Like any major purchase, trying to choose the right home when you’re looking to move depends on a number of factors. Unless you have limitless funds, you’ll have to fine-tune your expectations in order to get a home that fulfills your wants and needs. Even if you have an ample budget, you’re not always guaranteed that everything you’re looking for will be included in a single property. That’s why it’s important to sit down and clarify what you want and what you expect to get.
Choose the Right Home: Getting Started
What if you loved two similar houses in different locations? What if the house you liked the most lacked your most important feature? What if the house was perfect except it required a major, costly repair? Before you can even begin to answer these questions or begin your search, you have to answer the all-important question: What’s my budget?
Your budget is the most essential item in your search. Without setting a budget, you will be wasting a lot of time looking at homes that are not within reach. The budget gives you a window into realistic options so that you’re able to choose the right home. The financial parameters you set for yourself will help you look at homes within your range and give you insight into the actual costs of owning them.
One of the best ways to budget is to start by looking at your overall assets and your major expenses (i.e., cars, insurance, credit-card payments, and student loans). Then you will be able to determine how much you can afford to make in mortgage payments as well as whether you can cover the costs of your future home. You should have enough assets left over to keep you above water should something unexpected happen. Freddie Mac provides a worksheet to help you figure out your expenses and determine your budget.
Go with Your Gut
Once you start searching, your gut is going to be a great tool. Your instinct, intuition—whatever you want to call it—will guide you in making a good decision. If you walk into a house and it remains just that—a house—you may want to forget about it. If, on the other hand, you walk in and start envisioning yourself arranging the furniture in your new living room or your family eating together in the breakfast nook, that’s an excellent sign that it may be a good fit.
Focus on Features
When you’re mapping out what features you want, start by focusing on a few that are the most important. Maybe it’s the neighborhood or the schools, perhaps it’s a kitchen that speaks to your love of cooking, or perhaps it’s that guest room for your mother-in-law. Choosing the right home for you is just that—what’s right for you. Not what’s right for anyone else or what’s trendy and cool. It’s about you. A good fit will always happen when you choose a home that has the features you’ve always dreamed of or at least the potential to create them.
Wait a Minute—Don’t Buy Yet
The market doesn’t always allow you to hesitate, but if there’s even the smallest potential to wait a day (or three), take it. The perspective you gain from giving yourself the space to think clearly, and maybe even visit a second time, will go a long way toward cementing the right decision.
If nerves or stress try to take over during a house search, just breathe and remember—if you’re staying within your budget, plus leaving a little wiggle room, and the house and your gut are speaking to you, you’ll make the right choice.