Things to consider before you buy a home
Buying a home, outside of perhaps your retirement account, is the largest investment you will make. And outside of getting married and having kids, it’s the longest commitment you’ll make. Thirty YEARS? That’s a long time. It’s intimidating. If you’re able to pick away at a few of the top considerations before you purchase a home, it’s a bit less scary. So here we go:
Can you afford it? This is an obvious one, but so many folks get hung up here and don’t proceed. The thing with purchasing a home is there are costs that come with it, outside of a mortgage. There are taxes and insurance to consider. If you are renting and utilities are paid, this is another thing to estimate. Garbage and recycling might set you back another $30/month.
Let’s take these one at a time. Visit with Realtors, builders and friends to gather up the names of three lenders. Set an appointment, discuss your financial situation and a good lender may be able to make recommendations about various lending programs you didn’t even know you qualified for! Borrowing money for a home is more difficult after the foreclosure crisis, so have your finances in order. Take time to clear up your credit the best you can and save money for a down payment.
Realtors can typically offer tax and insurance information for a specific home or area. Again, get a recommendation for a Realtor from someone you know and trust.
When it comes to utilities, consider when the home was built, what type of building practices were used, what the R factor of the insulation is, and how old are things like the hot water heater and the windows? More and more builders and remodelers are incorporating innovative building techniques and Energy Star standards to bring down the cost of your monthly utilities. This can add up! Would you rather spend an extra $100 in utilities or on your mortgage? Or on neither?
Nearby schools, walk-ability, parks, neighborhoods: Again, this may seem obvious, but some buyers become so seduced by the home of their dreams, they forget to ask these questions and then regret the area they bought in. Just because a home is on a golf course or in a desired part of town does not mean the schools are good or even that the neighborhood is any safer than anywhere else. You’d be surprised! When considering a neighborhood, look for things like area parks and sidewalks. Visit the school district that the neighborhood is a part of. Get out on a nice weekend, walk around and visit with the folks who already live there. People love to talk about where they live, and they can give you valuable insider feedback on the pros and cons of living in the community of your choice.
Floor plan: Where are you right now in life and where do you think you’ll be 10 years from now? Are you newlyweds looking to grow your family in the next few years? Have you relocated to a new area where Mom will be a house-guest several times a year? Do you have big holiday get-togethers? Are you baby-boomers looking to downsize? Do you work from home? The only certainty in life is that life is uncertain, so you’ll have to ballpark these answers the best you can. But taking a few minutes to forecast your future the best you can will help you choose a floor plan that meets your needs today and in the years to come.
Lifestyle: When people are considering buying a new home, you’ll often hear, “Well, it’s close to work.” A short commute is great, and very important to those who have spent a lot of time in the car getting back and forth to work. BUT, when thinking about a major purchase like a home, try to put at least as much emphasis on lifestyle as time in the car. Remember the saying, “Work to live, not the other way around?” So, what are your hobbies? Do you like to golf on the weekends? Take the dog for walks? Go hiking? Play outside with the kids? Have friends over? How does the home you’re considering fit into the things you like to do when you’re not driving to and from work?
Lastly, spend some time thinking about what you are willing to compromise on. Make a list of what you want in a dream home, and number them according to importance. This will help when you find something that is very close to what you want, but you are having a hard time making a final decision.
By Kat Hobza