Your Home Buying Scorecard - Find Out What You Really Want

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Buying a home is a confusing process.  Not only is there a lot of material to process, you really have to do a lot of introspection to find the home that's right for you and your family.  It's more than just window treatments and square footage, there's something else too.

Irish poet Thomas Moore may have captured that little bit of something else best when he wrote these words:

Sometimes the spirit of a place is so strong, you may think you see its face and glimpse it gamboling over a field or peeking out of a forest.  This spirit we sense in each locality would once have been described as the scintilla or spark of its soul, the pearl in the oyster.  It accounts for the magic of a region, and, without it, an acute sense of place dissipates into a vague and lazy feeling of nowhere.

Maybe you haven't started your home search yet, so you've yet to experience this strange phenomenon, or maybe you've seen a few homes already and they just didn't strike you.  Either way, ity's important to take stock of what it is that really moves you so that you can narrow down your list of prospective homes and find the perfect fit sooner or later. 

Home is Where the Investment Is?

Home buyers hould never think of their primary home as an investment first, but you should keep in mind that you might need to sell one day.  Because of that, you need to think a little bit like an investor and a little bit like a love-struck teenager.  It's ok to be a little of both, but before you step foot into a single house, figure out where you need to buy.

If you live in a large metro area, this may mean narrowing it down to within a few suburbs or choosing some urban neighborhoods that you really feel drawn to (and are holding their value).  Some people go one step further and narrow it down by schools, especially if they have children.  Even people without kids can benefit from the extra value good schools bring to the immediate neighborhoods surrounding them.

Now that you've narrowed down the initial list, you can create a checklist to help you decide what it is that you want in a house so you don't waste your time with homes where you'll never feel the spirit of the home.  When meeting with a real estate professional, relay your list to them, so they can search for homes that meet your exact home buying criteria.  A good real estate agent will listen to your needs, and not waste your time showing you homes that don't meet your criteria.

Your Home Buying Scorecard

This exercise is meant to help focus your home search, but you should also realize that it's highly unlikely you'll be able to get everything you want out of one house without an incredible budget or very low standards.  Therefore, it's important for you to prioritize what you need in a home versus what you want.

When shopping for a home, it's useful to start your search online for homes in your price range to see what sort of features they usually have.  For example, if a $250,000 home in your area tends to have a fireplace, a pool or a two car garage, you know you can reasonably expect that.  You'll probably also realize about 20 houses in that your expectation of a private movie theatre or acreage is a little out of reach.

Grab a piece of paper and draw four columns.  Label them:  Definitely Need, Want, Can Live Without and Definitely Don't Want.  If you have a spouse or other person you're buying with, make sure they make their own scorecard - no sharing answers, please.  Now for the really hard part.  You need to fill those columns in.  

This isn't an exercise you should finish in 5 or 10 minutes.  You should spend a good week or two really working on it.  Think deeply and about the long term.  A few questions you may want to ask yourself include:

  • Do I intend to age in place?  In this case, you may want to put stairs in your "don't want" column, since it can be difficult to navigate them as you get older.
  • Am I planning to start a family or is my family growing?  You'll want a bigger house.  Maky sure there are enough bedrooms for all your future children.
  • Is there a certain style of house that I'm attracted to? Open floor plans are big right now, but they're not for everybody.  If you hate them (or love them), write it down!
  • Would I use a fireplace if I had one?  Fireplaces can be nice, but they also can be huge pains to maintain and keep safe.  If you won't be using it, you might as well not pay extra for a house that features one.
  • Do I have pets or plan to have petsd?  Hard surfaces are a must for pet owners. Carpet is cleanable, but will never hold up like tile, hardwood or laminate flooring when pets are involved.
  • How close can I tolerate my neighbors?  For many people, it's no big deal to be very close to the next house, but for others it gets downright uncomfortable.  If you need room to roam, a cul-de-sac or other irregularly shaped lot may give you some much needed room without the added expense and upkeep of buying acreage.

As you start to take inventory of your actual wants and needs, you'll also be eliminating huge groups of homes in single blows.  This makes your home search a lot easier, believe it or not.  Don't narrow down so much that only one house will do, but do spend some time really thinking about your perfect home.

When your scorecard feels pretty comfortable, make sure to compare notes with your spouse or significant other (wait until they're done, of course).  You may have some compromising to do, especially if you're dead set on a house with a pool and they want a small yard with nothing in it.  With all of the details decided, you can finally call your Realtor and let them know what you want!  They'll appreciate the time and effort you've taken to do your homework ahead of time.  It will make the home buying process less stressful for all involved.  

Your Next Stop:  Home Inspections and Repairs

Once you have chosen the perfect home, the one where you feel the spirit of the place tugging at your sleeve, and your offer has been accepted, you'll need a good home inspector and someone to make whatever minor repairs they may recommend.  Your real estate professional works with many home inspectors and handymen, and they can often refer you to someone who is an expert in their field.

For more information on the home buying process, feel free to call us at (813) 359-0880

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