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Shopping around can be one of the most exciting parts of the homebuying process. Sure, it might involve a bit of research, shuffling across town, and maybe even a few disappointments, but it’ll all be worth it once you find your dream home. Ultimately, shopping around will help you determine exactly what you want in a house, narrow down neighborhoods, and eventually feel confident enough to put in an offer on your next home.
However, there are a few things to know before you start shopping. These tips will help you approach the process wisely and efficiently, so you can choose a home that meets your needs for years to come.
Before you start searching, compile a list of your must-haves, instead of things you think would be nice to have. Do you need a certain number of bedrooms, dedicated parking spots, or a fenced backyard?
You can also use this opportunity to determine the type of home that best suits your needs. If you have small children or noisy dogs, a single-family home might make more sense than a townhouse with shared walls. Different families need different things; your list will vary depending on your lifestyle, goals, and preferences.
Think about potential expenses beyond your mortgage. Large, older homes can increase your heating and cooling costs, and a pool or sprinkler system may impact your water bill. Plus, some neighborhoods also have homeowners association fees. Be sure to factor these dues into your overall calculations.
When looking for a home, remember that once you buy, every part of the house becomes your responsibility. Try not to shop with rose-colored glasses; instead, be on the lookout for potential money pits or trouble areas.
Beyond the lipstick. Look past fresh paint or staged rooms; they aren’t true indicators of the quality of the house. A newly-painted accent wall could be covering up mildew, and area rugs might be hiding water-damaged wood flooring. Inspect everything!
Big issues. Visually inspect the roof for holes, missing shingles, and other damage. A roof replacement can easily be $10,000 or more, and you don’t want to be left footing that bill. Check for signs of a damaged foundation, like large cracks in the walls, stuck doors or windows, and slanted floors.
If the house has an old air conditioner, furnace, or fence, you could be in for costly repairs and utilities. The same goes for a poorly insulated home. Look for signs of water damage, like stained walls or carpets, visible mold in cabinets, or a musty smell. Not only is this a potentially expensive issue, but it can also be dangerous to your health.
Schools. If kids are part of the picture—now or in the future—the quality of the school district is something to consider. Do your research to learn more about schools in the area.
Environment. Take some time to get a feel for the area and your potential neighbors. Can you picture yourself being comfortable and happy there?
Commute. If you commute to work, the time you’ll spend getting to and from work is likely pretty important. Be sure to map out your potential commute at various times of day to ensure you don’t dread your drive or train ride all week long.
House hunting can be an exciting way to see new homes and explore what piques your interest. Remember, these showings aren’t museum tours, you’re allowed to—and should—thoroughly inspect each home you consider. As long as you’re thorough in your search, you’re sure to end up with a home you love!