How to Find the Right House for You
House hunting can be stressful. After all, you are looking for a place to call your home, and you are likely to spend a great deal of money (and probably go into debt for up to 30 years) to make the transaction happen. You don’t want to mess this up.
Here are the things to consider as you look for the right house for you:
Your first step is to determine how much home you can afford. Be brutally honest about this. Determine how much you can pay each month for your home, including utilities and maintenance. Don’t just think in terms of your principal payment and interest payment. You will have other costs, including property taxes, home insurance, and repairs. All of your costs should account for no more than 25% to 30% of your monthly net income if you want to be on the safe side.
Now that you have a rough idea of what you can pay each month, use an online calculator to see what home purchase price is in line with your ability to afford a home. As you begin the house hunting process, whether you search online or get help from a real estate agent, look only at homes in your affordable price range.
There’s a reason for the old real estate selling point: Location, location, location! Where you live matters. Think about your lifestyle, and how a home’s location fits into that. If you only have one car for your family, a location near public transit is probably desirable. Think about other aspects of your lifestyle. My husband and I look for living arrangements near good schools for our son. You might also want a location near shopping and entertainment, if those things are important to you.
Others value peace and quiet, privacy and space. In these cases, a more rural location might be preferred. If you can handle the commute, living far from work might not matter to you, as long as there are other aspects of your location that make up for it. Decide what matters in your living area, and then search a location that makes sense for you — and fits your price range.
Your lifestyle will also result in the types of amenities you look for in a home. Do you need a home office for your business? Perhaps you frequently have guests stay, so an extra guest room makes sense. If you are done having children, a big home may not be necessary.
Decide what is most important to you in terms of comfort and living space. From the floorplan of the home to the types of countertops available to the backyard patio, figure out which amenities matter most. You can divide your list into:
- Must have
- Would like to have
- Don’t really care about
Be honest about what you truly must have and realize that there are times when cost and location mean that you might have to give up some the “would like to have” aspects in order to get more “must have” amenities.
Be Ready to Compromise
You also need to be ready to compromise. In some cases, trade offs need to be made in order to ensure that you can afford the home that you choose. Sometimes this means re-evaluating what is a “must have.”
Know your priorities so that you understand when you have to give a little, and when you can stand firm. Also, be willing to compromise with your significant other when applicable. Will granite countertops really make a difference if you can get a more affordable home without them near your spouse’s workplace?
Sometimes, you won’t get the “perfect” home. But if you are realistic, and go in knowing what is most important in your life, chances are that you can find something that is right for your family — and that is affordable as well.
Miranda Marquit is a freelance journalist specializing in topics related to personal finance, investing, and entrepreneurship. She writes regularly for a number of web sites, including AllBusiness, Huffington Post, and Wise Bread. Miranda’s work has been published at U.S. News & World Report, MSN Money, Fox Business, and Business Insider. Her work has been linked to from USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, and she has appeared on NPR Morning Edition and American Public Media’s Marketplace