Finding Your Ideal Home
Whether your new home will be permanent or temporary, the potential long-term resale value must be considered before buying. The truth is, none of us knows what the future holds. You might think you’ll be somewhere for a long time, but things can change quickly.
In the event that you decide to sell at some point in the future, you would like to have a house that is attractive to others. If it is, then you’ll likely get excellent value for it, possibly more than what you originally paid, and be able to sell it quickly.
Is the layout suitable for you and your family?
Is the house located in a good school district? Even if you don’t have children, the resale value of your home will be higher if it’s located near some great schools.
If you’re interested in a housing subdivision, know what you’re getting into, especially if a lot of work to the area needs to be done. Developers unfortunately don’t always follow through on their promises.
If a vacant property exists nearby, who owns it and what do they plan on doing with it? You can contact the department of building and zoning in that county to find out who owns it and how to get in touch with them.
Living in a good subdivision does have its benefits. It could provide a variety of attractive services and an opportunity to build new relationships.
Does the community have a homeowner’s association? What fees will be charged annually? Know what rules you’ll have to live with before making an offer on a home.
Is crime a big problem? Which crimes are most prevalent? The internet posts statistics for most cities. You can also contact the local police for additional information.
Houses in certain parts of the country have characteristics that would be considered unusual to others. For example, most houses in Florida don’t have a basement. As someone who resides in the Midwest, that’s certainly an oddity. Whatever quirks the area has, can you live with them?
Observe the houses in the neighborhood. Are they well kept, or do they need a lot of work? Obviously, most people don’t want to live next to neighbors who don’t take care of their properties. Neighboring houses will impact the value of your property, no matter how pristine it might be. It’s better to have the worst house in a great neighborhood than the best house in a bad one.
Most people want a home with at least three bedrooms. Walk-in closets and master bedrooms are coveted nowadays. Also, all bedrooms should have a closet, otherwise they can’t really be viewed as bedrooms. Ideally, you would like to have a bathroom on every level of the house.
In most places, houses with in-ground swimming pools are more difficult to sell.
When viewing a house, look past the carpet, the color of the walls, and anything else that can be easily modified. Instead, pay close attention to the things that can’t be changed or would require a significant investment to change.
A damp or musty odor in a house could indicate water damage. Have an inspector identify the source to see how big of a problem it is.
Observe the outside of the home, including the roof, siding, and landscape. Also make sure that the water drains away from the house. I have seen one property where the water actually flowed back to the house because the yard was slightly inclined going toward the street. Determine how much money you may need to fix the outside. The inspection should help you figure this out.
Ask the neighbors how they like living in the area. A good time to do this is when you’ve finished house hunting with a real estate agent.
Wants and Needs
Needs are the features or elements that your home must have. This list should be rather short. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you consider to be essential? If you have more than four children, then you might need at least two bathrooms.
Wants are the things that you would like to have, but aren’t deal breakers. For example, you might need three bedrooms, but would like to have four. A want list is essentially your dream home. Perhaps you want a luxury kitchen, modern decor, a master bedroom, a finished basement, a scenic view, large walk-in closets, and so on.
What does your current home lack that you would like to see in your new home? What about location? What do you want to live close to? Maybe you want a short commute to work, or live near a church, park, fitness center, restaurants, or the ocean.
If you have a family, ask them for their input. What do they value? Try to full-fill at least one of their wishes. Each person will then have something to be excited about. Always have a blank check on hand for putting down a deposit should you decide to make an offer.
Unless you deep pockets, you won’t likely find a house with all your wants. Nonetheless, going through this process gives you a much better idea of what you’re looking for in a home. Communicating this clearly to your real estate agent is very important so he or she can find the right home.
The housing market could be much different in the new area. If you’re moving to the east coast or west coast in the United States, then cost of living will likely be higher. You may not be able to afford as much house as you currently own, so you might have to make a few compromises.
What To Avoid
Living near high tension power lines are said to pose health dangers, such as an increased likelihood of cancer. While some doubt still exists as to how harmful they are, enough evidence suggests that it’s probably best to stay away from them. Hence, you would be best served avoiding such properties not only for your own health, but because it negatively affects the resale value. Most people are leery of purchasing these properties.
If the house sits in a low spot relative to its neighbors, it will likely have problems with groundwater seepage. If the seller did not get a permit for any renovations done to their home, be leery of buying that property. If an inspector concludes that the renovation isn’t up to code, then it may have to be torn down and be re-built. This could cost you some serious money.
I know a guy who re-built his deck not too long ago. He didn’t get a permit, and I’m certain that it’s not up to code. If an inspector ever sees his deck, I have a feeling that it will have to be torn down. Any contractor or homeowner that doesn’t get a permit is likely not doing things the right way.
As a potential buyer, you would then have to question how well that renovation or addition was done. If a new deck was built, then how safe is it? Is it built to last? Sure, the city may never find out about the addition. But is that a chance you want to take?
As a general rule of thumb, if a house appears to be well-maintained, then it’s a sign that repairs and additions have been done the right way. Of course, looks can be deceiving.
Which places do you visit most often (i.e. the grocery store, gas station, fitness club), and how close are they? How long is the commute to work? Where are the freeways located? How far away is the airport? Are there any high traffic areas? Google Maps is an excellent resource if you’re unfamiliar with the area.
Think about how the area accommodates your current lifestyle. If you enjoy outdoor recreation, does the area have bike paths? Is it suitable for walking or jogging? Are there any parks nearby? Take note of what the area has to offer. For me, having a fitness club close-by is a priority.
If you have children, is it safe for them to play outdoors? Do you get a good or bad feeling when driving around? A lot of rental houses in an area might be a cause for concern. Usually, these aren’t the best neighbors to have.
Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is not a requirement, but there’s really no reason not do it. Sellers will have a lot more confidence in your offer if you have been pre-approved for a certain amount.
The days of having job security are all but over. Very few of us are guaranteed anything going forward. Being able to save money while making mortgage payments is very important so you have some funds to fall back on in case of emergency. A good rule of thumb is to have 6-8 months worth of expenses saved up.
What are your future plans? Buying a house is a significant financial investment that will have long-term implications. Is having your dream home worth putting off retirement for a few more years? What matters most to you?
Look at houses that are just above and below your price range. You may be able to find a house that has a lot of what you want for less. The money you save can be used for upgrades. You may be able to talk down the price of a home that is a little outside your range.
Most sellers are willing to lower their price at least a little bit. You never know when you’ll encounter someone who is desperately trying to sell and is willing to give a great deal.
Searching For Houses On Your Own
You may decide to search for properties on your own. If so, you have plenty of resources at your disposal. You can search maps on the internet and websites such as city-data.com to learn more about a particular area. If you can zero in on a couple of neighborhoods, house hunting will be much easier.
Classified ads in the newspaper and online allow you to see what’s for sale. The internet is a better resource because often times you can search according to price, county, layout, number of bedrooms, and so on. Check out all the major newspapers in a particular city.
Measuring tape. Use it to measure your furniture to see how it will fit into the houses under consideration. Bring these measurements and the tape measure to each house you look at.
Digital camera. Take pictures of anything that stands out. Write down on a sheet of paper a description of each one. Pictures of the interior will help you figure out how to arrange the furniture and remind you of what the house looked like. They can also be shown to family to get their opinions.
Bring the photos to the walk-through so you can double check to make sure the owner didn’t make unauthorized changes to the house, such as swapping out the chandelier for a cheaper one.
Checkbook. If you make an offer, you’ll have to leave an earnest money deposit. The amount is usually no more than 2% of the purchase price, but could be higher if the housing market is hot.
If you plan on house hunting all day, then you may want to consider bring snacks and beverages. You can also create forms for evaluating each house. Here are a few sample ones: 1
- houses in good school districts will always have good value
- a strong economy will steadily increase the value of a home over time.
- view houses in several different neighborhoods to get a better feel for the market
- inform your real estate agent of anything you want removed from the house before buying; this will be relayed to the owner(s).
- houses with great amenities (views, privacy, lake, safe neighborhood) usually don’t stay on the market long
- have some money left over to make home improvements, such as new carpet, appliances, landscaping, etc.
- reasonably priced homes will sell faster
- houses near high traffic intersections usually aren’t as attractive due to bright lights and noise
- hire a lawn service if you aren’t moving in for a few weeks
- houses near large parks, schools, and community swimming pools experience higher levels of traffic, vandalism, and noise.
- do your own homework; real estate agents do sometimes make mistakes.
- have a clear understanding of which school district a particular house is in.
- unpack everything and make it your home, even if you’re going to move again sooner rather than later.