Factors to Consider When Buying a House

Guest post by Sheila Olson @ FitSheila.com.

Whether you’re looking to move up to your dream home or are ready to downsize from your current home as you head towards retirement, there’s a lot to think about when choosing a new place to live. It’s all too easy to obsess over the obvious things such as price and bedrooms, but here are some factors that can make a difference in how happy you are with your new house.

Should You Rent or Buy?

Buying allows you to earn equity in a home over time, whereas renting puts money in a landlord’s pocket each month, with no long-term gain for your family. Because of the current cost of homes, you may be tempted to wait out the market if you’re a renter, or sell your home, put the money in the bank and wait for prices to drop later.

However, experts agree that while home prices aren’t going to rise as quickly in the future, they aren’t going down anytime soon. You may have more home inventory to choose from next year, but you’re not likely to get a bargain by waiting. Add in the cost of rent (and moving twice if you already own a home) and it makes more sense for most people to buy a home instead of renting.

Can you Afford to Buy a House?

Before you can buy a house you need to figure out the monthly cost of ownership and how much home you can afford. Using a mortgage calculator can help you determine your monthly mortgage payment, which in addition to the principal and interest can include PMI, property taxes, insurance, and possibly Home Owner’s Association (HOA) fees. 

If you’ve never purchased a home before, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the prices. Instead of looking for homes first, start by talking to your bank, credit union or an independent home loan lender. At no cost up front, they will gather all your financial information and tell you how much “home” you can afford. They can also tell you what steps you need to improve your credit rating so you can qualify for a lower down payment and a lower interest rate.

Once you have your home loan in place, it’s time to look for a Realtor. A good real estate agent will more than pay for themselves by navigating you through the entire home purchase process as well as coordinating the sale of your current home with the purchase of your new one. (Related:  How to Choose a Realtor).

Will You Like the Area?

You’ve found your dream home online. It looks like a mini-mansion, has a gorgeous yard and the price is right. But what about the area? Look it up on BestPlaces.net to learn about crime rates, the cost of living, and available local amenities. An area with a high crime rate or without easy access to schools might not be a great choice for a young family.

If you have children, the quality of the schools should be an important factor in your decision of where to buy a home. USNews & World Report is also a useful reference.

Explore the area on Google Maps, too, to check for amenities and services in the local area. Look for things such as:

    • Doctors and hospitals
    • Shopping malls
    • Grocery stores
    • Restaurants and cafes
    • Schools
    • Lakes
    • Parks
    • Cinemas
    • Leisure or community centers

If you drive, you may be happy living in the suburbs or in rural areas further away from popular amenities. If you can’t drive, a city home located where you’re easily able to get to work and run errands may be a better choice. Retirees should also look at retirement communities. Some of them are like subdivisions or apartments buildings, while some are linked to assisted care facilities so you or your spouse can transition to assisted living over time.

Does the House Suit Your Family?

Think about the layout of the house and the features it offers. A pool might seem like a great feature, but is it safe for your children? Speaking of safety, will the house come with the reassurance of a security system or will you have to install your own?

Additionally, is there enough space for you to have a home office and for each child to have a bedroom too? Are there at least 2 bathrooms? Having a home with multiple bathrooms can be a big benefit if you have a large family and is almost required when it’s time to sell.

What about the kitchen? Is the layout suitable for you? Kitchens in older homes are often designed with lots of steps, or with islands that make the space less-than-ideal for people with mobility issues. If you’re considering a couple of houses, choosing the one with an accessible kitchen could save you stress in the long term.

Moving to a new home is a major life change, and obviously, there are a number of questions and concerns that go with it. That’s why it’s important to take your time, take a deep breath, and carefully consider both the local area and the features that a particular property has to offer. Then, when it feels right, go for it!

Jennifer Tremaine has been a business owner, realtor, sister, daughter, “empty-nester” and single mom for 23 years. Check out her blog on buying a home today!

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