10 Things to Look for When Buying Your First Home

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living room with abundant light
 The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 

If you’re thinking about buying a home, this list can help to get your search off on the right foot. While the number of rooms, the condition of the kitchen, and the size of the yard are important, there are other factors to think over before you make an offer and move. Here’s what to look for when buying a home.

1. The Location

They say the three most important things to think about when buying a home are location, location, location. You can change almost everything else, but you can’t change your home’s location. So when you go house hunting, consider proximity to your work, how the home is situated on the lot, ease of access, noise from neighbors, and traffic. Also think about access to parks, shopping, schools, and public transportation.

2. The Site

Beyond location, look at the site of the home. If the home is on a hill, does it have a view, a walkout basement, or lots of stairs to climb? Do neighbors’ windows look directly into the home? Is the yard suitable for kids, pets, gardening, or other uses? Is access to the property safe regarding driveway elevation or stairs to the front door? If you plan to be in the home long-term, think about how your accessibility needs might change as you age.

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3. The Neighborhood

Be sure the neighborhood, and not just the house, meets your expectations. To research a neighborhood, drive around on weekdays and weekends, during the day and in the evening. Are homes in the neighborhood consistent in size and features? Do the neighbors keep the yards clean and tidy, or are there old cars and trash around? Is the neighborhood safe enough for people to walk, run, or bike? Also, see whether it’s a child-friendly or pet-friendly neighborhood if that’s important to you.

4. The Home’s Curb Appeal

Your home should reflect your design preferences and your lifestyle. Do you live a laid-back life and not want a lot of exterior maintenance? Then, you might want to skip a formal Victorian or Tudor-style home with lots of intricate features to keep up. Consider something simpler, such as a brick home. Also, ask yourself whether the roof and any decks or patios are in good condition. And check out the landscaping to determine how much yard maintenance you’ll have to do.

5. The Size and the Floor Plan

Avoid being wowed by an extra large home or a home with a unique feature, such as a sauna, if you’ll never use the space. Determine the right size home for you, as well as your ideal floor plan, prior to house hunting, and try to stick as closely as you can to that. Remember, while extra square footage can give you that craft room, home gym, or theater room you’ve always wanted, you’ll also have to pay higher energy bills and taxes. And it will take more furniture to fill the home. So realistically consider the space and layout you’ll need for your lifestyle now and for the duration you plan to stay in the home.

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6. The Bedrooms and Bathrooms

Decide how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need, and only look at homes that meet your criteria. It would be a shame to fall in love with a cozy, charming cottage that isn’t big enough. Don’t just assume you’ll be able to add more square footage later. Be sure to consult an architect who can advise you on space planning, lot usage, and city regulations. Think about who will be living in your home now and who might be in the future. If there’s the potential that you’ll have kids, take in relatives, or find roommates, factor that into your bedroom and bathroom count.

7. The Kitchen

If the kitchen is the heart of your home, don’t settle for one you don’t love. Kitchen remodels can be costly and time-consuming. Sure, many people prefer to go the remodeling route to get exactly what they want. But if the home is already at the top of your budget, that might mean you’ll have to wait a long time for your dream kitchen and live with something you hate. However, if the kitchen just needs some minor upgrades, such as new appliances, to suit your needs, it could be worth considering.

8. The Closets and Storage

Older homes tend to have small closets and not a lot of storage space overall. So if you have lots of sports equipment, craft supplies, out-of-season clothes, and holiday decorations, be sure to clock where all of it might be stored as you’re house hunting. Because newer homes tend to have ample storage space, you might want to start by only looking at them. You can always add storage space, but that might mean sacrificing some living space, such as turning a bedroom into a closet.

9. The Windows and Lighting

Check out the views from the windows and how much natural light they let in. Look especially at the views and lighting from the windows in living spaces where you’ll spend most of your daylight hours. You don’t want to be staring at the side of your neighbor’s house all day or have to turn on an artificial light because your room isn’t bright enough. Furthermore, note where there are built-in light fixtures and outlets in each room. You can always add artificial lighting and outlets later, but it’s nice to have that in place when you move in.

10. The Finishing Touches

Sometimes the simplest home looks spectacular thanks to the details, such as the trim and hardware. Custom window treatments that will remain with the home also can be a selling point, as can a stylish fireplace. Plus, tech updates, such as a smart thermostat or a home security system, can be a huge draw. If elements like these are important to you, look for them while house hunting or be ready to add them after you move in.

If you keep these specific elements of a home in mind, your house hunting will be more successful, and you could end up with the home of your dreams.

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