I’m Buying a Home, What Do I look For?

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By Robin Landsman, Wake County Extension Agent

This is the third installment in three-part series about homeownership and will cover successful strategies for purchasing a home that will meet a family’s needs.

“I’m buying a home; what should I look for?”  This is a question many Agents have probably heard over the years.  Determining housing needs and wants according to affordability before shopping, can help homebuyers avoid the disappointment of looking at houses they can’t afford or don’t need.  The homebuyer’s lifestyle, and any special circumstances, should factor into the selection.  As the homebuyer begins this process, he or she may find the assistance of a realtor to be very valuable.  The help of a good agent will save time, allowing the homebuyer to take notes and ask questions while sorting through the hundreds of homes currently on the market.  Here are some tips to share with potential homebuyers.

First, determine what you can afford.  Lenders determine mortgage qualification by assessing one’s credit report.  If you know that you have had some late payments and a history of high consumer debt, it is best to postpone looking for a mortgage until you have a satisfactory credit record.

A home is more than the bricks and mortar that make up the square footage and rooms.  There are several concerns that must be taken into consideration before you select your future home: price, location, size, and amenities.  Taking time to proactively examine what you want in a home will save you lots of effort when it is time to actually see potential homes.

Your price range depends on the amount of down payment you have saved and mortgage amount that the lender is willing to loan.  Remember, just because the lender approves you for a loan amount, doesn’t mean you can afford the mortgage.  There are lots of considerations, including other financial obligations that could impact your housing budget.

Location is crucial in your decision to purchase a home.  Schools, shopping, services and commuting distance are all fundamental elements that will require your consideration and prioritization.

The size of your family and what home features and benefits you seek are the criteria that you will need to use to determine your wish list for today as well as anticipated changes in the future.  The needs of a married couple with no children will be different from a bachelor looking to enjoy the single life, or the single mom with three teenagers.  A son caring for his disabled father may need to think about spacing for wheelchair access, the ability to add a ramp to the front entrance, or having a bedroom on the first level.  In thinking about your needs, you will need to make allowances for any special circumstances that may exist.

Many experts recommend making a list of what you and your family must have, would like to have, as well as what you don’t want and prefer not to have.  It is important to find a home that fits with your particular lifestyle.  The responsibility of yard maintenance may not work well for the businessman who spends 50 percent of his time traveling.  The convenience of a townhouse or condo with a small patch of green grass at the entrance may work better.  If you are environmentally conscious, finding a home with energy efficient features and appliances is a must.  Or as a parent who enjoys spending time outdoors with your children, a home in a neighborhood with a playground, walking trails or a community pool would be very desirable.

Your list of “wants” in your new home can be endless.  It will help to do a bit of research so you can identify some of the amenities that you prefer.  For example, you may prefer hardwood floors versus carpeting or vinyl siding versus brick.  Note that certain features may be standard in certain price ranges of homes.  Some of your desired amenities can be added, such as new appliances and cosmetic upgrades after you purchase the house; whereas location and lot size are fixed assets.  Thinking about all the dimensions to a home will provide greater understanding of the purchase.  Again, a realtor can be quite valuable in providing you with this information.

As you create the profile of the place you will eventually call home, remember, you are about to make a big investment in your future and that of your family.  Take time to think about those things that are important to you and that add to the quality of your life.  To ensure your overall satisfaction of your home purchase, look for homes that address your needs, accommodate your wants and complement your life style within a comfortable price.

Resources:

http://rebac.net/homebuyer_resources.cfm

www.nchfa.com  North Carolina Housing Finance Agency

National Core Competencies discussed in this post:
Borrowing, spending

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