The second step in home buying is making a careful determination of your needs. This determination should include, but is not limited to the size, type and location of your new home. As mention in my earlier article (The first step in Home Buying), you should have already spoken with a lender regarding how much money you are comfortable spending on your new home. Don’t be surprised if the figure is impacted by other monthly costs associated with the home you choose. You have a monthly payment amount that is in your comfort zone. In addition to the cost of your loan, you will have taxes, insurance and possibly Homeowner’s Association and/or Condominium Fees.
Let’s review the best way to answer the questions regarding a determination of your needs. Each of the basic questions must be reviewed and clarified before going out and looking at homes. It is quite possible that after your first or second or third day viewing homes, you will revise your needs based on what is available for purchase. Just as the market is always in flux, your needs list should be adaptable. Let me be very clear, adaptable means that you do have a base line for “must be” or “must have” but there are things that are not essential to the purchase. Your determination of needs should include both “must be” or “must have” as well as “like it to be” or “would be nice to have” items.
- The first item on the list is size of the home. Size is sometimes thought of in square footage and others are referring to the number of various rooms in the new home. It is probably a good idea to initially focus on how many bedrooms and bathrooms you will need. If you narrow your selection in this fashion, you can then evaluate the square footage when viewing homes. The square footage that shows in the multiple listing service is only a guide. The use of the square footage can best be appreciated when viewing the home. You have to visit the home and visualize your furniture in the new space. You have to feel the home. When considering the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in the home, do not overlook your need for a home office ( second bedroom ) and if you are buying a two bedroom (or more), it is better for future resale to have at least two bathrooms.
- The second item on the list is the type of home you want to purchase. There are many options. Your choice should include your comfort level with the various styles. There are “apartment-like” homes that are usually condominiums or co-ops, there are “piggy back” style homes (one unit over the other), there are row houses or town homes, there are duplex (two units side by side) and there are single family homes. The amount of money that you are comfortable spending may limit your choices in type. I have listed them in the general order of lowest price to highest price (there are always exceptions). A good real estate agent will be able to go over the different styles available in your price range in your market.
- The third item shared regarding things you need to evaluate is location. The location you choose will often determine the size and type of home you can afford. It has often been shared that all real estate is about location, location, location. Why? Where you actually live impacts every aspect of your life. It is the starting point and ending point of every work day. How you get to and from the locations is every bit as important as where the location is actually on the map. The decision about location has to move beyond the usual questions about schools and safety. In the DC area, the length of your commute will impact how you feel when you get to work and how you feel when you get home. The ideal home never has a chance to live up to your expectations if you are exhausted by the time you get home every night. The caveat here is that you have to accept the reality of the commuter time before you purchase (always picture the worst case scenario). This is another area in which an experienced agent that has complete knowledge of the area is needed. The longer someone has lived in an area, the more likely they know the alternative routes to get from your new home to your job. Location is much more than where, location is one piece that needs to fit into the puzzle of your life comfortably.
The second step in home buying is making a careful determination of your needs. If you share your list with an experienced real estate agent, you will find your home search is more productive. Finding “the” home for you will still feel like looking for a needle in a haystack, but at least you will know , pretty much, the type of needle you are seeking.
If you have any questions about preparing your list, you can always contact me directly. Contact John.