Step Four: Find Your home!
WANTS vs. NEEDS: The Epic Battle
There’s a sea of real estate listings out there, so let’s start fishing! The question is: “Where, oh where does one begin?”
Word of Advice: Before you begin hunting for and analyzing housing options, prioritize the needs of you and your partner/family. Make a list of the “need-to-haves,” and a separate list of the “nice-to-haves."
Here are a few things to consider when making your lists:
- Location, location, location!
Where do you want to live—a dead-end street or a two-way street? Each of these options present parking and safety concerns, depending on whether or not you have children and/or animals. Do you need a large backyard? Are you okay with having little-to-no foliage on your property, but living walking distance from a small public park? Is the property on a hill? The possibilities are ENDLESS!
TYPES OF LOCATIONS: suburban, city-based, rural, on an elevated/mountainous plane; located on a cul-de-sac, dead-end street, or in a gated community; located in view of a coastline, city, or hills; in view of a waterfront, such as a river, ocean, or lake; proximity to the greenbelt or a golf course
- Consider potential neighborhoods.
What do you want your home to be close to? What do you want your neighborhood to be like?
Some homes are just beautiful, but one must analyze the community in which the property they have their heart set on is located. Consider the proximity of shopping centers; elementary, intermediate, and high schools; supermarkets and restaurants; hospitals; etc. Details such as these can impact traffic conditions, daily noise levels, the need for one or more family cars, parking congestion or lack thereof, etc. You may find a beautiful home, but its potential to be “your home” is damaged by the area it is in. Also, consider the stability of the neighborhoods you are looking in. Neighborhoods change over time—especially traffic, commute times in and out of the area’s barriers, and home resale values. Therefore, consider HOW LONG YOU COULD BE STAYING THERE.
- Visualize your ideal home.
An agent’s goal is to meet your needs and as many of your wants as possible, but in order for he or she to do this, you must go through the features and amenities you would like in your “ideal home.”
Consider: What’s higher on your list of priorities? What does it need to have right now? What does it need to have the potential for?
In addition, what does your lifestyle consist of? Do you work a lot, or are you in school? Would a home office benefit you? Do you have a very large extended family? Do you enjoy entertaining on the holidays and during the summer months? Would a pool and/or one or more guest bedrooms benefit you? You must consider which property is going to be more conducive for the lifestyle you lead.
Features and Amenities: In your opinion, what makes for an attractive home?
- Type of Home: Single family (attached of detached), duplex (two units attached to each other), half-plex (one half of an attached residence/single family residence that shares a common wall), condo, townhome, manufactured/mobile home
Many individuals want to own their own separate homes. However, condos/townhomes are more beneficial for some, depending on their lifestyles and finances. They involve shared ownership and call for less attention to home maintenance from the individuals that reside there. Many include the benefits of community life, such as a pool, playground, daycare center, etc. In addition, they have covenants, codes, and restrictions created by a community board that residents must follow.
- Home Age/Year Built
- Style of Home
A-Frame, Bungalow, Colonial, Contemporary, Cottage, Mediterranean, Ranch, Spanish, Tutor, Victorian
- Number of Bedrooms
- Number of Bathrooms
- Basic Square Footage
“How much space do I need and what do I need it for?” How large is your family? A small home is a good starter home, but if you plan on expanding your family, keep that in mind when viewing homes.
- Ceiling Heights
- Layout of Living/Dining Area
Traditional vs. Modern, Combined vs. Separate
- Number of Stories/Levels
- Home’s Orientation/Direction it is Facing
- Parking Availability
Garage/Number of Allocated Spots
- Size and Accessibility of Kitchen/Date Last Updated
- Storage Space
Closets, shed(s), garage
- Extra Space with Attic/Basement
Finished vs. Unfinished, Partial vs. Full
- Finishes/Materials Used
Exterior, Interior, Roof, Paint, Flooring
Construction materials used can be brick, concrete block, log, metal, stone, straw, wood, etc.The exterior may consist of brick, cement siding, lap siding, metal siding, vinyl siding, shingles, stone, stucco, veneer, wood, etc.
Word of Advice: You would be surprised with how important these particulars can be when determining the value of a home, and to the potential buyer.
Word of Advice: It is always great to see what the house already comes with! These amenities add to the value of the home and save you the money you may have spent adding one or more of them. Many of these are pure luxuries people add on to their home, but if you are lucky enough to purchase a home with at least one or two of these, you will certainly enjoy the benefits.
- Home Office
- Gym/Exercise Room
- Security System
- Work Area
Art, recording, or dance studio/workshop
- Guest Suite
- Wood-burning/Electric Fireplace
- Built-in or Above-Ground Pool
- Tennis Court
- Basketball Hoops
- Movie/Viewing Room
- Hot Tub/Jacuzzi
- Wooded Lot
- Patio, Deck, Porch In Front or Around Back
- Laundry Room
- New Appliances
- Fresh Water Pond/Fountain
- Vegetable and/or Floral Garden
- Built-in Barbeque
- Access to Waterfront
Word of Advice: First-time buyers usually TRADE OFF between size and location. You can’t and won’t always get what you want. The nicer the neighborhood, the higher the price tag for less square footage than in an area that may not be as nice. Appreciation is essential, and many first-time buyers are encouraged to build up equity with a starter home, and then use that to move on up to a nicer home in a nicer area.
Do you want a fixer-upper or a newly-constructed home?
A fixer-upper can be rewarding financially and personally, but you must consider the costs you will be faced with before you begin, because if plans go sour, you could end up in debt.
In addition, if you are looking for a home with specific amenities AND you want new construction, your list of location options may be rather limited.
- Keep an open mind!
Finding a home to meet every single one of your needs and wants is a longshot. When buying a home, it is essential that you consult with your real estate agent to ensure that he or she knows exactly what you are looking for, what features you had in mind for the home, and what amenities you would enjoy the most. From there, he or she can begin his or her search with your best interests in mind. They will do their best to find homes matching the most items on your list, but remember—MIRACLES aren’t a guarantee. Keep an open mind to different options they would like to show you. You never know what you may find that could actually be conducive to the kind of lifestyle you lead.
REMEMBER: CONSULT YOUR AGENT! He or she is there to GUIDE you in your search, notify you of new properties, and tell you the rules of your local real estate market, based on the areas in which you are searching. They can be the biggest help when the market is hot and you need to act fast!
The agent compiles a list; the rest is a TEAM EFFORT.
YOU see if it meets your needs and wants.
YOUR AGENT sees if it holds up against its competition.
A Little Analogy: To have a successful house hunt, you must set aside time to go out in the field. To find the right pair of shoes, you must go out shopping and try on shoe after shoe. This is similar, just on a grander scale. You must get out there and go from house to house. You have to see what’s available before you settle. In both cases, it’s about visual appeal, utility, and comfort!
"You will advance and refine your search as you go, learn your likes and dislikes, and maybe even reshuffle your priorities as you begin to tour properties."
Word of Advice: Listen to your real estate agent’s advice. TAKE NOTES on the back of the MLS information when you tour a home. After you have toured a few properties, this will help you rank the properties according to affordability, size, features, amenities, condition, layout, location, etc. Ranking the properties will help you figure" out which ones you like over others.
STORY TIME: Julie & Jeff
Sometimes You Can’t Always Get Everything You Want
An in-ground pool, a two-car Jacuzzi, a tennis court, a movie viewing room, six bedrooms…the sky’s the limit. However, the problem is that unfortunately, you birthday wish didn’t come true and money still doesn’t grow on trees. It’s nearly impossible to secure each and every item on your wish list when looking at houses. Either a house simply doesn’t have the space to accommodate all of your needs and wants, or the funds in your wallet cannot cover all of your needs and wants that come with purchasing your dream home.
Julie, a mother of a five-year-old boy named Benjamin, is now pregnant with two twin girls, Emma and Abby. The issue is that their three-bedroom, semi-detached home is in no way suitable for a family of five—especially when the mother works from home as a graphic designer, a position that requires intense concentration, as well as traveling all over the city for meetings. The father, Jeff, is a construction worker from around 9 a.m. to a little before dusk. With these details alone, an educated agent can form a list of Julie and Jeff’s highest priorities when it comes to looking for an ideal home. Ideal features would be close proximity to a daycare center, as well as Benjamin’s school; enough bedrooms to make Julie a private office; room for a playroom; a dining room suitable for entertaining for family parties; and a garage for Jeff to organize all of his tools, as well as to work on the wood furnishings he builds for his own home and to sell on the side. Julie also always wanted a family room, an above-ground pool, a stone patio in her backyard, a built-in barbeque area, and a guest bedroom—all perfect for entertaining. One of six brothers and sisters, she will definitely be housing her share of visitors. She needs a laundry room, a dishwasher, and at least two full bathrooms. She wants a pool, a built-in wall shelving unit in the living room, and a two-car garage. Unfortunately, Jeff and Julie’s real estate agent may not be able to find a listing that has each one of these details. However, with some compromise, the agent can find a home suitable to a couple who needs such details and help them evaluate which are more important than others.