Thinking of purchasing a new home, but have no idea where to start? There are several decisions you should begin to make before you even start your home search. Purchasing a home should be an exciting and enjoyable experience. By asking yourself the right questions up front, you can quickly begin to narrow down your search, saving you time, stress and ultimately resulting in a successful home buy.
What’s your budget? See how your finances stand up to the 28/36 rule, which lenders use to see what you can afford to pay each month. The rule states that a household should spend a maximum of 28% of its gross monthly income on total housing expenses and no more than 36% on total debt service. But, this isn’t something you have to do on your own. A lender can help you comb through your finances and determine what you can afford. He/she will provide you with a pre-qualification letter, which the seller will likely require a copy of at the time you submit an offer.
What do you need in your new home? How many bedrooms or bathrooms do you need? What about a large kitchen, a home office or a playroom for the kids? How many cars need covered parking? It’s critically important to ensure the home you select meets your family and lifestyle needs.
What type of home do you want – single family, town home, condo, etc? Townhomes and condos typically come with less maintenance. Often times the HOA will oversee landscaping and building upkeep (i.e., roof, siding, etc) saving you from the hassle of maintenance and large expenses. However, nothing is for free. You are more likely to run into more expensive HOA fees in townhome or condo communities. Single family homes tend to have more privacy and you have a greater freedom to do what you want (although keep in mind that if there is an HOA, there are guidelines you still have to follow). A single family home will come with full responsibility for maintenance.
How do you feel about living under covenants? Depending on where you buy, you may have to pay homeowner association (HOA) fees in addition to your mortgage. There are benefits to HOAs, such as maintenance, community centers, and maybe even a pool or gym. But you also could be faced with more restrictive rules about the look of the outside of your home, down to the color of your front door, types of window coverings, and whether you can plant flowers in your yard.
What school district do you want to be near? Even if you don’t have children in the house, local schools will affect your property value. Prospective homebuyers tend to search with education in mind. Do your research on the schools in the areas you’d like to live in.
Should the home be move-in ready? Ask yourself how much elbow grease you’re willing to put into a home – or how much you’ll pay someone else to do the work. Fixer-upper homes can be great after the work is done, but you’ll want to figure out your renovation budget before you start your home search. A 203k home-renovation loan might be the right resource for you. If you’re not ready for the extra financial commitment of rehabbing a home, or you can’t or don’t want to wait for remodeling projects to finish up, then a home that’s move-in ready might be right for you.
If you have any questions or if you’re ready to start the home buying process, contact me today. I look forward to hearing from you.