Finding Your Dream Home

Whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned real estate consumer, searching for and buying a new house is an exciting, but daunting, journey. The prospect of settling into the perfect home conjures sensory daydreams – comforting seasonal aromas wafting from the kitchen; cozy, sunbeam-lit rooms; the sound of children laughing in a backyard tree-house  we all have our own, unique definitions of “home,” and a certain sense of anticipation accompanies the search for that dream.

On the other hand, the details involved can be overwhelming; so many decisions must be made before the fun part begins. Defining your priorities and narrowing down your wants and needs will make the search easier and more enjoyable.

The process starts with location. There is no reason to tour houses in the suburbs if you have your heart set on city-dwelling. Imagine the view you’d like to see when you look out your window, the amount of space you want between your house and your neighbor’s, the distance you’re willing to drive (or walk!) to reach amenities. What neighborhoods or school districts appeal to you? Once you’ve answered these questions, you should be able to limit your search to a few specific areas.

Second, determine what type of home appeals to you. Residential properties are available in a variety of shapes and sizes; do you want a single-family detached house, a condominium, a townhouse? How much living space do you need? What about storage space? Ask yourself if you’d prefer all your living space on one level, or if you prefer two or more stories. Determine if there is an architectural style or building material that appeals to you.

Next, write out a wish list of features you don’t want to live without and another of features you’d like, but don’t necessarily need. Start with the basics. If others will share the home with you, how many bedrooms and bathrooms will accommodate everyone’s needs? If you cook, the layout of the kitchen might be important; if you’re a sports or movie fan, perhaps you’d rather focus on properties with room for a home theater. Do you have pets that require a yard or a car that must be kept in a garage? Be careful not to include too many items on your “must-have” list; carefully evaluate your lifestyle and prioritize accordingly.

Finally, consider your budget. While many tools are available to help you calculate realistic mortgage payments based on your income and current expenses, keep in mind that home ownership also entails maintenance and repair costs. Limit your search to properties that lie within your financial means to avoid the disappointment of falling in love with your ideal home, only to discover it is outside of your price range.

The real estate market strongly favors buyers at the moment. A variety of properties are available at reasonable prices. The market becomes even more inviting if you’re skilled at remodeling, repairs, or redecorating; you may have the means to transform a foreclosure or “handyman’s special” into your vision. Once again, remaining realistic about your budget, your abilities, and your patience is the key to settling into the right home at the right price.

Your dream house is out there; it’s just a matter of finding it. Identifying your priorities before you begin your search will allow you to save time, maintain perspective, and complete your journey with minimum difficulty.

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