Buying a home can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first home. So many houses for sale in a wide variety of prices, sizes, conditions, and places. How do you even begin?? My husband and I definitely encountered some of this same anxiety when we decided to embark on our first home-buying adventure. At first glance, the housing market can look like an intimidating thing, but fear not, Dwell Beautiful is here to help you navigate the real estate waters!
Each of the 10 areas below are very important things to consider before you even start looking at houses. Knowing a good picture of what you are looking for in a home greatly helps you and your real estate agent narrow down the vast list of houses available to something that will cater to your needs, desires and budgets. Let’s get started!
1. Budget and Financing
This is a biggie. Figuring out your budget for what you can realistically spend on a house is the number one thing to nail down before you even start browsing those Pinterest home boards. Take a look at how much you (and your significant other/partner/roommate) are bringing in each month. Then calculate out how much you spend each month for things like gas, groceries, phone, internet and cable bills as well as any other consistent spending. Decide how much you want to save each month. Then figure out what would be left over to spend on a monthly mortgage payment.
Online mortgage calculators can be useful, but more often than not I have just found them to be inaccurate or confusing. To get a more definitive answer and helpful tips, it’s best to go to either a private mortgage company or to your local bank to see how much you can get approved for. Then go through the approval process! Certain real estate agents won’t even take you to look at houses if you aren’t already approved.
And if you haven’t already, start saving for that downpayment! The more money you can put down on a house initially can save you money in the long run. Once you figure out how much house you can afford, be it $150,000 to $750,000+, then you can move on to the next step in figuring out what kind of house will be just right for you!
What they say is true. It really is all about “location, location, location.”
Now this can have many applications. The first being the actual city or town you are looking in. The amount that you are approved for can be a big deciding factor of where you can even realistically look for a house. My husband and I knew that we wanted to be in Washington state and relatively close to Seattle, but the amount of house we were approved for drove us a bit further north to Everett. You can get more house, in better condition, at a better price further north and so that’s how we decided we were going to look there.
Of course there are other location factors to take into account. Where do you work? You will probably want to be close as possible to your job so that you don’t increase commute times and money spent on gas. You may also want to see how close the house is to amenities like grocery stores and shopping. You don’t want to have to drive for a half hour to get a meal!
Take a look at the neighborhoods in the city you are looking in. Some are sketchier than others. We knew we wanted to be somewhere safe where our future children can grow up, so we found a neighborhood that is near an elementary school and a middle school and decided to look around there.
Another big one is where the house is actually located within a neighborhood or area. A house may look perfect and have great style, but if it’s on a busy road or near the freeway, it won’t be safe for kids to play or maybe even to back out of your own driveway. And guaranteed you won’t enjoy the noise and will have a harder time reselling it!
Size is another very important factor. Are you planning on expanding your family in the future? Take into consideration how many rooms you might need for everyone to fit. Same goes for bathrooms. If it’s more than just you, you will probably need at least 2 bathrooms to minimize morning bickering! We know that we want to have kids in the future, so we started looking at houses that had at least 3 bedrooms and at least 2 bathrooms. Knowing how much space you want eliminates everything below that and will make it a bit easier when it comes time to search.
Houses come in alllll sorts of conditions. Trust me. I have seen some gutted out, sketchy shadows from the 60s and some fancy, move-in-ready abodes. Talk over with your significant other if you want a fixer upper or something where you can just bring in your stuff and call it home, or even somewhere in between! All can be great options, depending on how much time, money and effort you have. You can usually get fixer upper type houses for cheaper, which can be a benefit. We decided to go for somewhere in-between. We wanted something that we could move into and live with until we had the funds to update and add more.
Adore the French cottage style or 60s mod? Love hardwood floors or wall-to-wall carpeting? Want a two story home or a rambler? These are all great questions to ask yourself when looking for a home. Nailing down a style or concept for a style can be really helpful when you are out with your real estate agent. We like to entertain, so we knew we wanted an open concept home, with the living room, kitchen, and dining room all flowing together. Think about what kind of style home you want (It’s okay to browse those Pinterest boards now!) and come up with a list of style or design concepts you want your future home to have.
Amenities are the things that make your life just a little bit sweeter. If you are a fashionista, big walk in closets are a must. Maybe you love cooking – then an expansive kitchen would be just the ticket. Have to have a jetted tub? A fireplace? A separate laundry room on the second floor? I wanted to make sure there was space for me to do crafts and enough room to hold my personal library! These things may or may not be deal breakers for any house you look at, but decide ahead of time which features might be nice to have and which ones you can’t live without. Figuring out the things you absolutely need versus the things that would be a perk can be helpful when it comes to deciding between homes.
Ever since I moved away from home to go to college I have missed having a backyard. I’ve bounced from dorm to dorm, apartment to apartment, and one thing that I sorely missed was having a private outdoor space to relax and hang with friends in. I’ve also always wanted a puppy! So when my husband and I set out on our home search, we knew that having some sort of yard was a must. Take into consideration any landscaping and what the time, money, and effort would be to upkeep it. If you hate yard work, don’t get a house on an acre or with copious amounts of finicky trees and bushes. We ended up with a house with a fair amount of nice landscaping (including a fish pond/waterfall combo), but we thought it was a great tradeoff for how big the yard was and how perfect the deck was for entertaining.
If you have kids or are planning to have kids, taking a look at the school districts is a wise choice when looking for a house. All school districts are not equal, and it’s important for your kids to get the best education in the safest district possible! This is also a big factor when it comes to reselling your house. Better schools will help make it an easier sell for you!
10. Windows and Lighting
Do you love lots of natural light or would you prefer a more cozy, dark atmosphere? When you go out looking for houses, take note of what direction most of the house’s windows are facing. Some houses will get lots of natural sunlight, and some will be in almost perpetual shade, just based on which way it’s facing. If catching the sunrise or sunset is important to you, make sure you know which way the sun is going to come in! Look around for any street lamps or lights that could end up shining directly in your bedroom at night.
Also check to make sure the windows are updated and double-paned. A lot of heat is lost through single-paned or outdated windows which could then drive up your heating bill. Take a look and see how many might need to be replaced or fixed.
And there are Dwell Beautiful’s top 10 things to look for when buying a home! My husband and I took each of these things into consideration before and during our home-hunting process and it made deciding a lot easier. Having an idea of what we wanted going in made it a more enjoyable journey for us, and our realtor!
Do you think these tips are helpful? What’s your must have in a house and what is a dream feature? Sound off in the comments below!