Signing your name on the ownership document of your dream home certainly is a dream come true. Whether you have found your perfect suburban residence complete with white picket fence, or a modernised urban loft with a view of the city lights, owning your own property is a stunning achievement.
But before ringing up a property agent, are you sure you know what you want? And we are not talking about the colour of the facade walls. Buying a property is much more than the mere attraction factor. Lots of different considerations come into play, each one just as important as the previous.
So, to save you (and that poor realtor) lots of time, herewith our simple guide to help you narrow down where to start hunting for your dream house.
When it comes to buying a house, personal taste dictates far more than the mere question of “rustic or modern style?”. Of course your house’s style is important in terms of appearance, but also in terms of function. For example, do you entertain often? Then an open floor plan might be something to consider.
In addition, people who work from home will probably want a room which they can use as a home office. And people who practice hobbies (like painting or learning the cello) will seek a house that allows them adequate space to pursuit these after-hours activities (without keeping their neighbours up at night).
Remember that your house must cater for both your current and future needs. So, ask yourself: Will I/we want to start a family? Will family and friends visit often? Are there plans to purchase a boat or RV (or anything else that is particularly big) anytime soon? These types of questions can help you narrow down your searches considerably, saving everybody valuable time.
Homes come in many different forms and sizes. They can be single-family houses or part of a duplex. One can search for condominium units or townhouses. There is also the option of mobile homes or house boats. In addition, homes can be one-storey, two-storey or split-level.
Most homebuyers have a strong preference for the type of home they would like to own, while others may have narrowed their choices down to a few favourites. Decide which size and style you deem ideal before starting your search.
This saying rings true for homebuyers everywhere – location will always be high on the must-have list. Whether it is a question of lifestyle or good return on investment, selecting a property in the right location is one of the most important decisions you will make.
Should your home be near a school or university? Is it near to local amenities such as medical facilities or shopping centres? Is the neighbourhood you’re currently scouting well maintained and aesthetically pleasing?
Look for areas that have kerb appeal (looks attractive from the outside), are well maintained, and have more owners than tenants, as owners will predominantly want to protect their investment by keeping the area clean and safe.
Buying a house is a big step that involves a substantial long-term financial investment, so think very carefully about what you can afford. You will need to consider all your assets – such as savings – and also all monies that are coming in and going out.
You don’t want to commit to a high-but-manageable mortgage, only to discover that you now can’t afford some of the nicer things you had your heart set on, like that fabulous dining room set. Although it sounds obvious, take time to think about all your expenses throughout the year, even without a mortgage.
Various websites offer budget calculators to help you narrow down what you may be able to afford in terms of mortgages. Some hard thinking and pre-planning could save you a lot of time and pain in the long run.
The days of buying a house and living in it until your dying day are long gone. For a lot of people short-term investments are the trend these days; living in your purchased house, but then selling it a few years later to move to a different town or bigger house.
Should short-term ownership work for you (simply because you want to get into the property market, but aren’t sure you can commit to one place), start by choosing the neighbourhood carefully. Look for one where prices have been rising and values are based on solid factors like good schools, close to shopping centres, and easy commuting. Think twice if the area’s prices have soared, as they can just as easily fall again.
Only you can verify which design style you want for your house. This takes into account the physical characteristics of your home. Some buyers prefer older, more traditional-looking homes (such as colonial or classic styles). Others opt for modern and stylish properties (like modern and minimalist homes).
The style and size of your desired yard should also be a factor. Some neighbourhoods are quite proud of the fact that they maintain perfectly manicured lawns, while others enjoy a more relaxed and natural look. And should children and/or pets be a factor, a big, fenced-in backyard will of course be a bigger priority than a small, care-free yard (or no yard at all).
In addition, only you can say which added options you are not willing to budge on, like a covered garage, basement, swimming pool, wine cellar, etc.
So, if “location, location, location” is so important, what makes a location good? Here are five to look out for:
1. A safe neighbourhood. People want to live where there’s little or no crime, and they will pay extra for it. In addition, they also crave areas where they can walk around freely, spend time outdoors, and interact with neighbours without worrying about nightfall approaching.
2. Good schools. Consider this, even if you don’t plan on having children. Young families will always buy homes in districts with good schools – and the better the school, the higher the values of the surrounding homes can be. This can be a major factor for you should you plan on selling one day.
3. Close to popular amenities. The closer a home is to the highlight of a certain district (like the beach), the better the location – which means people will be willing to pay more for a home.
4. Water access and views. Put a home right on a waterway or a spot that offers great views, and you will always have somebody that will pay for it.
5. Access to public transit. A good location means being close, and having easy access, to public transportation. And where commute by a car is inevitable, easy access to the highway is a valuable factor.
Just moved into your new home? Time for the next important step: Hosting a housewarming party to remember.