When you purchase a home you are buying much more than a dwelling. You are also buying into a neighborhood and the lifestyle that comes with that neighborhood. The old adage that the three most important things in real estate are location, location and location could never be more true. You can change things about the physical home you buy, but you can't change its location. If you don't like the neighborhood all you can do is move.
Finding your perfect home and neighborhood are actually pieces of a larger puzzle that make up your smart home buying plan. Searching without a plan is like throwing darts without a target and can waste a lot of time and money... maybe fun in the early stages of just considering buying but more likely frustrating when the time comes that you are really ready to find your new home.
Start your smart home buying plan by defining the following four factors...
1. LIFESTYLE GOALS
- Do you want to be close to work, recreation, shopping, restaurants and coffee shops, schools? Within walking distance? biking distance? near public transportation? or are you comfortable with driving so these things don't matter?
- Do prefer the vibe of an urban lifestyle or a suburban lifestyle with more privacy and wide open spaces?
- Do you want move-in ready or do you like doing renovations/updates to make it your own? What about ongoing maintenance... do you enjoy working on projects around the home or not?
- Don't choose a condo or townhouse instead of a house simply because of snow and lawn care, you can hire that done at a house just as an association does for a condo or townhouse. But do you like the security of having someone else caring for everything outside your living space... giving you freedom from that worry, more freedom to travel, etc? What about the amenities of a condo/townhouse association such as pool, exercise room, party room, etc... is that something you would use and enjoy or would it simply be an ongoing expense, even when you are not there?
2. HOME FEATURES
- Think about what is important to you inside your home... kitchen, flooring, stairs (or no stairs), number of bathrooms, master suite, closets, windows/daylight, room sizes, traffic flow, etc
- Is a spectacular view or a fenced yard important to you... or something else
- Is construction style important to you? If you like older and historic are you prepared to deal with the potential of radiators, lack of central air conditioning, detached smaller garages, etc?
- Decide on your non-negotiable items and don't waste time looking at properties that don't fill those needs
- Need help prioritizing? Check out this handy tool... Prioritizing your Priorities
3. FINANCIAL GOALS AND RESOURCES
- The financial impact of buying a home is more than the cost of the monthly mortgage payment, which usually includes principal, interest, taxes and insurance (PITI)
- Don't forget to factor in other ongoing costs such as utilities, maintenance and repairs... and be prepared for big ticket items such as furnace, roof, siding, flooring, water heater, etc... it's not a question of if they will need replacing, just when
- Ask your Realtor about TrueLifestyleCost... for single-family residential properties, this new tool – exclusively available from real estate agents and brokers – helps show clients the true cost of homeownership with adjustable expenses for many factors, including commuting expenses, average utility bills, daycare cost, the number of people in the household and more
- Factor in the potential for value appreciation... its most important use is as your home, but it is also an investment which rises and falls with the market
- Talk to your financial planner about how buying a home factors into your long-term financial goals... don't think that just because you are a young first-time home buyer you shouldn't have a long-term financial plan
4. BUYING TIMEFRAME
- How soon do you plan to buy? Do you need to sell first? Do you have your financing approval in place? Do you have to improve your credit score before you are approved? Are there other factors that need to be resolved before you even start looking?
- How long do you plan to live in your new home? Think ahead to what you expect your life situation will be like at the end as well as when you buy... will more/fewer people be living in the home? are the living spaces adaptable for different life stages when you plan to live in your home?
- Always buy with resale in mind... life happens, and situations change... even if you plan to stay in your home for a long time always buy with resale in mind to help you make smart choices
Sharlene Hensrud, RE/MAX Results