When you’re buying your first home, there’s so many things to consider: you need to secure a home loan, find a realtor, decide on an area… the process can be a bit overwhelming.
And as someone new to the home purchasing process, it can be challenging to know exactly what to look for in a home. What kind of criteria should you be judging potential homes against?
Here are 4 things you should look for when you’re buying your first home:
1. A House You Can Grow Into
Purchasing is not like renting. When you rent, if your home no longer meets your needs, when your lease is up you can just pick up and move. But with homeownership, ideally you want to stay in your home long enough for the property to appreciate in value, which is at least 3 to 5 years. So it’s important that you not only consider how well a home fits your current needs, but also how well it will fit your future needs. You want a house you can grow into.
Think about where you plan to be a year from now, two years from now, five years from now. Are you planning on expanding your family? If so, you’ll want to look for a house with enough space to accommodate your growing brood. Thinking about getting a big dog that needs lots of exercise? You’ll want to have a backyard so they have plenty of room to run and play. Are your parents close to retirement, and would you like to have them come and live with you? Then a home with an in-law suite would be a great fit.
When purchasing a home, don’t just look at how well it might work today. Think of how well it will work for all your tomorrows.
2. A Solid School System
When you’re buying a home, one of the first things you should look at is the school system. Is it highly rated? Is it a place that people want to send their kids? Is your new neighborhood invested in education?
Even if you’re not a parent yourself, the school system in your neighborhood should play a huge role in deciding whether a property is right for you. A good school system can increase the value of your home and will appeal to a wider audience (i.e. – parents with children) if and when you decide to sell. On the other hand, a poor school system can slow the appreciation or even devalue your home.
Bottom line: whether you have children or not, investigate your new neighborhood’s school system before you make a purchase.
3. The Right Neighborhood Fit
Buying a home is a commitment, and when you buy, you’re not only committing to your home. You’re also committing to your neighborhood. And as such, you want to make sure that the neighborhood you buy in is the right match for you and your lifestyle.
For example, if you don’t own a car (and have no desire to own a car), you’re going to want to purchase a home in a neighborhood where you can easily access restaurants, shops, and other needs on foot or bike. If you’re obsessed with the outdoors, you probably want to look in a more nature-centric neighborhood instead of the city center. If you have a family, you’ll want to look for a neighborhood with other families so your children have ample opportunities for recreation and to make new friends.
4. The Right Price
When you’re buying your first home, the last thing you want to do is saddle yourself with a mortgage payment you can’t afford. That’s why it’s important to be realistic about your budget and then find a home that has a price tag you can comfortably afford.
Many first time homeowners get so excited about a property that they’ll stretch their budget in order to get into their “dream home.” But when you buy a house that’s outside of your budget (and outside of the price range you can afford), you’re setting yourself up for major financial stress, which isn’t a great way to start off your new life as a homeowner.
Before you start looking at homes, sit down and create a budget and be realistic about what you can afford to pay every month. Then, even if you get approved for a higher amount, stick to that budget. There’s all sorts of unexpected expenses that come along with homeownership, like broken appliances and surprise repairs, and if you’re funneling all your extra cash into a too-high mortgage payment, you won’t have the resources to deal with those situations as they arise.
Buying your first home is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life. Enjoy the process, take these 4 areas into consideration, and you’ll find the house that’s right for you – and your life – in no time.