Choosing the Right Home

You’ve been saving, your credit looks good, and you’re finally ready to make a move. Whether you are a first-time homebuyer, moving to a different area, or scaling down, there are a number of factors that go into finding the perfect fit for your situation.

The right type of house
Before shopping for a new home, it’s critical to set your priorities and decide which factors are most important to you – a list of “wants” versus “needs” in your home search. What are the deal breakers? A “perfect” home is a very rare find, so you’ll need to know what you’re willing to compromise.

Think long-term about future needs and whether a starter home or forever home will suit you best. Are you planning to expand your family or to entertain? Are you looking for a cozy retreat? Common questions usually include the square footage and number of bedrooms/bathrooms in the home, as well as the kitchen layout and living areas. Other considerations involve cabinet/closet/storage space, garage size and yard/outdoor space. Running out of storage space is one of the main reasons people buy new homes.

Weigh the pros and cons of different home types, given your lifestyle and budget. A condominium or townhome may be more affordable than a single-family home and have less outdoor maintenance, but there are often HOA fees, and shared walls with neighbors will mean less privacy. Another option would be to buy a fixer-upper, which usually sells for less than a move-in ready home, but needs updates or repairs (and a corresponding budget).Renovation mortgages are available to finance both the home price and the cost of improvements into one loan.

Lastly, don’t let mundane landscaping deter you from a home that you otherwise love and checks off a lot of boxes on your list. Lack of curb appeal could turn away competing buyers, but you may not need much time/money to improve the look while adding market value, and it can easily be done after closing.

The right neighborhood (study the market!)
Once you’ve found some homes for sale in your price range, be mindful not to make a decision based solely on the property alone. Many home buyers are more willing to compromise on a home’s condition and size than on the quality of its neighborhood and distance from a school. Be sure to factor in things like local amenities, proximity to restaurants and shopping, quality of schools, noise level, safety, walkability, commute to work, access to public services, future development, taxes, etc., into your decision. Don't forget to budget for HOA fees when shopping for condos, townhomes, or houses in planned or gated communities.

Homeowner Associations
Familiarize yourself with the governing documents, rules, regulations and restrictions before you buy, so you aren't unpleasantly surprised later. Examine the HOA’s CC&Rs, request recent meeting minutes, and look at properties in the area to determine how strict the rules are, and what type/frequency of fees are involved. Once the HOA management agreement is signed, it will be difficult to make changes.

Stick to your budget!
Just because you are pre-approved for a certain loan amount doesn’t mean you should borrow the maximum amount. Consider whether a home’s price tag and monthly mortgage payment fits comfortably within your budget given your ongoing expenses like utilities, groceries, healthcare, etc.

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