You've been waiting, saving, and searching for a house, and you might finally be ready to buy. You picture yourself lounging on your new front porch or bundling up in front of your fireplace. But buying a house is a huge process. There are so many factors to consider before your dream home can become a reality.
With some careful consideration, you’ll be ready to make the decision with confidence.
Think about your future timeline and how long you want to stay in the house you're buying. It's easier to compromise on appearance, size, and even location when you know you'll only stay in the house for a few years.
If you're searching for your forever home, on the other hand, it's essential to choose a house that you genuinely love and can see yourself living happily—and possibly growing your family—in for years to come.
Whether you're considering a house built in the last five years or decades ago, find out if the owners have updated any significant elements in the past few years. At first, buying a fifteen-year-old house might seem better than purchasing one twice its age. But, if the fifteen-year-old house is still sporting its original roof, there's a good chance it will need replacing soon.
In contrast, an older house whose roof, windows, or furnace have been recently updated might save you money in the long run.
Before buying, consider if the house you are looking at has the right number of bathrooms for your family. Will roommates, partners, or kids be able to share them without a problem, or will there be fights over sinks and showers?
On the other hand, the more bathrooms in the house, the more toilets to scrub. Choosing a home with too many bathrooms can result in a lot of extra work.
Some houses need extra insurance because of their location or other factors. For example, if the house is near a beach, lake, or some other designated flood zone, flood insurance can run you an additional $700 or so each year. Likewise, if you are buying a house in a place prone to earthquakes, you'll need earthquake insurance.
In some cases, these types of insurance are not required, just highly recommended. But if you pass on them, you need to factor repairing after an earthquake or flood into your potential future costs.
A house that’s too small will have the residents tripping over each other and feeling squished. Far too large, and you'll struggle to keep your home from feeling cold and intimidating. Ask yourself if the house is big enough for everyone to have their own space while still being near enough that you won't need walkie-talkies to call everyone to dinner.
If you often host guests, you may want to find a domicile with an extra room—or even an extra bathroom—so visitors can have their own space when they stop in.
Even the most beautiful and spacious home can be frustrating if the layout is impractical. This is really subjective, though, so think about what you've always wanted in a home. Do you want the master bedroom far away from the other bedrooms? Do you want a clear view into the family room as you chop vegetables in the kitchen?
You can always do major renos and add or remove walls, but starting with a good layout will save you time and money.
If you have kids, consider whether the yard is big enough for them to run around and burn off their energy. Even if you live alone or don’t care for most outdoor activities, you might still want an excellent area to enjoy the breeze as you read or work on your laptop, so look for something that gives you the space you need.
If it's perfect except for the yard, hopefully there is at least a good park or walking path nearby.
Even if you have been saving for the down payment for years and can easily pay it without a second thought, things like interest rates and potential future costs can inflate your monthly costs significantly.
Discuss variable and fixed interest rates with your bank, and, as mentioned earlier, consider any potential future expenses, like a new roof. If you don't plan for the possible upcoming costs, you might find yourself on the hunt for a second job or dining on instant noodles for dinner for a year.
Even if it's not your forever home, you want to like the neighborhood you move to. While you're pondering the house, walk the surrounding streets a little. Consider if you'd feel comfortable walking your dog or letting your kids play outside in this area.
Find out if the neighborhood has a homeowners association. These organizations can help hold the residents to high standards, like no overgrown lawns or dilapidated exteriors, but they can also be strict and might veto your plan to paint your front door turquoise or park the boat in your driveway.
Beyond the neighborhood, the part of town or the distance from the city center is important for most people. You want to live in a good, safe area that's not an hour-long commute to your day job. How easy is it to get onto the main road from your street during rush hour? Or, if you take public transit, where's the nearest bus stop or subway station?
Remember, the location of the home can also impact the cost of living. Is the nearest market the high-end organic one, or are there none close by and you have to factor in regularly driving for groceries? Consider chatting with your potential neighbors to find out what it's like to live and work in this area.