Searching for your dream home? The real estate market is red hot in many parts of the country right now, which means buyers are competing against multiple offers and waiving things like inspections and appraisals...it feels like they're breaking all the time-tested rules of buying a home.
The rule that still holds true is to do your homework. It literally pays to be organized, so you can move ahead quickly when you've found the right home. And while you may not get everything you want, with a little homework, you can get close.
Here's how to know when you've found 'the one.'
First step: create your list of needs and wants
Before you start shopping, put together a list of things you want in your new home. You'd be surprised how many people fall in love with a home online, only to discover it's missing an important feature that they just can't live without.
While sales price is certainly important, be sure to also consider these things:
- Location (including neighborhood, school district, commute time, walkability, etc.) and style of home
- Square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms
- Yard and lot size
- Age of home; obvious maintenance, repairs or renovations required
- Age of appliances, furnace, boiler, and/or water heater(s)
- Parking (garage, carport, driveway or off-street)
- Basement and storage
- Floor plan/layout (home office, formal dining room, family room, etc.)
- Kitchen layout and features (gas vs. electric appliances, island or breakfast bar)
- Property taxes, homeowners association (HOA) dues and rules
Once you know your budget and you've developed your 'needs & wants' list, it's time to start shopping.
P.S. As we mentioned, sales price matters! Another important 'first step' is to get pre-approved for a home loan. This way you know what needs and wants you can afford and you can budget accordingly. It's never too early to talk to a home loan expert.
Here are 7 ways to know you’ve found the right home
A new home is a big purchase. While it's fine to trust your instincts, here are a few things to guide you in your decision-making.
1. The right home meets your list of needs (and some wants!)
Home shopping can be overwhelming, so it's helpful to have a checklist of things you need versus want. More than half of all home shoppers are looking for something with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. From there the list becomes more individualized. For example, do you need or just want a garage, a basement, a coat closet near the front door, a dedicated laundry room, or a master suite with private bathroom?
If the home doesn't have everything you need, does it have room to add those features later? For example, if you want an outdoor patio, that's something you may be able to add. But if you want to add a second floor someday to capture a view, have an architect make sure the existing foundation will support the remodel.
2. It feels like home
Curb appeal says a lot about the house. Ask yourself if you'd be happy walking in that front door each day. Once you're inside, does it feel warm and inviting? Some people prefer a home with lots of natural light, while others like shade and privacy.
3. You can picture yourself living there
Take a moment to picture your furnishings in the house you're considering. If you have a lot of antiques, a mid-century modern home may not feel right. If you see yourself curled up by the fire next winter, make sure a fireplace is on the list. If you love to cook, look for a kitchen with room for your passion. If this is a retirement home where you intend to 'age in place,' look for a home without stairs.
4. You love the location
The old adage, 'location, location, location' still rings true in today's real estate market. While you can always remodel, you can't change the neighborhood. Look for a location that fits your future. Drive around and get to know a neighborhood. Is it under a flight path to a busy airport? Near a noisy freeway or a park? Is it quiet and serene or active, with children playing on the sidewalks?
5. The right home will pass the home inspection
Today's crazy real estate market has many homebuyers waiving their right to a home inspection, which is a big risk. You'll want to know what you're walking into. Most common things that come up in a home inspection are poor drainage, wood rot or insect damage, faulty water pressure, cracks in the foundation, windows and doors that don't close properly, and other costly issues. Be sure to also review the seller's disclosures so that you know what to expect 'under the hood.' Some lenders require a home inspection, including Alaska USA Mortgage Company.
6. You won't be disappointed you didn't buy another home you looked at
One way to begin is to start shopping online now, so you can get a feel for homes and their pricing. If you find yourself continuously coming back to the same house, it might be the one for you. If you miss out on a house to another buyer, be sure to note what you loved about 'the one that got away,' so you know what features to look for in the next one.
7. You can afford it
The right home is one you can afford. Talk to a home loan expert to see how much you're approved for. If you're looking in an area with a hot real estate market, you may need to plan to spend more than the home's list price to compete with other buyers, so budget accordingly. And you absolutely need to be ready to move quickly. But avoid the temptation to exceed your budget. You'll be glad you did.
Do your homework, then trust your instinct
Online shopping can help you feel more confident with your initial reaction to a property. If you find a home that looks interesting, take a virtual look around the neighborhood using Google Earth or Google Maps Street View to get a good idea of what to expect before you visit.
Spend time—a lot of time—online to get a good feel for what’s out there. This way, you’ll be more likely to recognize ‘the one’ when you see it.