When it comes to buying your dream home, it's easy to get caught up in all of the pretty little details that lie within the four walls of the structure. But, before you decide to move forward, there are a number of influential factors that contribute to determining if it's a worthwhile investment for you. Don't find yourself caught up in the recessed lighting and freshly stained deck and make a hasty purchase before asking yourself the following questions:
1. Can I really afford it?
There may be additional expenses that can make a big impact on your piggy bank. Avoid becoming "house poor" by investigating:
What type of insurance and taxes you could potentially end up paying
If there are any Home Owners Association (HOA) fees
The average cost of utilities
Typical recurring maintenance expenses
House poor individuals are short of cash for discretionary items and tend to have trouble meeting other financial obligations like vehicle payments. ;I always advise people to buy, not what they've been approved for, but what they can comfortably afford.
2. Do I plan on staying put for a while?
If you have reservations about the security of your job, the length of time you plan on staying employed in your current position, or the chances of you being relocated, you should definitely reconsider purchasing a home. If you or your spouse are in the military, you might not know the answers to these questions, but they should not be taken lightly.
If you do buy a home with the intentions of selling within one to two years, be sure to have an adequate amount of savings. Financial obligations can be daunting if the property does not sell quickly, and you're forced to pay for a second home. If the market is agreeable and it seems as though it's a good time to buy, step back and evaluate if it's wise for you personally to become a homeowner.
3. Is it really move-in ready?
The term move-in ready is subjective; when looking at listings, look for words like “recently refurbished,” “renovated,” or “restored” and stay away from words like “fixer-upper.” Essentially, a move-in ready status means that no major repairs are needed—that all necessary appliances and lighting fixtures are in working condition, the flooring is free from any rips or missing tiles/wood, and the walls are clean.
What one may consider an easy quick fix has the ability to quickly turn into a home improvement nightmare. Ask the owners for repair and maintenance histories and hire a home inspector to review the property to document major and minor repair issues and defects. Knowledge of these issues can expose the history of the home, influence your choice on purchasing, and may assist buyers in negotiating a better sale price.
4. Is the neighborhood safe?
One of the best ways to get a better understanding of neighborhood activity is to meet and talk with surrounding neighbors. Is there a neighborhood watch? Are there annual gatherings that facilitate camaraderie within the community? Trustworthy neighbors can offer peace of mind to look out for each other's properties and the safety of children.
Consider driving by in the evening and check to see how well the neighborhood is lit. Check to see if there any hidden alleys that look dangerous and what the proximity is to the home. You don’t want to be the star of the next Lifetime movie. Things in daylight aren't always as they seem at night, so it’s best to get a preview.
5. What's the surrounding area like?
It's just as important to know what the rest of the city is like before falling in love with the neighborhood where your future house resides. Are there good school districts? What's the proximity to shopping and other attractions? Are you near noisy roads, an airport, neighborhood eyesores, and busy intersections? All of these things can influence your decision as well as the resell value of the home.
If you have children, it’s best to look at the school districts and examine their accreditation. If you plan on staying for the long haul, it’s especially important to visit the schools. And, don't forget about your work commute, including rush hour traffic. A bad work commute can make or break the new homeowner "honeymoon."
When you've found your dream home, there’s nothing you want to do more than make an offer, but I caution everyone to do more than sleep on it. There’s so much more to consider besides amenities and luxuries you love before making an offer on a house. Evaluate the things you love about the home, and ask yourself will you still love it in five years? How about 10? Be sure and take the future into consideration.
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