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10 Tips to find the perfect home

By | Published: Oct 14, 2009 | 62 Comments

Now that you're ready to purchase a place, you want to make sure it's the right one for you. Follow these tips to find a home that's a perfect fit for you:

  1. Go for the long haul

    When looking for a home, search for one that you could see yourself living in for several years -- at least five to seven years is ideal. Buying -- and moving -- to a new home takes a lot of time and effort, and can add up significantly in closing and moving costs, etc. Staying in place longer will help you avoid those added expenses. Plus, the extra time spent in your home could be just enough to help you ride out a downturn in the real estate market.

  2. Leave room to grow

    Aim for a home that can adapt to your needs as your life changes, say, if you have a new baby, or Junior moves back in after college. If you can't afford a place that's large enough to meet your anticipated future needs now, look for one that will allow you to build on later on.

  3. Be flexible

    Consider a place with rooms that can serve multiple functions, so the home remains highly functional for you through the years. For example, an open-floor-plan-style home is very adaptable. A kitchen that overlooks a family room is helpful when one's children are young (you can cook while watching the kids), while such a kitchen is also great for entertaining your friends once the kids leave the roost.

  4. Go for your type

    Think about what style of home fits you best -- house, condo, townhome, etc. -- they're not one size fits all. For example, a single-family home -- which sits on its own lot and must be maintained by the homeowner -- may be great for a person seeking privacy, but not so wonderful for somebody who doesn't want to worry about mowing the lawn, fixing the plumbing, etc. Meanwhile, a condo might be perfect for somebody who wants a "lock 'n' leave" lifestyle, but not for somebody who doesn't like sharing a wall with his neighbors.

  5. Check the surroundings

    When you purchase a home, you not only get a house, you also buy into a neighborhood. Think about whether that neighborhood will suit you. Sure, you might love the house itself, but will the loud neighbors next door or the school across the street become too bothersome for you? Also, do you like the feel of the neighborhood and does it offer everything you need? It's best to find a place in a community that you'll enjoy.

  6. Buy what you can afford

    It's easy to shoot for the sky and overspend when buying a home -- you understandably want the best your money can buy. Examine your finances, keeping in mind current and future expenses, and don't exceed your means. It's smarter to buy a home you can easily afford than one you have to stretch to get into. Stay down to earth, and you'll be better prepared should unexpected financial commitments and problems arise later down the road.

  7. Think "home" first

    When purchasing a home, don't imagine the dollar signs you'll see the day you sell it. A home is just that -- primarily a "home," and not an investment. So, buy a place that'd be great to live in first and think about its resale value second. Predicting real estate cycles and home appreciation is tough enough for the experts -- and much more for the average home buyer. Plus, while home renovations tend to add value to a residence, they rarely recoup more than what was spent on them.

  8. Look at both old and new

    It's nice to move into a place that's brand-new. But, new isn't always better. Consider both old and new. While you might not like a previous homeowner's decorating decisions, you might like the owner-installed upgrades -- like a finished basement and a backyard deck -- that a new home might not have.

  9. Location, location

    You've heard this tip before, but a home's location does matter. A house that's located on a busy, noisy street may be less enjoyable to you as a homeowner than one situated on a quiet, secluded cul-de-sac. Plus, a home on a cul-de-sac is likely to be worth more than a poorly located one when it comes time to resell. So consider a home's location before you're smitten by a spectacular interior.

  10. When it comes time to sell

    While you want to think of your place as a home first and not an investment, it doesn't make sense to purchase a white elephant, either. You should put at least some thought into how easy -- or difficult -- it'll be to resell the home one day. If a home is so unlike other nearby homes in terms of size, style, price, etc., you might want to skip it and look elsewhere -- it could become a burden should you want to someday move on.

Comments

By Dan Chase,  Thu Oct 22 2009, 07:50
#11 Consider the age of the house.

The older a house the more maintenance it is likely to need. If the plumbing is 40+ years old you know it will not last forever. Septic systems also have limited lifetimes. Do you really think a 15 year old roof will last another 10 years? Do not count on it.

Look at the electrical system. Is it modern or is it so old and outdated it could actually be a fire hazard? How old are the heating and a/c systems? Look at the appliances (if included) If these are over 10 years of age (perhaps less) it means they gobble energy compared to todays models. It is often cheaper to trash an older furnace than it is to use it.

What are the walls made of? 2x4, 2x6, 2x8 construction? The thicker the walls are (if insulated) the cheaper the heating will be. How thick is the insulation in the attic? What are the r-values of all the insulation in the house? Are the windows modern, are they double pane, have the special coatings that make them more energy efficient? The answers here will cost or save you a lot in years to come.

Everything I have read shows me that building a new house with foamblock (like quad lock) with concrete poured in the middle is the best building method. No air leaks, no rotting on you, no bugs eating the concrete like they can wood. A lot less outside noise is heard in the house, and did I mention that energy costs are a lot less than in a conventional house? It is said to cost about 5% more to build this way. BUT you will almost certainly save that 5% in energy costs. Some are saying you will save lots more than that in energy. I look at it more as wind-proof, bug-proof, hard to set on fire, and much quieter inside. Maintenance-wise it just looks better to me.

If you buy a very old house (pre 1970) it could still not be insulated. If it is insulated it might not be well insulated. Odds are the walls are 2x4 construction. Unless everything has been renovated already it likely will need redoing soon.

Old houses may also have asbestos, lead paint, air leaks, drafts, rot, and termite damage. Add in the fact that everything in the house is worn. The flooring, the shingles (unless just replaced), the plumbing, the furnace and everything else. I do not say to never buy an old house. I simply say make your offer much lower than a new one as you will be paying more in several ways for the old house. This includes more for house and fire insurance for a house made before the mid 90's. Give that a few years and that time frame will work. Also, be aware of how close the house is to a fire dept. That can affect rates.

Old may be gold, but old also requires more cash inputs.
By Patrizia Giassa,  Thu Oct 22 2009, 08:36
Well, there are advantages to new houses, no doubt. But in some areas they are not available or if they are they are at a huge premium. So, consider the condition and maintenance. Realize that the better the condition, the higher the value and the price. It's all a balance. Homes, even condos and new homes, always require work of some type. You can't get away from it. It's not a bad thing, just reality.
All in all, buy the house that feels like a home to you and your family.
Trish Giassa
http://www.Homes-in-Crested-Butte.com
By Charo Bhatt,  Thu Oct 22 2009, 12:16
• Make sure you have a passionate Real Estate Broker/Broker agent to navigate the process, who is going to look after your interest first.
• Interview at least two Real Estate professionals.
• Don't necessarily go for an agent who offers you some money back.
• That commission rebate looks attractive, but can cost you way more if you don't know the market place, the agents and strategies applied in today's changing and challenging word

Charo Bhatt http://www.HomesByCharo.com
By Tommy Lorden,  Thu Oct 22 2009, 13:32
I would add that you should consider how "green" your house is. Not just in terms of the energy bill and how close you are to transportation alternatives, but how healthy this new environment may be. Things like radon and mold are often discussed, but not enough people inquire about things like the materials used to construct the house and finishes and how often the carpets and air ducts have been cleaned.

Best, Tommy Lorden http://www.ColoradoCommissionRebate.com
By Drewtiger13,  Fri Oct 23 2009, 07:42
Re: Dan's post above, some of that is a little slanted...
First, a properly done septic will work fine pretty much forever, provided you don't dump a lot of chemicals down it.

while you can have some of those other problems, you may not. Homes in many cases were built far better in the 50's 60's and 70's than they are now in some regards. All of my relations live in brick ranches built 35 to 45 years ago, and I am buying one built in 1971 this month. They all are in good shape.

AND, Bonus, older homes don't have fraking HoA gestapo! Nobody is telling us what color curtains we may have, or whether we can hang a plant on the porch!
By Patty Williams,  Tue Oct 27 2009, 11:42
Here is a thought. If an older home has newer efficient appliances, replacement windows and is well cared for isn't this a" green" situation? You don't have to create a new footprint just for you. You reuse and remake an existing stucture to be productive and useful for another generation.
By Lisa Wrench,  Tue Feb 16 2010, 23:24
Their are pro's and con's to just about everything.
Dan's post about the styrofoam block walls for construction is a nice idea, but friends of mine who went through it found that it ended up being expensive and in the middle of the concrete pour their wall started to "bulge". They were very lucky to be able to save the wall in the middle of the pour, and it wasn't due to "contractor error" in setting up the foam bricks. Hint: have many extra people around and additional emergency form lumber, just in case, when you go do this kind of concrete pour.

Additionally, homes that are brand spanking new can also have lots of environmental hazards for those who are sensitive to this kind of stuff. After about 10 years, that stuff has pretty much outgassed.

Energy efficient stuff is great, yes, but new new new is not always great great great. Some of the building materials that are "new" - like the technology that used poly tubing for in-floor radiant water heat (early 90's innovation) is found to fail about 10 years after it starts into use. I know folks who were sure unhappy when that "new technology" ended up failing in their slabs. It's nice to give construction ideas a chance to weather a few years of actual field testing before jumping on their bandwagon.
By Michael Russell,  Sat Apr 10 2010, 10:25
I love your point, Patty about creating a new footprint. There is no such thing as the perfect house just the money to overcome the problems. This is one reason why I advise buyers to not "max" out what they can spend on housing. In some cases, potential buyers should just be patient, save up more and wait until they are positioned better to purchase a house. Location cannot be overstaed, I mean when gas is $4 a gallon if you can shave off several minutes of your commute to work isn't that worthwhile?
By Peter Bennett,  Wed Jun 16 2010, 15:42
Tip No. 11
There is no perfect home. Period. At least I have not found one in NJ.
So be prepared to manage your emotions and think logically.

New construction and old, there will always be problems because the homes are typically constructed simpletons who can't or won't read the manufacturer's installation manuals. Put on the coffee, and just Google new construction problems/nightmare.
By Kelly,  Thu Jul 8 2010, 02:59
I love old growth trees. I've found : new homes offer nice, clean, updated living spaces with new ideas but no landscaping, very small lots and no trees. old homes offer time-tested materials and ideas, larger lots, landscaping and old growth trees for lots of shade from the hot Texas sun. I wish I could afford the custom homes I've seen...you get the best of both worlds: new home with landscaping and the original trees. Unfortunately, they're WAY out of my price range! I don't understand why builders can't consider the landscape and existing trees when planning new subs. It makes for a much better looking neighborhood and it's more cost effective for the homeowner to have shade around the house.
By Sean Farley,  Fri Nov 26 2010, 06:34
This is an excellent "How To" on steps to consider prior to home purchase and when you begin your search. Looking at Step "Buying What You Can Afford," I had a client whose debt ratios were already home, and she only had her income to make the monthly payments. The town home she was looking at had all the spoils she wanted...3BR, 2bath, granite counter tops, a balcony. But it also came with 10K in taxes and 500 per month in maintenance. I advised her that this was not the community for her as even with 20% down, she was $300 past her stretch point. While this was a great disappointment for her, she appreciated the dose of reality and the fact that she would not potentially be put in hardship in a couple years.
It is our ethical charge to protect our clients best interests and advising our clients of pending risk is vital.
Looking at the rest of this article, I leave with one strategy ...ask your client what they like in a home, but more importantly ask them "Why" it is important. All buyers needs and desires vary, and approaching them with a one size fits all approach can cause frustration and long searches for a home.
By Fran Rokicki,  Sat Feb 26 2011, 12:41
I show my clients, three to four homes, each time we meet. When you walk in that special home, you will know! It may take three homes or it may take twenty. Only you will know when you walk in the door, if this is your dream home.
By Julie,  Thu Mar 31 2011, 06:49
honestly i am looking for a home and would never consider a new one. it or they have no character at all. They are more so in my opinion just a place for shelter than a home. I rent a old home and it has issues beyond what I am willing to fork out or the lanlord so time to move on. Sad thing is my husbands grandfathher built this and it has been left to ruin. I agree with new home are left with no yards trees or anything but muddy messes for the buyer to try and get grass to grow.
By Shawn Ryan Rosa,  Tue Dec 13 2011, 11:05
excellent article. most important, only buy what you can afford
By Gayla Roggie,  Wed Jan 25 2012, 08:19
Rreally good article! When looking for the "perfect home" remember you an change somethings about the home but you cant change it's location. So if you really like a house and its location but there are a few things holding you back ask yourself if these are something that I can change eventually if it is an issue. Sometimes, after living in a space for awhile, you find out it isn't as bad as you thought or works out fine.
By Daniel Malkinski,  Thu Feb 16 2012, 12:22
I am looking to buy a house in approx. a 10 months. Is it too early to start looking at houses?
By Adrian Provost,  Mon Feb 27 2012, 17:01
Great tips.. Daniel, it isn't too early to begin realizing what you want in a home, just recognize that plenty of the homes that you like will be off of the market 10 months from now.
By Matie,  Mon Jun 4 2012, 06:59
I think the best way to find a dream house is to listen to you heart. Experience that the choise is made in 30 sec after review of the house
By Mary Ann Kelley,  Thu Aug 9 2012, 23:22
I'm glad I took the time to read this. It's practical, sound advice - very helpful when one is new to home buying, and possibly even to the veteran buyer. Knowing just this little bit of information will save me a bunch of time from the start (to finish) - from the looking to the buying.. You've got a new fan here on this site. Thanks again.
By lacreek99,  Tue Aug 28 2012, 15:26
Thank you all for your insight. I am looking to buy a home in the near future and now I have some questions to ask myself as I look. You have brought up points that I didn't think about. Thank you.
By Jonathon Anderson,  Sun Nov 25 2012, 15:53
Good article, thanks for posting it.
By Jhon Castillo,  Sat Jul 6 2013, 08:22
I think these are great tips!
By inesminaya,  Mon Aug 12 2013, 07:59
Great Ideas!
By inesminaya,  Mon Aug 12 2013, 08:01
These are great ideas for first time home buyers like me.
By Dianne Sylvester,  Thu Aug 15 2013, 15:54
Before you buy, research to find the right real estate agent!
An experienced agent will assist you in making the right decision.
A bad decision can be very costly.
By Jerry Pinkas,  Tue Mar 4 2014, 11:39
Great steps to consider prior to home purchase. The real estate expert is going to look after the best interests of their client. Potential buyers should just be patient, don't over leverage and save up more until they are positioned to purchase a house. The local expert in your market is dedicated to informing their clients on how to be a pro in the local real estate market and avoid common pitfalls that are costly. This is the skilled real estate pro who is in demand!
Jerry Pinkas
http://www.jprealestateexperts.com
By Sandys5324,  Sun Apr 13 2014, 10:17
the real estate agent selling the home is not looking out for my interests the buyer. What do I need to do to protect myself? I will have a home inspection, so how do I find one who will actually do his or her job well and not skim over it and leave me with a money pit?
By judgeysan,  Wed Apr 30 2014, 21:27
Very good tip's , i like what gentlemen said I like the old home with more space
And mature trees, and the budget I can live with!
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There is no perfect home.
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Where is the money coming from? High interest rate credit cards? Home Depot or Lowes credit cards?

We are a specialty general contractor who focuses on a very tight niche. We ONLY do repairs/renovations that are part of a home purchase. We ONLY work with home buyers, lenders, and real estate agents. We ONLY work with FHA 203k, HomePath, HomeStyle, and Escrow Repair Loans.

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By lewisremington19,  Fri Dec 19 2014, 13:49
Thanks for the tips! I think it's really important for a buyer to buy within their price range. So many home-buyers aren't paying close enough attention to budget. It makes it hard to feel comfortable in a new home when you are constantly worried about not being able to afford it.
By Mark Saunders,  Tue Feb 3 2015, 10:27
Great comment lewis don't be house rich and cash poor
By Rachel Benson,  Tue Feb 10 2015, 20:11
Your advice to purchase what you can afford is great advice. It is so easy to look at homes and fall in love with something out of your price range. It seems like it a good idea to make sure you can afford your home and the lifestyle you want to live. I would hate to purchase a beautiful home and then realize I can't afford to participate in the activities I enjoy. http://ebhproperties.com
By seansimons15,  Thu Feb 19 2015, 10:11
I like your idea of leaving room to grow. My in-laws recently bought a house that many would say was too big for them. However, they saw it is a gathering place for many grandchildren in the near future. Thinking about what your life will look like down the road is one of the keys to buying a home.



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By lewisremington19,  Mon Mar 9 2015, 12:29
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By Davey Hiltz,  Fri Mar 27 2015, 15:15
I like the seventh tip. You have to always consider what will be "home" to you, and not just a place to live in. We've had to learn the hard way about tip number 2. We thought it was a nice cozy apartment, that was until we had kids. That changes some things and requires a lot more space, and that is why we're looking for a house right now.
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By seansimons15,  Thu Apr 9 2015, 07:49
I like your point about buying what you can afford. I particularly like that you say it is better to buy a home that you can easily afford than one you have to stretch to get into. This will allow you to save money, and possibly even pay off the home more quickly. That way, if you want to upgrade later, you will be in a better position to do so.


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By csimonerivers,  Sun Apr 19 2015, 20:22
My family just moved to the DMV after 10 years in Germany. We are looking for a home. We are having such an awful time of it. Home prices are ridiculous here, and we are at the top of our budge ($600K) with very little house. These tips are great, but what of being in a market that is just inflated. What do you do to find a home you can afford in an area that supports the rearing of your children with decent educations? I have built a home in FL and Stuttgart, Germany. This process to buy resale or to build here is far, far, far worse than we could have ever imagined.
By Serge Duval,  Thu Apr 23 2015, 11:21
These are a lot of great tips for home searching. I agree that you need to be flexible. It's important to have a basic understanding of what things you're looking for in a home, but it's also important to be open to different things when they present themselves. Thanks for the article!
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By 12cherylsmith104,  Thu Sep 24 2015, 14:43
Whenever I'm thinking about purchasing a home, I always consider leaving room for growth. Who knows what will happen in the future. Having a little extra space keeps my mind at ease.
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By Jason Libert,  Mon Oct 19 2015, 23:37
I always like to advise my clients to put down in writing all the "criteria" of what their "perfect" home will have before we start looking. That way when we find a home that meets their ideal criteria, we are able to evaluate it with a clear mind and make the best decision possible. It is always fun getting caught up in the emotion of buying a new house, however the same emotional roller coaster can also do havoc on your judgement process. Think about it ahead of time, write it out and you will know when you have found it!
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By Bob,  Mon Dec 21 2015, 10:45
Thank you for the post! This is very sound advice for when you decide to start looking at houses. I myself am looking to purchase a new home and I will be sure to keep these tips in mind when I look at another home on the market.

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By Brownkyler555,  Wed Feb 10 2016, 10:30
My wife and I are looking for a new home together, and I really appreciated these tips. It makes perfect sense to me leave room for growth, but for some reason I hadn't even considered that yet. Thanks for sharing these tips, as this has come in very handy for us. http://crookedtreepreserve.com
By Aspenbowen323,  Mon Feb 29 2016, 20:26
I like what you said about leaving room to grow. My husband and I are looking for a home to well and in the future, we would like to have kids. I think it would be smart to buy a home that we could stay in that has enough space for more people. Thanks for sharing! http://www.findbrainerdareahomes.com/content/cpvlzzzt218sj75c/about-brainerd-real-estate/
By Mwatson2211,  Thu Mar 3 2016, 18:19
You make a great point about checking the surroundings before you buy a home. I would think that it is important to make sure that you like the neighborhood you are moving into. I also assume that it is beneficial to look into what other amenities are in the surrounding area. My husband and I are thinking about buying a home so we will have to make sure we think about the kinds of things we would want to have close by. http://jimedgeworth.com/
By Calliemarie053,  Thu Mar 3 2016, 18:37
I really enjoy the suggestion of leaving room to grow. Although I may not have a family at the moment, I really am excited to find the perfect home. I assume that many real estate agents are up for the challenge to help me find my dream home. http://buysellbarrie.com/
By Jamess.bergman,  Tue Mar 15 2016, 07:24
I think your tips are great and am a fan of looking at some older homes as well as the newer ones. In fact, I would often lean toward getting a lived in home. They just feel more comfortable to me. Anyway, no matter what you buy, always get an inspection done first. Especially for an older home. If everything from the foundation up checks out, then you can be confident you are buying a great home. http://www.basementrx.com/foundation-repair
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By Boblowe3434,  Fri Apr 22 2016, 16:27
Thanks for the post. I really like the idea to choose a home that will meet your needs as life changes. My wife and I bought a smaller house when we first got married. Now we have two kids and feel like were running out of space. I also like the idea to build on later if you need to. I think that might be the option for us since we have quite a bit of land. http://www.deeevans.com/Community-Information/Rockwall-Texas.aspx
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By Jessie4harrison,  Tue May 3 2016, 13:48
My family is small and my husband and I are still planning to grow our family. Leaving roof to grow is a great tip. You don't want to buy a small house and then have to move again after having another kid. Though, being flexible might be something I will have to work on. http://www.atrealestatespecialists.com/featured-listings/
By Sarahsmithboost,  Mon May 16 2016, 15:39
My husband and I are thinking about buying a new house. I love the advice about buying a home with the intent on needing to grow. I'll have to make sure to keep your list in mind as we look at houses. http://www.macalusorealty.com/listing/listingsearch.aspx
By Anniefrances22,  Tue May 24 2016, 15:35
I really like your tip to go for your type of house for sale. I have always pictured myself raising a family in a standard suburban home. My husband agrees so that's what we're looking for right now. Great article, thanks! http://www.tracybrophy.com/featured-searches/beaverton-or/
By Panchocham1,  Tue May 31 2016, 07:32
My wife and I have been looking to buy our first home, and we'll be sure to use your advice when making a decision. I'll make sure that we choose a home that is in the right location, close to schools and our jobs. I'll also choose a home that I can see myself in for a while. That way it can be convenient for my wife and me, and we can be sure we choose a home that we'll be in for a while.

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