Few things are more exciting than looking for a new home for your family. It’s the ultimate symbol of fresh beginnings and future possibilities. A nice new stainless steel fridge, granite countertops, and incredible walk-in closets can surely make you fall in love with a house. But when you’re looking for a place to call home, don’t let the shiny new things keep you from seeing the bigger picture. You aren’t just looking for your new home, you are looking for a place for your family to grow. So before you spend your nights looking online, your weekends hanging out at open houses, and your lunch hour interviewing realtors, here are a few things you should keep in mind.
Realtors use buzzwords. We say things like experienced, knowledgeable, and dedicated. These qualities are nice, but what’s even nicer is a realtor who remembers your children’s names, knows their ages, and definitely knows whether or not you have a boy or a girl. You should always talk to more than one realtor. As parents, you know when someone is showing true interest in your family. Select an agent who is always engaging, patient, and puts the needs of your family first.
The Right Financing
Just because your lender pre-approves you for a certain amount does not mean you need to find a home for that exact amount. You do not have to spend it all! Look for a home that is less than your pre-approval amount to save money. This not only keeps your mortgage low, but also leaves a little change in your pocket for soccer fees, dinners out, and college savings plans, of course.
The layout of the home you are buying has to meet your family’s needs. If you have younger children, you may want to make sure all of the bedrooms are on the same floor. If you have teens, a first floor master may keep you sane. An open floor plan lets you cook dinner and make sure homework gets done. Look at the layout of the home and do your best to connect it to your lifestyle.
Visit the neighborhood of the home you’re looking at before you make the offer. Are there sidewalks? How fast are cars going on those wide streets? Do you see bikes in the yard, or is your next-door neighbor an empty nester? The last thing you want is to move your young family next to a neighbor who prefers peace and quiet. What is the yard like? Many parents overlook their kids’ and pets’ outdoor needs. Parents might think cookouts and yardwork. But ask yourself, As the kids play outside, can you see them easily from different vantage points inside the house? Is the landscaping safe for a stumbling toddler or a reckless 12-year-old adventurer? You may even consider sacrificing a great yard for a nearby park.
And don’t forget to drive through the neighborhood at night. Many neighborhoods come to life after work hours in the evening and at night. This will usually give you a good sense of the neighborhood. You don’t want to move in only to find out that your neighbors down the street are a bunch of college kids who love to host huge, loud parties.
The Homeowners’ Association
One of the biggest things you may want to know up front is if there is an association connected to the home you want. If there is, what are the rules and fees associated with joining? Some homeowners’ associations will fine you for leaving toys in the yard or for having guests stay too long. You want to make sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into.
Many parents find themselves looking for a new home when their bundle of joy is not school-aged. And what is one of the biggest reasons families move today? They are searching for desirable schools. When looking at schools, you have to think ahead too. If you have middle school-aged children, make sure the high school is what you want for your child. Many school districts have great elementary and middle schools, but the high school seems to dip a bit in the ratings. Remember, it’s not just about test scores. Can you walk with your child to school? Is the bus stop on a major road? How long is the school bus ride? These things are all part of the education experience.
Buying a home can be both an exciting and scary time for anyone, but with guidance and patience, you’ll be on your way to finding the perfect home for you and your family.