Read the standard guidebooks about how to find your home, and you’ll get some good and basic information. Check out the heating system. Have a home inspection. Find the right mortgage.
This is all good and well as far as it goes, and yet you could still find yourself in your “dream home,” easily able to pay the mortgage, and yet, miserable. Why? Because of some elusive factors that aren’t always obvious.
Here’s what I’d suggest to make sure your dream home isn’t really a nightmare in disguise:
1 . Check out the neighborhood firsthand. Walk through it a few times, preferably in the morning and evening, even in the middle of the day. What do you notice? Does anything bother you? Do the houses near you have anyone who plays loud music or anything else that might bother you? If you’re the type who likes a lot of bustle and noise, this may not matter.
2. Is there a neighborhood association? If so, how strict are the rules? Will you get in trouble for certain window coverings?
3. Drive by your prospective home in rainy weather. Is the yard a swamp or does it drain properly?
4. Talk to the neighbors. They’ll often open up about the area, the schools and any issues.
5. Consider what is important to you when it comes to comfort and your home. Do you care about exterior noise or do you plan to stay inside a good deal of the time? Do you need a low-maintenance home?
6. Be sure you have enough storage and that all major and costly basics are in good order – plumbing, heating, roof, windows, etc.
7. Don’t be afraid to “kick the wheels” or, in this case, open and close cabinets, turn on faucets, check out the various focal points in a room.
8. Notice any loud or barking dogs that never seem to stop? Again, this may not matter to you but it might drive someone else batty.
9. EXTREMELY IMPORTANT – please, please (I beg you) do NOT try to time the housing market perfectly. That is like timing the stock market and is best left to experts. If you ARE an expert, of course, you can ignore this step but I have bought homes in down markets and up markets and have stopped thinking of a home as a “foolproof investment.” Instead, I think of our home as a refuge, a sancturary and as shelter. If you make a profit when you sell, great. If you break even, that is fine, too. What is MOST important it buying a home that you can consider a true “home” in every sense of the world, a place you look forward to being.
10. Consider getting a book about home inspections and figure out if your inspector is hitting the high points, not overlooking details.
11. Try not to buy either the most expensive or least expensive home on a block, unless you are in love with the home, aren’t planning to move soon and are willing to do extensive renovations (if the home has flaws).
If you have other suggestions, I hope you’ll chime in. These are just some of the things we’ve learned from living in 3 separate homes.