of money on potential repairs, or let you avoid a money pit entirely.
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