Owning and living in the home of your dreams appears to be an achievement like no other. But the process towards it is not easy, I know.
What do you actually look for in a house? How could you tell if it suits you? What questions do you need to ask the seller? What if that beautiful house has a lot of flaws to fix inside? What might break the tie between two gorgeous homes?
Read on as we try to answer these questions and more. At the end of the day, you’ll know how to choose a house that perfectly matches your way of life.
Let’s begin the hunt.
Determine Your Search Criteria
Before you start off with your search, you need to establish what you’re actually looking for. That is, you have to identify the main factors to consider having in your home.
Your list should include your budget, lot size, home style, location, and safety.
In short, know your non-negotiables.
Budget And Price Range
It might be tempting to buy a house outside of your budget, but you have to consider other new potential expenses. Think about commutes to and from work or school.
So think long-term when assigning a price range for the new house you’re getting. Then allocate an initial budget for yourself.
If you have little to no idea how much your dream house could cost, then ask your local real estate agent. Inquire about the price range for the homes in each potential location. These agents should be able to give you realistic estimates.
Once you have an idea of how much a type of house can cost, adjust your initial budget — expand it or narrow the price range down. As much as possible, stick to that budget, so you’ll find the purchase rewarding for your pocket.
The lot size is often overlooked when purchasing a property. But come to think about it — it’s the one thing that can’t be altered after the purchase. You may overhaul the design and structure of the whole house, but the lot size stays the same.
If you’re planning to expand the size of your family, you might as well want to get ready for that. Will your future kids have plenty of yard space to run around? Would you like to maintain an excellent lawn and grow some plants in the yard?
If you’re an outdoor person who likes to catch some air just outside your house, then the lot size could really matter a lot.
Home Style And Amenities
Make a list of the features you (and your partner or family members) want in a home.
This list would include the number of bedrooms and baths and the kitchen style (such as having granite countertops). It might also include a balcony (if you want any) and a particular yard style (such as having a fence). You might even want to consider it a bonus if the house has an indoor pool.
As much as possible, have a copy of the floor plan so you can easily compare each house. See if the flow from one room to another goes naturally along with your lifestyle.
A house may look so perfect. But, if it’s located somewhere too inaccessible from your usual go-to’s, or if it’s in a disaster-prone area, you might want to think twice. In many cases, the location factor can limit your options.
Still, seek to strike a balance between the building itself and where it’s situated. After all, a home will always be part of a particular community — no matter how isolated or immersed you want to get.
Access To Public Transportation
If you find a cheaper deal somewhere far from the downtown area, the costs can still dial back up in the long run. That’s especially true if you’d have to fuel up your way to the subway or bus station.
If you’re not staying in a house all day (you’re not working from home), then your house should at least be reasonably accessible to public transportation.
Proximity To Family And Friends
If you value social bonds and regular meet-ups simply keep you alive, consider moving to a place where you’re near your friends and family.
If you’re checking up on your aged parents from time to time, living near them should also help. Especially in emergency situations.
Proximity To Fun And Leisure Activities
Aren’t you fun-loving? If you find yourself going out nightly to enjoy a life outside of your home, then see if your potential new location warrants the lifestyle.
Check for nearby restaurants, parks, gym, shopping areas and more.
Distance From Office
You have a regular 9-5 job, and you had to drive or ride on some public transport daily. How far will your new home be from your office? How long will the commute be?
Nearest School District
If you’re planning to have kids soon, it’s always best to check the quality of the school district nearest you. You would want to save money from the commutes and at the same time make sure that the school would be of the highest quality possible.
Do your research on flood-prone areas. As much as you can, avoid getting a home where there’s a high risk of flooding. You may have to purchase unnecessarily hefty insurance premiums.
Also, in case you’re reselling the house in the future, be mindful of how a flood-zone home can significantly decrease in value.
Overall, it just adds inconvenience if you had to deal with water damage later.
Security And Safety
Check the security and safety of the area. Research about the crime rates in that potential location. Look around to see if there are sufficient street lights at night. Ask around if the locals are relatively safe from burglary.
Also, see if the house has built-in security features, or if you can easily add some. The construction must also be of the highest quality. You don’t want to get blown away in case a disaster strikes.
Begin Searching In Property Finder Sites
We used to rely only on real estate agents for updates on specific properties on sale. But these days, home sellers can quickly post their listings online.
Go ahead and browse through social sharing sites and marketplaces. Or, search for properties from property finder sites. Then, take note of attractive deals and make a call to confirm the house’s availability.
When you do it this way, you’ll have an initial idea of how much the properties you like cost. Then you can begin shortlisting those homes which have met your budget and other non-negotiables.
Of course, you’ll have to go and visit each shortlisted house in person. See if the house really provides what it claims.
Questions To Ask
When viewing a house, take every opportunity to ask the following questions from the seller. Make an effort to be meticulous now so you won’t have any regrets later.
Also, take note of the answers so you can review and compare info later more easily.
- Are there a lot of viewings in this property? How many?
In other words, you have to know your competition. If a property is attracting so much interest, it’s most likely because it’s a rare find — a jewel, if you may.
If there isn’t much viewing, it will help for you to start wondering why. If apparently, it’s not the house’s problem, it might be because of the location.
- How long has the owner lived here?
If the property has been used for some time, it might have been well-maintained all along. If it’s been empty for quite a while, you might need to check further on the status of the plumbing, heating, and security systems.
If the original owner has lived there for a while but has decided to sell out the property too soon, you might want to be a little nosy about it. If you can, ask the reason for sale. It’s not always because the owner sees it to be the most profitable move. Sometimes, it’s because the owner has found an undesirable development or problem that has only been overlooked before.
- Can I see electrical and gas service reports?
It always pays to be vigilant about gas and electrical service details. Slacking on this part can raise the risk of fires.
- How old is the boiler and when was it last replaced?
If the house is located in a notably colder region, you’ll need to make sure the boiler is working. If possible, arrange to have it replaced by the sellers themselves.
- How many parking slots are allocated?
It’s crucial to secure a spot for each of your vehicles. After all, they’re going to move in with you. You wouldn’t want the extra work of slicing off from your garden space or yard just to make space for one more car.
- Did anyone die here?
You may not believe in horror stories, but if somebody has indeed died in the house, you’d want to know why. You’d want to secure your own safety if you move into the house. You’d also want to make sure if the house has been thoroughly cleaned up after the incident (or if the case was some contagious disease).
And it’s not just the house. Check the address, too, for any cases of death around the area.
- Was there any crime reported that happened here?
This question is related to the previous one. You’d want to know exactly if a crime has been committed within the house. Again, for safety purposes.
If you get vague to no answers for these kinds of questions, see what your instinct says. If the owners or sellers become uneasy, they’re probably hiding something undesirable so that buyers won’t back off.
- What is the council tax band?
A council tax band sets how much council tax you’re going to pay. Its calculation is based on your property’s value at a certain point in time. It also depends heavily on the area, as well as the type and size of your property.
See if you can afford the additional tax payments in addition to the mortgage.
Check Out The Neighborhood
Your house will always be part of some neighbourhood. If you want to feel at home, you might want to feel safe, secure, and welcomed somehow. Know what it’s like to live in the community around by doing the following.
Visit and have a feel of the neighbourhood. Check if the area is over a train line or under a flight path. If so, it might be noisy at certain times.
Walk around in broad daylight or even at night. See if the cars and walls around are clean. This practice will help you gauge if the area is free of vandals.
Also, check out the local restaurants and shops. Does the general vibe resonate with yours? When visiting at night, do you see suspicious stuff going on around street corners? Worse, there might be notorious drug dealerships or prostitution around. And you might not feel very comfortable about that.
Google any statistics or crime rate in the neighbourhood. Your local government and police department may have provided maps of crime hotspots online. You may also see reviews about the homes around the area. See if you can find any negative reports so you can brace yourself before making an offer.
Talk To The Neighbours
Introduce yourself and ask questions about the neighbourhood. You’ll see if they’re welcoming towards you, and you will be able to get an idea on who your potential neighbours are.
Observe how noisy the area could get in the evening when you’re at home from work. If you can, inquire from the local police officer or guard about the general behaviour of your potential neighbours.
Know The Development Plan In The Next Three Years
Know what the local government plans in the area for the coming years. For instance, there might be a new construction near your site or right in front of that supposed sea view.
What if you were buying that house for the lovely location and naturistic views, only to be replaced by high-rise buildings in the years to come? Check your local government’s urban plan online to be sure.
Hire A Professional Home Inspector
When you’ve found the perfect house, do a final check before making an offer. There could be signs of moulds, water leakage, and other problems you don’t even want to deal with. Some minor issues can be repaired and resolved, but it’s better if you are aware of the flaws beforehand.
Warning Signs and Deal Breaker
Check out for the following warning signs.
- Leak Marks in Ceiling
Leak marks in the ceiling can be an indicator of bad plumbing. These usually come as brown spots or patches, which are actually water stains caused by a leak above. The leak might be coming from a defect in the roofing system, pipes, or even some HVAC systems.
- Damp Walls
Damp walls are a sign of rain penetration. Such can be visually unappealing, but more importantly, they can cause mould.
There can also be other reasons behind the dampness. For instance, there could be cracks on the wall, which in turn allows airflow or draughts into the property.
- Broken Doors and Rusted Windows
Broken doors and windows may not be deal-breakers in and of themselves, but the reason might tell you to back off. Investigate if the damage has been caused by normal wear and tear, or if there’s something else you might need to worry about.
Think of the home’s security, for instance. If it’s located in an area where there’s plenty of break-ins, then this would be a point for serious reconsideration.
If there’s rust on the metal sides of the windows, it could be a sign of interior condensation. This condensation, on the other hand, could be a sign of poor ventilation in the home. Or, the humidity levels could be above-average. There could also be other undetected sources of moisture within.
- Light Switches that Are Not Working
If the problem is just in the switch, it may not be much of a big deal. If it’s about the electrical wiring system itself, then that would be troublesome. And needlessly costly.
- Plumbing Concerns
You don’t want to handle all the fixes by yourself, especially if the concern is as essential as the plumbing system. Be sure to check for leaks and clogs.
- Lurking Stains
You can remove some stains yourself, but you might incur some high costs when you have to deal with those lurking stains. As much as possible, speak to the dealer about any stains you spot. Investigate the root cause of these stains and avoid committing to the house until it’s fixed.
- Weak Mobile Phone Signal
Be sure to watch out for this, as you’d have the least say over dead zones once you’ve moved in. You simply have no control over your mobile network’s plans to improve the services in your potential new area, although you could wish for it.
- Roof Problems
Leaks in the roof, if not repaired beforehand, may take its toll on your living conveniences later when you’ve moved in. Other top roof problems include lifted shingles, standing water, holes, and tree damage. You may also have issues with the presence of small animals, inadequate ventilation, and bad gutters. Even bad repairs can cause even more problems.
- Small Kitchen Space
If cooking is your hobby, you’d want to have sufficient bench space, not a cramped kitchen. If the house is quite excellent in all points except for this one, see if you could at least extend the kitchen without too much hassle. The floor plan has to warrant the expansion, as well.
Make An Offer
Once you have all the crucial facts about a potential home, you will be able to decide and finally make an offer.
Check Off The Signs You Have Found The Right House
It pays to be logical about house hunting, but sometimes you can also place your bet on your gut feeling. Especially if it’s quite intense. Check out the following factors to understand what I mean.
It Keeps You Up At Night
If you’ve found the right home, it will likely keep you up at night. In other words, you can’t stop thinking about it. The house seems perfect in every way. You feel you’ve totally lost if someone else bought it before you could even make an offer.
Plus, you can’t even wait to brag about the home. Even if it’s not yet yours, you can’t keep yourself from sharing the photos you snapped just hours ago. But you also want to think twice — someone else might take interest and strike a deal before you could.
You just can’t seem to sleep on it.
If you’re already experiencing this, it’s better to speak to your spouse or someone you trust for guidance. Talk to your agent. Check everything that you have to, then be ready to make an offer if the house is within your budget.
You Imagine Where To Place The Furniture
You’ll know if a house has genuinely appealed to you if you could immediately imagine how to arrange your furniture within. You can envision the way you’ll position your bed in the master bedroom. You could even think about decorating the home for Christmas.
Taking a step further, you can see how your child would be playing with your dog outside the house. The friendly neighbours would be passing by, and you would invite them for some barbecue in the yard. In short, you could see yourself actually living in the home and simply enjoying everything about it.
You Stopped Looking At Other Houses
Earlier during your house hunting, you were still pretty eager to move on to the next house. And then to the next. And then, to the next.
This time, though, you’re losing any interest in looking at other houses. All the other houses simply can’t seem to measure up. You rank all your previous considerations and see clearly why they all pale in comparison to this house you’ve been eyeing.
The House Is Perfect For Your Basic Needs
Of course, the house isn’t just fancy or doesn’t just “feel” right. It’s also logically right because it provides for all your basic needs. In other words, it checks off everything in your checklist. The number of bedrooms is just right. The kitchen is well-designed and sufficiently spacious. And the living space feels absolutely welcoming.
Even if you’ve found a few minor flaws or stains, you begin to picture solutions in your mind. You say things like, “I’ll provide an upgrade on this one,” or “I can clean this up.” Still, you should keep your mind alert for red flags that could be a complete turn-off. The point is, if you feel like you’re taking charge, it’s likely because you really want to.
It Feels Like You’re Home
The first time you step into this particular house, you can just feel the welcoming vibe. It’s not eery or cold or strange. It just feels homey. And when you think about it the next day, you just can’t help yourself to want to come back. You immediately discuss with your spouse or mom or sister or best friend and take a second look at it with them.
Furthermore, you would not waste any moment — you’ll be asking your agent to provide you with copies of the seller’s disclosures. You want to make sure the house is actually in top condition. If there’s anything that could disappoint you, this would be the time to confront it. You’d want to make peace with your future home. Finally.
Make The Right Compromise
If yours is such a rare case and you’ve got everything you want in that home, then you’re one lucky dreamer. Realistically speaking, though, not all of your criteria will be met. In that case, you have to prioritise which factors matter most.
First up: know for yourself whether the house itself or the location matters more. If it’s the location, and the houses around seem to be overpriced, then you can settle for a cheaper type. For instance, you can downsize to a single-family home or a townhome. Or, you can get a condominium unit instead.
But if you really want to acquire a bigger house or a house in your desired location, consider increasing your budget. I know I’ve advised you to stick to your initial budget as much as possible. But, there are ways to afford the house of your dreams. Think about financing options. Your financial planner should be able to advise you about 25-year fixed-rate loans. You’ll see how affordable the monthly payments can turn out to be when stretched over a long period.
If it’s just not possible to stretch your budget and you want to stick to a particular home style, then perhaps you can make adjustments on the location. Houses near the city centre could really be pricey. But the neighbouring community could offer a significant price cut. You just have to take longer commutes to and from your workplace. And if you think that’s worth the effort and the long-term costs, then you’ve got yourself a healthy compromise.
No homeowner should thrive without insurance. It means security and peace of mind in case any disaster strikes. When looking to buy a home, you need to consider the following types of insurance.
- Title Insurance. This protects you in case the title to the property turns out to be invalid. It covers the mortgage amount as well as the value of your downpayment. The title insurance is usually purchased at closing with a one-time fee.
- Homeowners Insurance. Lenders require homeowners policies, which include homeowners insurance. This gives you theft, fire, and liability coverage.
- Flood Insurance. If your target house is located in a flood-prone area, purchasing flood insurance would typically be a requirement. You can ask your local real estate agent if the home you’re planning to get is in such a high-risk area.
- Home Warranty. You can get a home warranty for an already existing home. This is typically a one-year service agreement and is purchased by the seller. If you find a covered defect, the warranty company will either make the necessary repair or cover the cost. Again, different insurance programs have various offers on the coverage. Be sure to inquire from your broker about the home warranty you’re getting.
Buy A Lifestyle Property, Not Just A House
Purchasing a home should be about improving your quality of life. You may be buying a house that costs less than the average market offer, but you’d be risking the safety of your family. You may be inclined to purchase a big home, but the next park or shopping centre is just so far away. In any case, finding the right home for yourself can take so much time and effort.
What’s most important is that you’ve taken all the crucial factors into consideration before making the purchase. Most homebuyers would live in their dream homes for the rest of their lives.
If you want to make it right, be sure your dream home accommodates your way of life.
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