There are a lot of houses out there. Millions of them. And each house has its own unique quality and charm. So how do you find your dream house with so many options to choose from? There are so many factors to consider when you are looking for a house. What area are you going to live in? What is the style of the homes in the area? Do you want land that has to be maintained, or do you want to live in a townhouse in a metro area? The options are endless. Here are a few things to think about when you set off to find your dream home.
Know Your Budget
Leaving your home for a drive across the country with ten bucks in your pocket and a half empty gas tank isn't a good idea. Neither is starting a search for your dream home without knowing how much you have to spend. Now some people will start their search without looking at budget, and that is okay for a while. But the closer you get to actually buying a house, the more important a budget will be. Lets be honest, if you are looking in million dollar neighborhoods and your lender is only willing to give you a pre qualification letter for $400,000, all the time you are spending in that expensive neighborhood is leading nowhere fast. You might get some good decorating ideas, but that's about it. So its really important to start the process of determining a budget as quickly as you can. Take a look at this blog entry to see what you need to do first to pre qualify. Once you know your budget, you can start narrowing down your preferences, such as living in the country or the city, and what type of home you want.
A House In The Country or City
Once you have a budget, the next logical step is to narrow down where you are going to live. This is an important step. Set some priorities as soon as you can. If you like living in the country, don't spend a lot of time looking in town. You don't want to settle for second best. You are looking for your dream house. Sometimes people start out looking for an area to live in, and then find a house they like in an area that would have been low on their preference list early on. Make sure you have your priorities straight. The worst thing you can do is buy a cool house in a undesirable neighborhood. Choose the neighborhoods you want, and then find a house withing the neighborhood. And if you can't find what you are looking for, consider building or waiting. Seriously, if you like clean cut neighborhoods with sidewalks and nicely groomed yards with lots of neighbors, and you buy a farmhouse on 3 acres where the neighbor has chickens, pigs, and cows, the magic of the country may soon ware off and you will be living in a nice house in an area you don't like, spending most of your free time weeding and taking care of property. It can be a costly mistake financially and mentally. Be patient. Don't settle.
Choosing The House
Once you know the neighborhoods you would like to live in, the next step is to evaluate what types of homes are in those neighborhoods. Do you want a single story ranch so you don't have to do stairs, do you want a basement that usually gives you more room for less money per square foot, or do you want a two story? Do you like open concept homes or do you prefer a more compartmentalized floor plan? There are many choices to sort through, but one thing is certain, the neighborhoods you choose will dictate, to some extent, what your style options will be unless you can find an empty lot to buy. And even then, you will want to be careful what you build on that lot so that it has a "good fit" with the rest of the homes. Go too fancy and you might lose money when you sell. Go too cheep and you may have a hard time selling. The key here is to know about the style you want and whether it is an open design or not. This is very important when you are looking with a co-buyer or spouse if you want both people to be happy.
Negotiate the Deal
List price is the asking price of a home, not the actual prices. Prices in a real estate market can vary widely. This is due, in part, to what sellers perceive their home is worth, what other homes have sold for, and what council a seller gets from their agent / broker. The point here is that NO price is set in stone until you have negotiated the value and the buyer and seller agree that they will both benefit in some way. In light of this, hold your horses, be patient, and don't be rash in your decisions. If a seller knows that you want their house and only their house, they are more likely to stand firm on their original price. If a buyer knows you are desperate to sell because you are leaving on vacation or need to get to your new job eight hundred miles away, they are more likely to stand firm on their lower offer. To be clear, negotiation is not bad. It is a great process that helps both the buyer and the seller establish value and what they are going to be happy with. It can be a great experience where both parties walk away from the table feeling like the achieved their goals.
These steps seem simple, but many potential home buyers fail to make a conscious effort to think through the steps and verbalize them with a co-buyer or spouse. Lack of communication can lead to misunderstanding where there doesn't need to be any. Think through what your true dream house is, write it down so it is concrete, and verbalize it with those who are involved with the decision making process. Doing so will greatly reduce your dream house search turning into a nightmare house.