If you are looking for a new home, there are a number of considerations in front of you: style, neighborhood, accessibility to work. Then there are the financial ramifications: how much will your mortgage cost? How much will you have to spend for utilities?
There’s so much to think about, in fact, that a checklist is a really good idea. So here is one: a guide to six tips you need to consider.
One. What Does Your Heart Desire?
Our first tip is to, yes, make yourself a checklist! Why? Well, everyone has items that they can’t live without in a new home. Some of us want a spacious country kitchen, for example, and couldn’t live with just a nook. You also likely have a checklist of things you’d love to have, but aren’t deal breakers (a swimming pool, if it happens to be there, would be very nice).
So make one list of items you must have. Cover everything, from a back yard to energy efficient appliances. Then make a list of the “would be nice, but not essential” category.
Go armed with these lists. If you find one house really appealing but it doesn’t have enough of your necessary items, you will be saved from making an imprudent decision.
Two. Calculate Every House-Related Expense
Housing is a major expense in anyone’s budget. Mortgage payments and taxes are items most people factor into their potential payments.
Don’t forget, though, to factor in every household-related item. Are you adding in lighting and heat bills? Don’t forget potential monthly spikes from cold winters or unusually hot summers. Are there homeowner association fees? Water? Insurance?
It all counts. Make sure you count it into the budget before committing.
Three. Take a Look at the Neighborhood
Many homebuyers focus, of course, on the house! It’s the most important thing, and looking can spur your plans for the future.
The entire neighborhood, though, really needs to be factored in as well, for two major reasons.
First, you need to ensure that you will feel at home in your neighborhood. Do you love your dog and run with her every day? Then you need to know that there are good parks — ideally, a dog park. If they aren’t in the neighborhood, could you drive to a convenient one? When you walk around, does everyone look quite elderly and as if they wouldn’t appreciate a friendly dog? If there are no parks and the neighbors don’t look dog-friendly, then it may not be the community for you.
Second, you need to think about resale value. Are homes nice and well-kept in the neighborhood? Or do some of them look run-down and poorly maintained? The upkeep of the homes and yards around you can have a huge effect on resale value. Well-maintained = higher resale prices. Be sure to factor the qualities and amenities of neighborhoods into your future plans.
Four. Consider Any Future Space Needs
Right now, you could be looking for a home with enough space for a single person or a couple. But needs and lifestyles change. Do you plan to have children? How many? Might an elderly parent move in with you at some point?
An addition of people might not be the only reason you’d need space in the future. Might you want to run an at-home business a few years into the future? Then you’d need a second bedroom or enough space in another room to set up your office needs. Like to woodwork or do ceramics? Then you’d need a basement or other space for those activities.
If you fall in love with a house that meets current needs but may not meet future ones, there are options as long as your property has sufficient space. You can build an addition if children or older parents come along five or 10 years (or more) into your home ownership. Modular additions are more cost-effective than hiring a builder and speedier than trying to do it yourself. The options give you flexibility for the future and also are a chance to improve resale value.
Five. Get the Scoop on Your School District
If may seem obvious if you have or plan to have children, but a school district’s reputation and rankings should be on your list of things to get information on.
It’s a good idea to check out the school district’s reputation even if children are not expected to be in your future, though. First, school bonds have the potential to raise property or other taxes. If you live in a community that might be struggling to fund schools, or spends expansively on them, you should factor that into future possibilities.
Second, excellent school districts can add substantially to your home’s desirability. That means if you ever come to sell it, it could command substantial resale value and move more quickly than homes in average or poor school districts.
Conversely, a poor school district can limit your ability to sell a home reasonably quickly and at a good price.
Six. Think About Your Property Line
Many people buy houses because they have a view: a park, lovely buildings, mountains, even the ocean or a river or the neighbor’s trees.
Just make sure to check your property line vis-à-vis what you love to look at. If you have a clear view of a park now, for example, is there space where future homes might be built? If so, know that the view might go away, to be replaced with an all-too-close view of your neighbor’s house. Forewarned is forearmed.
Homeownership is a big step. It’s important to have a checklist of what you want, know total home-related costs, get a handle on neighborhood characteristics, think about future space needs, get acquainted with the reputation of your school district, and find out if future building could spoil your view.