Househunting Criteria: HotPads Home Buyers Guide


Like the girlfriend you had in college (you know, the one who kept "borrowing" money from you), it's easy to fall in love with a house for all the wrong reasons. The best way to avoid buyer's remorse is to have a clear understanding of what your needs and wants are in respect to the new home and only considering those homes that fit the bill.

Here are some of the things that people care the most about when looking for a home. Decide what's most important to you.

The Location


    Transportation
    No matter how great your place is, you're going to have to leave it at some point. Probably to get to work and pay that big mortgage. Look at the places you need to go often, like work, school, church, friends, relatives' homes, etc. Determine how long your commuting times will be, and how that will impact your lifestyle.

    If you drive, think about things like parking, traffic and safety. If you take mass transit, look at stops and schedules. Remember that "accessible" does not mean "convenient." And shivering at a bus stop in December is not a great way to start your morning if you live in Buffalo.

    Neighborhood
    Every location is going to offer certain close-in amenities, and lack others. Know which are important to you. How are the supermarkets, shops and eateries? What about parks, recreation centers and places to run? Think about pharmacies, libraries, bakeries and any other "ies" that you like.

    Also look at the people who will be your neighbors, as it will surely impact the overall feel of the area. What's the median age? Do folks have kids? What's the average income. The best way to find out is to use the demographical heatmaps shown on HotPads.com. Also look at how they maintain their homes and lawns. This is a great indication of how the neighborhood functions as a community.

    Local government
    When you have the option of living in any of several bordering cities, counties or states, how the local government is run can be a big factor in your move. You'll need to rank their income and property tax rates and see how much of an impact it should have on your choice of homes. Also ask about the services provided, which can include everything trash collection to business licensing.

    You'd be surprised how one bad visit to the DMV can make you regret you pine for the next state over.

    The quality of the area schools are of particular concern to parents. Even if you are not currently raising kids, know that the quality of the public schools near your home will impact the future resale value of your home. Reach out the the local PTA for first-hand reports on the quality of instruction and administration.


    The Home


      Size
      When figuring our how much space you need, let Goldilocks be your guide. (Not in the woods, though. She'll get you eaten by bears.) Too small a place and you'll be moving again before you are ready. Too big and you'll kick yourself when it's time to furnish and clean it.

      Take measurements of your current place to determine how many square feet it is, and decide how many square feet of living space you'll need for you and your family to be comfortable. Don't just look at your current situation. Forecast for any growth or reduction in the number of people living in the home over the next ten years.

      The same goes for external space. Have an idea for some much lawn and garden space is important to you.

      Age and condition
      Some people love the idea of moving into a newly constructed home that has never been lived in before, while some love the charm and character of a 100 year old building that may have ghosts in the attic. There's no right or wrong here.

      However, the older the home is, the more likely it is to lack some modern comforts and need a bit of work. Foundations may be cracked and roofs may need patching. If you're handy with a hammer and don't mind a window sticking from time to time, an older fix-er-upper might save you money. If you want a more hassle-free existence, spring for a new home and you can hold the builder accountable for anything that's not in order.

      Features
      Almost any home can be customized, but at great expense and inconvenience. So if you're buying a new place, decide on what features you want right now. How many separate bedrooms will you need. What about bathrooms, closets and storage space? Visualize your dream kitchen. Decide now if a basement is important, because you won't add one later. Also figure out if you'll want a garage and how many cars it will hold.

      Some fixtures, like appliances and door/cabinet hardware are relatively simple and cheap to replace, so you may not want them to be a dealbreaker. Other things like windows and flooring can add to the price tag of your place by a lot more. Put your requirements for stainless steel microwaves or marble sinks on your list.

      Major systems like heating and cooling, sewer line and septic system, and water heaters are often afterthoughts, and they shouldn't be. These things will affect the quality of life in the home and the cost of utilities. Learn about them and know what's acceptable to you.

      Aesthetics
      Every home has a style, and one is just perfect for you. No amount of paint is going to turn a Tudor into a Cape Cod. Check out this online gallery of homes to help you learn your likes and dislikes. And by all means, walk away from any home that does not speak to you personally.


      Other House Hunting Topics


      Jump back for the index articles on shopping for a home.


      Other Web Info


      What to look for when buying a house from Associated Content.