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16 Tips for Finding Your First Home

As a first-time home buyer, there’s a lot to consider when choosing the right home for your needs—the cost, the current housing market, and even what lies ahead in your future. But how do you figure out which house is best for you? Here are 16 things to keep in mind when searching for your first home!

Stay in Your Price Range

After establishing yourself as a serious buyer and getting pre-approved for a mortgage, you should figure out what you can comfortably afford. Then, give yourself a margin slightly below and slightly above your range in case your perfect home is just outside of your initial budget. Once you’ve determined your price range, it’s important that you stick to it—the last thing you want is to choose a house that’s too expensive, leaving little else for bills, food, and fun.

Trust Your Real Estate Agent

Woman shakes hands with real estate agent during client meeting. Photo by Instagram User @ruscarlosyvr

Photo via @ruscarlosyvr

Once you’ve found your real estate agent, utilize their expertise. After all, they’re dedicated to helping you find the right home, so questions are to be expected—especially as a first-time home buyer. Your realtor can help you understand the current market, estimate closing costs, navigate the sea of paperwork, negotiate home prices, and even provide ideas for renovations or solutions to problems you see in a house.

Use Your Resources

Don’t just rely on one source of information for your home search! You can watch home buying shows to discover what kinds of housing styles you like, what features you should look for in a home, and even what kinds of questions you can ask your real estate agent. You can also check out multiple listing sites like Redfin, Realtor.com, and Zillow to get an idea of the homes for sale in your local area.

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Figure Out What Type of House You Want

There’s no one-size-fits-all house. There are pros and cons to different housing types, so exploring all of your options is a good way to find what’s best for you. Whether you’re looking for a smaller home with less maintenance like a condo or a more customizable option like a detached home, knowing what types of homes you’re interested in makes it that much easier to narrow down your search.

Consider Buying a New Build…

Interest in newly built homes is on the rise, and it’s easy to see why! With a new build, you don’t have to worry about existing damage like old siding or a leaky roof. New construction is also generally more energy efficient and move-in ready, so you won’t need to make a ton of upgrades right off the bat. You can even work with contractors to build a custom home that fits what you need. And, of course, there’s the bonus of owning a home that no one else has lived in!

…or Look into Resale Homes

New doesn’t always mean better. There are benefits to buying a resale home, including the likelihood of getting more house for less money and being in a desirable area. Plus, you can find unique features like stained glass, wainscoting, and laundry chutes, giving these lived-in homes some extra character. When looking at resale homes, know that they’ll be in different conditions. Turnkey houses are move-in ready homes that have likely been renovated, so you don’t have to worry about making major renovations. On the other hand, fixer-uppers need more repairs but are less expensive to buy, and they give you the opportunity to tailor the home to your style.

Check Out the Home’s Exterior

The curb appeal of the home will likely be the first thing you notice, so be sure to look for a design that fits your style! Have you always wanted to live in a stylish Mid-Century Modern home, a Queen Anne with intricate detail, or a farmhouse-style house? There’s a lot to consider with exterior home styles, including whether you want a ranch or two-story traditional home. But that’s not all—think about what kind of yard you want. Ask yourself if you want a big yard with lots of landscaping or if you’d rather have something more low-key.

Remember Location Is Everything

Man goes for a jog in beautiful NYC neighborhood during fall. Photo by Instagram User @emdmia

Photo via @emdmia

One of the most important factors in determining the value of a home is the location of the property. The most attractive homes are often centrally located near stores, restaurants, schools, medical centers, and major roads and interstates. You should also check what your work commute would be like from the homes you’re looking at. If you’d rather prioritize space, then you might consider a home further out with land that will appreciate in value over time.

Buy for Your Future

Couple thinks of their dream home. Photo by Instagram User @larrycookhomes

Photo via @larrycookhomes

In most cases, buying a home is a long-term investment, so you’ll want to find one that fits the needs you have now, as well as for the life you want to have 10, 15, or 20 years down the road. If you’re looking to start a family, you may want to look for a larger house with bedrooms near the master bedroom. If you’re planning on retiring in the home, it might be best to opt for a single-level home that’s easily accessible. The truth is your home is going to be part of who you are, so make sure to find one that you won’t outgrow right away.

Don’t Forget About Other Costs

Buying a house is just the first purchase in the search for a new home, so don’t spend all of your budget on the house. Think about how much you’ll have to spend to furnish, decorate, or renovate the home. Especially if you’re moving to a larger space, furnishing a house can get pretty pricey, so take this into consideration before buying something on the higher end of your price range.

Make Sure It Fits Your Household

The house you buy will be home to everyone who lives in it, whether it’s just you or others like pets and a growing family. That means everyone’s needs must be considered when choosing the right home. Is it close to necessary schools or workplaces? Do you need a yard for your animals to run around in? Is the area too traffic-heavy for little ones? Keep your household in mind when searching for your forever home!

Think About How You’ll Use It

If you have a specific vision of how you want to use your living space, try to find a house that can accommodate that. If you want a home gym, art studio, or in-home theater, look for homes with spacious basements. If you want to create a home office, library, or a playroom, look for homes with more bedrooms or good flex space options. Or maybe you see yourself hosting get-togethers in your backyard? Look for homes with enough room for an outdoor living space that you can use to entertain!

Focus on Your Must-Haves

Large laundry room with white cabinets and shiplap walls. Photo by Instagram User @houseofnavy

Photo via @houseofnavy

A lot of the house buying process is negotiation and paperwork, but when it comes to the home features you want the most, some things have to remain non-negotiable. These must-haves include basic things like the minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms your household needs, as well as the total square footage. You should also consider if you want a yard, attic, garage, or other storage space. Other things like kitchen appliances, water heater, HVAC, and laundry machines are important to add to your must-have list, too.

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Note How Much Maintenance Is Needed

Think about how much effort, time, and money you’re willing to put toward maintaining your house and the property it sits on. Having a yard means you have to regularly mow, aerate, and water. Pool maintenance requires skimming, cleaning filters, patching holes, fixing pumps, and managing chlorine levels. Often, this maintenance is something you can either invest your time and money in or pay others who provide those services. Even if the right home for you doesn’t require the outdoor maintenance that comes with a yard, you’ll still need to regularly clean the home and update appliances as they become outdated.

Look Past Current Appearances

Even if a seller has moved their decorations and furnishings out of the house, it can be difficult to see past outdated carpet, bold paint colors, unique wallpaper, and linoleum countertops. These are easy to replace and renovate. Look beyond all of these things and see what you can transform the home into, rather than let cosmetic flaws deter you from selecting the right home.

Be Patient Above All

Remember, buying a home is a long-term investment, so you need to take time to make the right decision instead of rushing to get a house. The house you’re looking for might not even be on the market when you start looking. Even when that house comes around, you might not be the only ones interested. Every home buying experience is different, so just be patient and trust that it’ll be worth it once you’re settled in your new home!

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