How to Choose a Home You’ll Love, Part 2

1. Forget Finding the“Perfect” Home

Yesterday, we started talking about how to sort out all the different options when looking for a new home to buy, especially regarding the surrounding neighborhood. Making a list to figure out what you really need versus what you’d really like is essential not only for the location of your new home, but the house itself.

Personally, I’d love a gorgeous old Victorian that is in no need of major repairs, comes with fully upgraded appliances, a fireplace, a sunroom, and is an amazing low price!

That house – the one with the perfect location, the perfect price, in the perfect shape – doesn’t exist. And it’s not going to. Home buyers all have to make sacrifices and compromises. The key is identifying where you can afford to be flexible and where you can’t.

Diagram from Get Rich Slowly

2. Nail Down What You Need Most in a Home

You’ve figured out how much you can really afford (taking overlooked costs into account) and thought about the neighborhoods you’d love to call home. Now it’s time to consider the house itself.

Everyone’s “wishlist” is going to look a little different, depending on what your current and future needs are. A young professional with a demanding job in the city won’t likely care as much about yard space or whether there are stairs in the home. Assess your objectives in buying a home. This includes thinking about who will be sharing the space (an ailing parent? a pet? children?) as well as what features will be most conducive to your daily life (an open layout for entertaining? a “turn-key” home for a couple that is short on time for major house projects?).

You can fill out a questionnaire online to help you get started, and then rank which features are most important to you. As much as I love the aesthetic of a historic home, the condition of the foundation is probably going to be more important to me since it has a greater financial impact on my home purchase.

In general, there are things that are harder to change about a home and easier to change.

Harder (or Impossible) to Change:

· Type (single-family, condo, townhouse, etc.)

· Architectural style (Victorian, Ranch, Tudor, etc.)

· Year built

· Levels/stories

· Square footage of lot and home

· Condition of foundation, roof, etc.

· Upgrading electrical, plumbing, etc.

· Layout of rooms

· Number of beds and baths

Easier to Change (with a little or a lot of elbow grease):

· Adding or converting a bedroom

· Adding onto the home (with a permits and a fair bit of work/cost)

· Landscaping, pool in backyard (if space and your budget allow it)

· Upgrading appliances, windows, flooring, etc.

· Privacy of the home (fences, hedges)

· Interior appearance (painting, decoration)

· Curb appeal (landscaping, exterior paint)

Does this seem overwhelming? If so, suggests beginning with the basic criteria: how many bedrooms and bathrooms. Most first-time buyers filter their search with the rooms in mind, but just remember: even if you are searching for a three-bedroom, consider that a two-bedroom with more of your top home priorities might be a great fit if the location and price line up.

Try searching for homes for sale with different criteria and keep notes (see our awesome mobile apps for a great way to do this when you’re out visiting homes) to help you compare different homes and decide which one is the best for you.

3. Think About Your Purchase as a Long-Term Investment

While you don’t need to imagine living in the home forever, it should suit your needs and finances for at least a few years. Some questions to ask yourself:

· Am I/are we planning to have… children/a live-in parent/a new pet in the next few years?

· How much money are we planning to invest in this home’s upkeep over the next few years? How much work does it need, and can we really afford it?

· Will this home have a high appreciation value if we plan to resell?

You can’t predict the future, the economy, or your own financial health, but you can probably make a good guess. And when you’ve narrowed down your search, talked to a Realtor®, and done your homework regarding the neighborhood, at some point you take a risk and make an offer.

Check back here for more in our buyer series as we discuss dealing with the stress of looking (and making an offer), working with a Realtor®, and more!