You’re officially ready to buy a home. Step one: Figure out what you’re actually looking for.
Whether you’re a first time home buyer or an experienced real estate pro, purchasing a house can get complicated. From combing through new listings to navigating the complexity of closing, it often feels like your move-in date is more of an “if” than “when” scenario.
Learn what to look for when buying a house to make the process a little easier — and how the team at Bungalo® can get you into your dream home even faster.
Navigating the housing market: What to prioritize
When you imagine your future home, what do you see? Is there a gorgeous kitchen, one-of-a-kind backyard patio and pristine landscaping? Or are your current qualifications simply four exterior walls and a functioning roof? If you fall into that second category, don’t stress.
There’s nothing wrong with going into your home buying search with an open mind. However, you shouldn’t ever feel like you’re settling for a house simply because it’s available. Instead, sit down and build a list that divides each home’s features into three categories:
- Must-haves: These are the features that you can’t imagine living without. If a property doesn’t have these, you won’t even consider it. For a growing family, this may mean extra bedrooms or a large, kid-friendly yard.
- Nice-to-haves: Think of these as your wants rather than your needs. You’ve always liked the idea of owning a pool, but you won’t pass up a home just because it doesn’t have one. If it does, that’s an added bonus.
- Don’t care: It may sound a little harsh, but this is an important category to consider. If a house has these features or attributes, great. If not, you can pass. For example, do you work from home? Then the distance between home and the main office isn’t really relevant.
By outlining some of your specific priorities, you can go into your home buying search with a clearer picture of what you want your future home to look like. Plus, you can save yourself the time and hassle of touring a home you’re uninterested in. At Bungalo, we try to make life a little easier by offering convenient, self-guided virtual tours that allow you to get more familiar with your options at your own pace.
Still not sure which features you actually want? That’s OK — you don’t know until you know. We’ll break down some of the most common characteristics homebuyers are often looking for.
Top in-home features
Let’s start with your home’s interior. Some overlooked features that buyers realize they want later on in their search include:
- Hardwood floors: Interested in hardwood flooring? According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), you fall into the majority alongside 81% of prospective buyers. The natural look can be easier to maintain and more durable than carpeting.
- Central air: Depending on where you live, central air might need to be included on your must-have list. This is especially true if you live somewhere that gets a little warmer in the summer.
- Attached garage: Are you looking for a home that you can grow into? A garage can offer some serious storage space and keep clutter out of your main living area.
Some of the other must-have features that the NAHB identified include energy-efficient appliances, an updated patio space and a walk-in pantry. To determine which characteristics matter most to you, think about the spaces your family spends the most time in. For example, if your primary gathering place is your kitchen, you may want counters that accommodate plenty of bar stools or a spacious dining nook.
Move-in ready vs. Fixer-upper
We all spend plenty of time watching the pros on HGTV transform a run-down property into every buyer’s dream, but do you actually want to handle that process for yourself?
For some prospective homeowners, a fixer-upper can be a great way to snag a larger home at a more affordable price. Plus, you can customize the space freely and make it more your own. As you work to determine which options make the most sense for you and your family, keep the following questions in mind:
- Do you have the time and resources to put into a renovation project?
- Are you comfortable with smaller DIY projects such as painting the walls or cabinets?
- Will sticking with fully move-in-ready homes limit your local options too much?
All of our homes at Bungalo have been recently updated and are move-in ready, saving you the hassle of any repairs or DIY projects. However, if you’re looking to customize your home, you can do so with the confidence that there aren’t any unpleasant surprises or unplanned costs waiting for you around the corner.
Considerations for your neighborhood
Aside from your home itself, one of the most important factors to keep in mind is where the house is actually located.
Think about the following attributes as you look around the area your home is in:
- Location: Do you need to be in a certain district for your children’s school? If you’re working in the office, how far of a commute are you willing to make?
- Community: By walking or driving around your would-be neighborhood, you can get a better sense of the type of living experience the community offers.
- Homeowner association (HOA): Would you like to be in a neighborhood with an HOA in place or would you like to have more independence when it comes to your property?
Just remember: Your home should reflect you and your family’s day-to-day life. So, while many homebuyers are interested in the considerations we listed above, some of your own needs and expectations may vary. Sitting down and talking with everyone who will live in your home is a great way to make sure you’re looking at properties that will accommodate your entire family’s needs as best as possible.
Personal considerations for your house hunting search
Once you’ve started to get a clearer understanding of some of the features and characteristics you’re looking for in your next home, you can narrow down your hunt to be even more specific. Some personal considerations that you should be sure to factor into your search include your long-term plans as well as individualized factors such as the price range you’re comfortable with:
Everyone has different needs when it comes to the size of their home. For some families, the bigger the better. For others, extra rooms just translate to more stuff to clean every week. Some important questions that will help you zero in on your specific space needs include:
- Do you have plans to grow your family in the near future?
- Are you looking to host multiple guests throughout the year and during the holidays?
- How much storage space do you currently have? Are you comfortable paring down your belongings for a smaller home?
As you work to determine how big of a house you’re interested in, one of the easiest ways to figure out your needs is to look at your current living space. Are you moving because you have too much or too little space? If so, you should be using the size of your house or apartment as a benchmark for the amount of square footage you’re looking for in your next home.
Creating your price range
There’s nothing worse than falling in love with a home only to realize it’s totally out of your budget. Avoid the headache — as well as the heartache — by setting your price range in the initial days of your home search.
Once you decide you’re interested in buying a home, start thinking about your budget and get pre-approved early on in your search:
- Understand what you qualify for: Depending on your background and circumstances, you may be eligible for a home loan with more competitive interest rates and lower monthly mortgage payment requirements.
- Shop around for your mortgage: Not all mortgage providers are created equal. Feel free to explore your options and find the right lender for your financial needs.
- Set a hard limit: We’re all willing to go the extra mile if that means closing on our dream home. If you have some room to play with, set a hard stop at the price you’re most comfortable going up to.
Working with your mortgage lender to get pre-approved can not only help you to narrow down your options and find a home within your budget, but it can also speed up the closing process on the other side of things.
Renting vs. Owning
If you’re not totally thrilled about your price range or the current state of the market, that’s more than OK. You may want to take a step back and decide whether renting or buying makes the most sense for you at the moment. As you consider which option works best for you and your family, keep the following considerations in mind:
- How long you plan to stay: If you’re looking for a space to call your own for five or more years, renting could be more hassle than it’s worth — plus, your monthly payment may actually be higher than a mortgage in the long run.
- Personal savings: Do you have enough cash for a 10 to 20% down payment on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage? If not, renting can give you the time to build up your savings while still living in the area you plan to settle in.
- Credit report: One of the biggest hurdles for many prospective homeowners is building up their credit score to the point that lenders will take on their mortgage loan. If your score isn’t near or above 620 (or you’re experiencing difficulties getting approved), renting can give you extra time to build up your credit.
There’s no one right way to become a homeowner. For some, your journey may start with a traditional starter house. For others, it may come later in life in the form of your forever home. Don’t feel as though you need to rush the home buying process. Take the time to make sure you get everything you want out of your space — no matter how long you plan to stay there.
What to know if you’re looking at an older home
Do you know what one of the most costly mistakes prospective buyers make is?
Have your guess ready?
The answer: skipping over a home inspection. Although there isn’t a law that requires a home buyer or a seller to conduct an inspection when purchasing or selling a house, making the decision to omit it can lead to some unwanted surprises in the long run.
A home inspection is your last opportunity as a buyer to uncover any hidden problems with the house before making the purchase final. Over the course of several hours, a certified inspector will walk through your prospective home to identify problems small and large.
As the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) explains, the standard home inspector’s report will include a detailed audit of the following features of your home:
- Heating and air condition systems.
- Plumbing and electrical setup.
- Roof, attic and visible insulation.
- Walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors.
- Foundation, basement and other structural components.
In the days after their initial walkthrough, your home inspector will send a written report containing details on everything they found. This will include notes and photographs highlighting potential health hazards, structural damages and any issues so you can see exactly where the problem areas are.
Depending on the size and severity of the problem at hand, you can often use what’s been uncovered during the inspection as a bargaining tool to lower the final purchase price of your soon-to-be-home.
The average cost of a home inspection is about $300 to $500, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This bill is almost always handled by the home buyer during the closing process. However, the exact amount you pay can vary depending on the size of your house, its square footage as well as where you’re located in the U.S.
At Bungalo, we do everything we can to make sure your home won’t come with any surprise closing costs. That way you can move in with the confidence that you’ve made the right decision. All of our homes receive top-to-bottom inspections before you move in, so you can spend less time worrying about that suspiciously leaky pipe and more time picking out the right furniture for your living room.
Become a homeowner in less time
Buying a house can feel like a never-ending process. That’s why we created Bungalo: to get prospective buyers like you into your future home as quickly as possible. With Bungalo, you can tour a property with the click of your mouse from anywhere, at any time. And, once you do find a home that has all your must-haves, all that’s left is to create your digital offer.
We believe you should feel confident in your homebuying journey. That’s why with Bungalo, there are no hidden repairs or unexpected outbids standing between you and your new home.
Check out our blog and learn more about homeownership.
This article is meant for informational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as financial, tax, legal, real estate, insurance, or investment advice. Bungalo always encourages you to reach out to an advisor regarding your own situation.
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