If you are in the process of buying a home, you probably have given your realtor a list of “must-haves” and “would likes.” If this is your first home, you may have struggled coming up with your list, especially if you always previously lived in a multi-family dwelling.
If you are looking for a first home, talk with others who have already gone through the process. They may be able to give you advice on what to look for in a starter home, how to work with real estate agents, and what to expect at closing. Here is some information you should consider from someone who has been through the home-buying process more than once.
Ask for a home protection plan.
You have hired the best house inspector in the area, and you have gone through every nook and cranny of the house with a fine-toothed comb. But even the best inspector can’t anticipate when a water heater is ready to go out or when a handle will fall off a microwave. You may be a little cash poor right after purchasing a home so that household repairs may be particularly stressful. You will sleep a bit better at night if you know that the house came with a home protection plan.
Sure, you can purchase a protection plan yourself, but again, you may be nervous adding an additional monthly expense as a new homeowner. Instead, ask that a home protection plan be added during the negotiation process.
Pay attention to the neighbors.
Sometimes people get so wrapped up in looking at a house that they pay no attention to the surrounding properties. Having good neighbors is important, so analyze the homes near yours. Look for neglected homes with messy yards. Pay attention to hanging gutters or abandoned vehicles. Listen for loud, unattended dogs (or kids!). It would be odd to knock on doors to interview the people living around the home, but visit the property at varying times throughout the day and night. Bad neighbors can affect your home’s value.
Analyze the neighborhood.
Unless you are a hermit, you may come and go from your home five or six times a day. Pay attention to the streets surrounding the house. Are they easy to exit or always seem to be congested with traffic? Waiting to make a left-hand turn from your neighborhood may add minutes to your commute time. Also, are your kids able to walk to school without crossing busy roads? How close is the nearest grocery store and gas station?
Drive these routes at the times of day that you would typically be starting your commute. It’s the little things like these that can affect your quality of life.
Ignore the sexier features of the house and check the roof.
Some homeowners try to wow home buyers by adding fun, techie features to a house. But when it comes down to it, do you really need remote-controlled shades? Haven’t you always survived without a digital shower control?
Instead of being attracted to a home because the toilet flushers are touchless, ask the real estate agent about the roof’s age and condition. Also determine all costs associated with purchase. I found out you need earnest money to make an offer… that was a big shocker. Find out the age of the heating and cooling system. Look at the quality of the appliances, and make sure the soil around the home is at a gradient that forces water away from the foundation. These are the things that matter in buying a home.
Think about living in the house with kids.
Maybe having children is the farthest thing from your mind, but people change their minds. Would a California split floor plan be the right choice for someone getting ready to have a baby? Lots of stairs are tricky for toddlers and visiting grandparents.
Perhaps you already have children, but you don’t consider what your life will be like living in this property as they age. Does the driveway have room for the four cars that will eventually be parked outside of the house?
Sure, you can only afford a house in a specific price range right now, but if given a choice, maybe you should opt for the more kid-friendly property.
Buying a house is a stressful process. It may be challenging to find a property that checks off every item on your “must have” and “would like” lists. It’s important to stay somewhat open-minded as you look and don’t be swayed by fun gadgets, artful staging, and the scent of fresh-baked cookies magically overpowering you as you walk through the front door.