Buying a home is a big commitment. There are many decisions to make so try and keep the emotions in check. Your financial prowness is needed because there are lots of expected and unexpected expenses coming your way in the future.
Beyond just liking you future home, there are several factors to keep in mind that will affect everything from your happiness, safety, expenses, to the future re-sale value of the home. These factors are listed below.
Top 10 things to think about when buying a house:
- Financing / Money – discussed in great detail in Part 1 on making the best decision for you
- School grades per area – overall academic rating on the entire school. Even if you don’t have a child today or aren’t planning one for the future, this is a big deal to families. In fact, in some communities across the nation, good school ratings can result in square footage increases as much as $25-$50 more per square foot. To see to the potential school grades in your new house area, look at Schoolgrades.org and Greatschools.org. Both are independent groups that rate schools that can help in your decision making.
- Commute to Work – this factor doesn’t have as much to do with re-sale value but it does have direct impact on items in your control – budget, time, and happiness. If you don’t like driving a lot, this will tend to be much shorter. The average commute time to work according to Reuters is 25.5 minutes per person. Personally, I drew a circumference around my office of 25-30 miles to find potential places to live to narrow my decision.
- Square Footage / Bedrooms – the typical house is a 3 / 2 (3 bedrooms with 2 bathrooms) with 2,200 of space according to census.gov. Given your personal needs or family size, you may need something bigger or smaller. This will help narrow your search even more which impacts the house price with price per square foot. Price per square foot is the most identifiable way to understand the price you will pay based on previous sales in the area.
- Neighborhood – what type of community are you looking for? I know some people who swear by an HOA to protect home values and some who think they are useless. Deed restricted? Gated community? More decisions that will help narrow down the home search.
- Crime Rating – an obvious factor that can impact home prices. For stats regarding the area you are looking to live in check out NeighborhoodScout.com or Crimereports.com. They provide a rating compared with the overall area and details of any crimes committed.
- HOAs / CDDs / Deed – These are Homeowner Associations and Community Development Districts. Do you mind these entities? Pro’s – keeps up home values, provide new community developments near your house, rules/regulations about what you can and cannot do to your house, no eye sores. Con’s – they can tell you what to do, remind you for not mowing your lawn, can fine you for not cooperating, and will cost on average an extra $500-$1,000 annually per home. Can you think of something better to do with an extra $1,000? I can.
- Proximity to Water (Flood Zone) – traditionally, living near water (ocean, lake, or even a pool) increases the price of a home, not to mention the liability. Liability is something to be aware of when buying near water. Check to see if the residence is in a flood zone. Not just for safety, but this can dramatically raise your insurance costs until the mortgage is paid off, and can add an average of $700-$1,000 annually to insurance premiums.
- Block vs. Wood – most homes built today are constructed using block and stucco. There’s a very specific reason for this. Termites, safety, and stability. Any house built before 1990 should be looked at more closely to check if the construction material consists of block or wood. If wood, best bet is to stay away. They are more likely subject to damage, insect/rodent problems, and yes, more damage.
- Repairs / Inspections – average home & termite inspections run about $400-$600 for both. Throw in the appraisal for an additional $300-$400 and it’s another $1,000 before you even sign for the house. Any repairs not affecting the normal home functionality are up for negotiation between the buyer and seller.
That’s a lot to think about, I know. Take it from someone who’s gone through it. It can definitely feel like a second job. To be honest, it’s all you think and stress about it until it’s finalized. Be prepared for anything to happen. The sellers backing out, financing taking until the last day to approve, or a sink hole issue you didn’t see coming. They can all happen. Or worse yet, you could be on vacation in Hawaii, receive a call at 8 a.m. saying there’s a major problem with the house deal next week, or maybe that just happened to me. When in doubt, don’t panic. It will all work out one way or another, and it will be worth it.
If you are interested in reading about the 10 major expenses to think about when purchasing a home, please check back next week for the last installment in Buying a Home with more House Buying Tips.