House shopping is fun, and it’s supposed to be. Clicking through photos of beautiful properties and imagining yourself living in those gorgeous homes is so fun it can evolve into an actual hobby.
Before looking at these houses in person, however, it may be a good idea to sit down and think through your wish list first. Otherwise, you could spend weeks or months viewing dozens of properties before you realize that in truth, having that finished basement or double car garage is more important than you first thought.
Let’s take a look at 5 house hunting tips that can save you time in the search for your dream home.
Most everyone has a pretty good idea of what budget they are working with as they begin a home search.
However, if you have not gone through the formal preapproval process with your lender, you may be working with incorrect information.
Whether it’s an interest rate that is higher than you thought, an unwelcome surprise on your credit report, or an unexpected penalty on your current mortgage, a formal mortgage preapproval process can help to uncover most everything that could get in your way.
Once you know what your mortgage limit is you can work through what the payments will be and decide if you feel comfortable with those numbers. It is a worthwhile exercise because it is not uncommon for a lender to approve a mortgage that require payments just outside your comfort zone.
Taking this extra step can save you time and bring added reassurance later as you are preparing to make an offer on a home.
Location comes in all shapes and sizes. You may wish to move within the same neighbourhood, across the municipality, or to another city altogether.
Regardless of which location you choose, it may help to consider early what flexibility may exist in that decision. Consider if you are open to moving to another area of your municipality, or if you are open to changing cities should the need arise.
Sometimes in the course of a home search you discover that the home you want is just outside the comfortable budget you established. For this reason, it can be a good idea early in the process to give some thought to how flexible you can be in terms of location before the house hunt begins.
Allowing some variability in your location preference may open up additional options that could permit you to get more of the home that you really want without having to increase your budget.
3. Home Style
For most house hunters, deciding on a style of home is a natural first step in the process. As we picture the type of home we would most like to live in, we are usually also visualizing whether it is detached or whether we would be happy with something attached like a semi or a townhouse.
That said, you may want to consider how flexible you can be around home style. Even if you have your heart set on a detached property and your budget can allow for it, you may want to consider other possibilities anyway .
It may become necessary in the course of your home search to make sacrifices on other features of the home that are important to you, and it’s a good idea to make allowances for this in advance.
4. Specific Features
While you may already know how many bedrooms and bathrooms you are looking for, there are other features that may become more or less important to you in the course of a home search.
For example, is the interior space in the home most important, or is the large backyard a higher priority so that you can entertain in the spring and summer months?
Securing both a large backyard and extensive square footage inside may be difficult to find.
Large yards are usually found in more mature neighbourhoods where the interior of the home tends to be smaller. Conversely, more expansive interiors are usually found in newer homes but often at the expense of a large yard. Deciding early which of these is your priority can save you time as you attempt to search for a unicorn that may not exist.
Another feature to consider is whether the basement is finished or unfinished. A finished basement tends to lift the price of a home, but if you are a handy sort and can finish your own basement then this does not need to be top priority, allowing you to save some upfront costs on the property.
How much parking will you need? If the home has a single car garage and parking for just one more on the driveway, can you live with tandem parking? If you have two cars in your household this may mean perpetually having to move one car to allow the other exit the garage.
Thinking through these and other specific features of the home before you start to visit houses can save you time driving around looking at homes that will likely not suit your lifestyle.
Consider taking a few minutes to mentally run down the list of things your current home that you want to see in the new place. The more you can narrow down your wish list, the quicker you can get to the finish line.
5. Deal Breakers
Knowing what is a must-have versus a nice-to-have will be key to an efficient home search.
Your must-haves, or your deal breakers, are those things on your wish list that you simply cannot live without. For example, if you have a family of 5 and require a 4-bedroom home, clearly a 3-bedroom will not work for your lifestyle.
Most everything that we initially place on our wish list would be considered a must-have in that moment. However, as you build your wish list and start to identify that you would like a double car garage, finished basement, large backyard and expansive interior square footage, it will quickly become clear which items are more important to you than others.
Try to include everything on this list that you can imagine for your new home. Then, break the list down into two categories: your must-haves, and the nice-to-haves. Doing this before you start visiting properties will allow you to stay focused on what you decided was important to you.
Once we start visiting the shiny new houses, it’s natural to become excited about a home we’ve seen. Keeping your list handy as you go through the process will help you stay clear about what’s important to you and your family.
Remember, your REALTOR® has been down this road many times and can help you sort through what is most important to you as you search for the perfect home.***
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