Purchasing your first home can be a daunting experience, especially if you need to move from a rental property in a short period of time or are relocating soon. Just thinking about all the paperwork and financial investment can be pretty overwhelming and lead to some sleepless nights. In fact, you may even be tempted to make an offer on the first home that fits within your budget, so you can just get on with moving in and settling down, but that could lead to even more problems. If you are a first-time home buyer, there are five (5) things you should seriously consider before making one of the biggest decisions of your life.
1. Think Long-Term
Before you even start looking at homes, consider your long-term goals. Will you be having children or adding to your current family? Do you plan to entertain guests and relatives frequently? Could your parents or other elderly relatives possibly move in with you at some point? In addition, you’ll want to think about the potential resale of your home. Is it in a good neighborhood for your target buyer and what has been the average appreciation of similar homes in the area? These are all important questions to consider when determining the size of the home you need and its location.
2. Stay Focused
It’s very easy to lose your focus during the home buying process. That’s why it’s important to create a checklist that includes all your must-have features, such as large walk-in closets, ample kitchen storage space, a large yard, or other things you know you will need to be happy in your new home. The checklist should also include some of your ‘wish list’ items. These are things that would be nice to have, but aren’t essential; for example, a tray ceiling, built-in bookcases, or other cosmetic treatments to the home. Once you have completed your list, make copies to take with you to every home you visit so you can easily reference them later to see which ones actually have what you are looking for in a dream home. Don’t forget to take plenty of photos, as well, as these can help you compare homes that place high on your list.
3. Do Your Research
Although your checklist is a great way to weed out some of the homes you are considering, it should not be the only thing you use to determine if a property is right for you. You’ll need to do a little research to ensure there aren’t any hidden flaws or problems that could turn your dream home into a nightmare. If you have children or expect to have them soon, take a look at the schools offered in the area, as well as available daycare centers, playgrounds and medical facilities, as these will be important to you and your family. You should also consider the demographics of the communities you are considering. Are there more renters than owners? This could mean dealing with loud parties, overgrown lawns and other issues. If the area has a larger portion of singles or elderly homeowners, they may not be as tolerant of your children running around the neighborhood or playing loudly in the backyard. Is there a homeowner’s association? If so, be sure you understand the rules governing what you can and cannot do with your own home, such as limits on holiday decorations or even landscaping choices. And most importantly, be sure to get a thorough inspection before making any offer. You may not be able to see some of the hidden damages lurking above or below the property that could cost you a fortune in repairs down the line.
4. Be Realistic
It is far too easy to get caught up in the home buying process and forget about one very important thing – the financial investment. This not only includes the purchase price of the home, but also several other things you may have forgotten to factor into your budget. Before deciding if a home is right for you, look at the immediate and long-term cost associated with owning the home. This will include, but are not limited to: utilities, property taxes, home maintenance (including spas and pools, if any), additional fuel costs (if your commute has changed significantly), upgrades or additions that are needed, and closing costs. Sit down and create a monthly budget to determine if you can actually afford to purchase and maintain the homes on your short list before making any final decision.
5. Use an Experience Real Estate Agent
Unlike purchasing a vehicle, there’s a lot more involved with buying a home. This is where the expertise of a knowledgeable real estate agent is beneficial to you. He or she can help locate homes that meet the items on your checklist, assist with scheduling home inspections and appraisals, put in offers on your behalf, negotiate selling price, assist with completing all that paperwork and explaining exactly what it all means. If your real estate agent is unwilling to be transparent about the process or won’t fully explain details of your contract – walk away and find a new one. A good real estate agent is more than willing to hold your hand through the process and make sure you understand your financial responsibilities.
Buying your first home is exciting and terrifying at the same time. It’s also one of the biggest financial investments you will ever make. Don’t jump into the process without taking the time to really consider what you want and what you can afford. Just remember, there’s a house out there for everyone; it just may take some time to find yours, but when you do, you’ll be happy that you followed these tips and can sleep comfortably at night knowing you found your dream home.