What Do You Want in a Home? Ask Yourself These Questions

What Do You Want in a Home? Ask Yourself These Questions (Source: pexels.com - used as royalty free image)

When it comes time to start hunting for your first home, sometimes the process can be a little overwhelming. Questions abound:

What can I actually get within my budget? How long will it take? What do I really want in a home?

The most important step that a first-time homebuyer can take is to build out a list of their wants and needs. Once you have these guidelines in place, it then becomes easier to prioritize the features that you "can't live without" from the ones that "would be nice," helping you set your limits for what you are and are not willing to compromise on when looking at homes.  

Be prepared to see this list grow and change as you go through the process. And be forewarned that almost all prospective homebuyers will not get everything they want on their list within their budget; compromise has always been a key cornerstone of buying a new home. 

So, ready to start the process of identifying your wants and needs? Looking to turn your dream home into a reality? With our thanks to Zillow for some inspiration, here are the four steps that will help you establish what kind of home you're looking for:

Stage 1: The "Dreaming" Phase

As you begin the search for a new home, you'll start discovering what sorts of home elements you enjoy. Embrace the chance to dream and discover! Explore listings in your local area, real estate magazines, Pinterest - see what your options are, and don't be afraid to think big. As you develop your own taste, you'll be able to start solidifying what it is you must have in a home, what you would like to have, and what would be a bonus to have.

You won't necessarily come out of this stage with the most concrete and realistic wish list, and that's fine; you will have to face the true reality of the market soon enough. Taking some time to do your "dreaming" upfront, though, will grant you a fairly fleshed out list to work with at the very beginning, allowing you to spend your time more wisely when you actually do begin your boots-on-the-ground search.

Stage 2: The "Preparation" Phase

Now that you're excited, more confident, and ready to start looking in earnest, it's important that you find a professional real estate agent to work with. An agent will work as your negotiator during this entire process, and it is important that you can trust your real estate team by asking the important questions and keeping your eyes peeled for red flags

One other important part of the prep phase? You'll also want to get a bank pre-approval before you step out onto the market. Sellers fully expect evidence that a buyer will actually be able to get a mortgage on the purchase of their home. Generally they will not look at an offer unaccompanied by a pre-approval. If the home moves fast, or you're in a multiple offer situation, and you haven't done this, you'll find yourself out of luck.

Perhaps even more importantly, sometimes surprises are discovered in the pre-approval process, and you learn that your price range isn't what you thought it was. The risk here is (a) spending lots of time looking at homes you cannot buy, and (b) falling in love with a property that simply isn't a candidate.

Stage 3: The Game

You've got your team lined up and you're ready to start looking at properties, so it's time to consider the two biggest pieces of the puzzle: the price and the location. This is the criteria that will drive your search and help provide target regions to pull in listings that will fit your needs.

Price is the #1 criteria, which, we've found, will typically end up trumping all other factors at the end of the day. It's important that you know where you can afford to live, and what features that potential home can realistically contain. Once you've worked with your mortgage and real estate professionals to evaluate your buying power, you may well have to reevaluate your dream list from stage one to make your search criteria more realistic and productive. 

Location, in our experience, can be a close second to price. While a home may be taken away, a location never can. What do we mean? Understanding your need to live in an area will affect how willing you'll be to compromise on a home within that location; for instance, having a hard-and-fast dedication to one Chicago neighborhood has caused many buyers to purchase a home that is in need of some alterations, rather than opting for the slightly better property in a less-desired area. 

Determine your wants, needs, and limits when it comes to price and location above all else, and you'll be ready to hit the market.

Stage 4: The "Compromising" Phase

Almost every buyer we have ever worked with finds him or herself here, is surprised to find themselves in here, and expresses their frustration as some variation of:

"Why couldn't that home with the [insert desired feature] be on that block [in the most desired location]?"  

The answer? Because the home would cost substantially more money at the intersection of those two desirables. No matter your price range, buying a home is always a compromise.

Now that you and your agent have started looking at homes with your price, location, and wish list in hand, you may find yourself in the position where compromises need to be made. Maybe you'll find that size is more important to you than location, or that location is more important to you, in the end, than having that third bedroom.

In other words, now is the time to see if your "must-haves" really are must-haves, or if there are other factors that get more seniority.

Try to think ahead - are your top priorities of today really, truly must-haves... or are they priorities for a few years from now? Would it make more sense to get the 3-bedroom house down the road when you do have children later or need a home office?

It isn't easy to make these decisions, but making them is essential. Adopting the right frame of mind and being pragmatic will save you time and effort, which would otherwise be wasted chasing properties that don't suit your actual needs.

Looking to start your home search? Need some help getting started? Don't hesitate to drop the Real Group team a line. We're here and alway happy to help set you down the right path to home buying success. 

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