Don’t Just Buy a House: How to Choose a Home

April 12, 2013 | By | 17 Replies More

how to choose a home

Could this be “the one”?

Do you know how to choose a home that really suits you? Is it a feeling you get or is it a matter of simple requirements that must be met?

Years ago, my husband and I decided to casually look for another home and move only if we found the “right” place.

This was, at first, mostly Rob’s idea. I had moved, on average, every three years since college, and I was not anxious to do it again. When we got married, I sold my place and moved into Rob’s house, so the idea of choosing a house together appealed to both of us.

And, the man wanted a pool. While many people would run from a house with a pool to avoid the maintenance, it so happens that cleaning a pool will be right up Rob’s alley. It appeals to his slightly obsessive nature when it comes to cleanliness. I wanted a large sunny space suitable for growing food.

Online searches of houses in our price range yielded a lot of very ugly, poorly-maintained houses. We weren’t about to shy away from a fixer-upper. But, in the right neighborhoods, even they were scarce.  Then, one week when I was away on business, he went to look at a place. Two weeks later, we were under contract and two weeks after that, we closed on the property.

backyard with pool

Our dream yard!

So, what was it that made this place “the one” for us, rising above the hundreds of other houses we’d seen online or in person? What we learned in our search led us to what we think is our forever home, and you can do it too.

How to Choose a Home

1.  Location, location, location! You can change many things about a house, but you can’t change the neighborhood. Pick a neighborhood that fits the lifestyle you want. For example, we are both over 40 with no intentions of having children, so we were keenly aware of backyard playsets and treehouses during our search. Not that kids aren’t great, but we were looking for a quiet, calm setting that would match our desired lifestyle. We ruled out a couple of places because the surrounding houses looked badly in need of maintenance or had disabled cars parked in the driveway. To us, that says a lot about the neighborhood. Specifically, it says, “Don’t buy here!”

2.  Have a vision. Look beyond ugly paint colors, carpeting, and furniture. Not everyone understands the importance of staging a home for sale, and some people just think their ugly stuff is the cat’s pajamas. So, deal with it. It’s their home, not yours. Once it becomes yours, the dated furniture, dust-collecting figurines, and creepy doll collections will be out of there. If you’re not afraid to open a can of paint or pull up some carpet, you’ll reap the rewards by having a blank canvas to create your own look and feel.

3.  Bring a contractor. Bring an expert with you for a second look at a house you like. Remember that vision stuff? It applies to other things like the layout of the house, kitchens and bathrooms. For instance, we like the charm of older homes, but the layouts can be “choppy” with smaller rooms. When our contractor told us that it would be easy to take down a couple of walls here and there to create a more functional space, we started to consider the house more seriously. Without his expertise, we would have missed the potential of our new home.

kitchen and dining room open space

To get an open space, we removed the wall in the kitchen.

4.   Invest wisely. When you buy a home, you and your mortgage lender will look at “comps”, or the values of comparable homes near the one you want to buy. If you decide on a fixer-upper and you want to invest $25,000 in renovations, add that amount to the sale price and see if it matches up with the comps. You don’t want to have $400,000 invested in a home if others around you are selling for $250,000.

5.   Focus on the positive. Don’t get hung up on the fact that the bathroom doesn’t have a double vanity, but focus instead on what the house does have that can contribute to the lifestyle you want. When we looked at our new home, we tried to “divorce” the house itself from the outdoor space for an objective evaluation. But, we couldn’t. When we considered the sparkling pool, stunning landscape full of specimen plantings, and the huge sunroom overlooking best online casino bonus it all, we knew we had to have this house. We spend so much time outdoors and enjoy frequent “staycations” so for us, these features far outweigh the small bedrooms upstairs or the lack of garage.

6.   Don’t ignore your gut. Some houses we toured just felt cold. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go visit a home that was abandoned in a foreclosure and has sat vacant for many months. Other homes, for reasons unknown, had a different vibe. They felt like happiness had lived there, and we should too.

The warm fuzzies matter! Pay attention to them.

7.   Be patient. It took us more than a year, and that’s all I have to say about that.

What are your “must-have” and “nice-to-have” attributes in a new home?

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Category: Enviable Ideas, General, Home and Garden

Comments (17)

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  1. cindi says:

    very good advice Brande. Thanks

  2. Denise says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience–very helpful! And I agree about the vibes a place can have too.

  3. Maggie Allen says:

    I really like your idea of bringing a contractor with you to help you know if you’re getting a good house. Like you said, a contractor can really help you see just how great the house can be. In my opinion, a real estate agent can help in a similar way. Since they’ve seen a lot of homes, I am sure that they can give some good tips as well.

    • Brande says:

      Hi Maggie – thanks for following and your comments! We relied on our contractor to not only help us see the potential of our home but to let us know if our vision was possible. Sometimes it’s not possible to knock out walls or make other structural changes, and that’s where their expertise is uniquely valuable.

  4. George says:

    I’ve been looking for 3 1/2 years and did pass on only one home that might have worked. Not having family or close friends makes decisions on a “last” home extremely difficult so I’m still renting.

  5. You mentioned that when choosing a home, you should focus on the positive, and what the house does have that can contribute to the lifestyle you want. My sister is looking for a new home and has been struggling to find one just right for her. I’ll definitely tell her to focus on the positives and to keep an open mind. Thanks for the great tips.

    • Brande says:

      It’s all about the vision! When we found our home, it left MUCH to be desired but it had enough positives that we could envision ourselves living as we wanted to right here. After a lot of work, we are very happy here. Best of luck to your sister in her search.

  6. Thank you for all this great information about choosing a house! One thing that I never thought of was that you say to make sure that you invest wisely in the house. It would be nice to know that you aren’t going to lose much if something goes wrong.

  7. Scott Adams says:

    I like that you suggested finding a neighborhood that fits your own lifestyle. I have been looking for a new house with my wife, because we are planning on having kids. I can see how for us, it would be good to find somewhere that has parks for kids nearby.

  8. I like how you pointed out that location is extremely important since you want a neighborhood that fits the lifestyle you want. My wife and I are looking at buying a home, but it is our first time. We’ll be sure to spend plenty of time looking at the area we’d like to move into so as to ensure we don’t end up regretting our decision.

  9. Steele says:

    I liked that you say that when choosing a home we should not ignore our guts and if you don’t feel like living in this house in the future, forget about buying it if you don’t want to feel uncomfortable there for a lot of time. Also, I do agree that having a vision of what you want might be quite handy and creating a “mood board” will help you a lot. My brother is looking for a new house and I will definitely advise him to make a collage of his “dream home” so that he knows exactly what kind of house he wants. Thanks for the tips!

  10. I do agree that homes are investments, so we should pick wisely. My family is planning to move soon and we’ll take your tips into account, and we’ll do try to seek aid from professionals too. Thanks for the wonderful tips!

  11. Gloria Durst says:

    I agree that you need to consider how long it will take to find the right home. It would be good to be patient and allow yourself to find a good place. You would also want to inspect the neighborhood to make sure that it is right for you.

  12. Bringing a contractor would surely help with envisioning the layout of your future home. I’ll be sure to keep your tips in mind while choosing our new home. Thanks for the sharing!

  13. My mother is no longer interested in staying in the old family home and wants to move out. She is looking at some Hill Country homes but wants some tips. I will let her know to be patient and look till she is satisfied.

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