Finding the perfect house for you and your family can be a great deal of fun when you’re armed with realistic expectations, patience, and plenty of research in hand. With just a little preparation, you’ll be well on your way.
The first few steps include narrowing your choices down to the neighborhoods you like and determining the maximum home price you can afford. You may be pre-approved for a loan, but you still need to consider other possible expenses, including retirement and college savings, vacations, and home maintenance and repairs, when you calculate how much you can afford for a monthly payment. And let’s not forget homeowners insurance and property taxes.
Now that you’ve narrowed down your choices, you have to decide between your needs versus your wants. You need three bedrooms, but a fourth room would be nice for a play room or guest room. You need a two-car garage, but a larger one would be nice for storage. You need a functional kitchen but want hardwood floor. You need two bathrooms but want a luxurious master suite.
Before you get started driving all over looking at potential homes, start a checklist. Make a chart with a column for exterior and a column for interior features. Give each feature a rank between 1 to 10.
Here are some examples:
Make sure you also add any other general features that may be important to your situation such as traffic, schools, distance for your commute, etc.
Some additional suggestions:
If you find a house you like, offer a competitive bid. Keep in mind you’ll likely be competing against other offers—especially if interest rates stay low and the spring buying season is in full bloom.
And don’t forget—once you make an offer, make it contingent upon the findings of a professional home inspection. If any major defects surface, you’ll want to have the leverage to renegotiate or back out of the deal completely.