Are you finding yourself a little overwhelmed by the decision to buy a home?
Relax. Yes, buying a home is a huge commitment - but if you ask yourself a few key questions, you can increase your likelihood of ensuring that you buy a fantastic home that you'll love for decades into the future.
If you plan on buying a property that you can call "home" for the rest of your life, you might be wondering what factors you should consider to ensure your home meets your needs throughout the years.
No one can predict what the future will hold, but you can prepare by asking yourself the following nine questions.
You're probably already considering your commute while looking for a home. But ask yourself: is there a good chance you might leave your job within the next few years?
You don't want to move a few years after buying a house because you've decided to accept a role at another company located in a neighboring state or across the country.
Make sure your industry offers plenty of job opportunities in the neighborhood you're looking to move to. Look at future job projections and current openings. You don't want to move somewhere with limited employment options.
One of the biggest reasons people choose to move is due to changes in the size of their family. Children sometimes don't want to share bedrooms, will need more space for their toys and belongings, or need a yard to run around and play in.
Consider how many children you want, and how much space you might need for them. Are you comfortable getting a three-bedroom home when you plan on having four kids? Do you think you can make the space work?
Family doesn't just include kids, either. Is there a chance that your parents or siblings may move in with you? Will you need an extra bedroom for them?
Don't forget about your furriest family members. What if you want a dog or two? You'll probably want yard space (preferably with a fence) so they can enjoy playing outside.
Do you want long-term travel to play a major role in your lifestyle? You might not want the responsibility of caring for an older home, or a yard that requires a lot of maintenance and upkeep, if you're planning on spending weeks or months out-of-state.
If frequent and/or extended travel is your goal, you might want to look at buying a condo or townhome (instead of a single-family house) in order to minimize exterior maintenance responsibilities.
If there's a chance that you might rent out your home while traveling, choose a property with a layout that's practical for a rental. A property that features bedrooms on opposite ends of the house, for example, might be a good option.
Are you planning on having children? If so, consider the school district in which you buy a home.
Do the schools have a lot of great programs, sports and clubs to choose among? Do they offer before- or after-school care for children? Are the educational values aligned with yours? Is it safe?
School district is a major factor for any parent looking to move. You want your child to receive the best education possible. Research the ratings of local school districts online. Drop into parent-teacher associations and groups. Talk to your real estate agent to learn more about the different school districts in the city or town you're considering moving into.
If you've been renting an apartment for the last few years, you might have felt space-restricted. Most apartments, for example, don't come with garages or outdoor spaces. Gardening, woodworking, and performing car maintenance might have been out of the question.
If these are hobbies that you'd like to pursue, consider looking for a property-like a single-family home - that includes areas you can dedicate to these hobbies and pursuits.
You might be tempted to get a place that's near the center of the action in the city. Living within walking distance (or a short ride) to restaurants, shops and nightlife could feel appealing.
But will you still want to be in this location in five years? Or would you rather live in the suburbs, in a home that includes a yard?
Your location and neighborhood are critical considerations, and the location that you prefer today might not be the same space that you enjoy in five to ten years. Could you see yourself living in a particular neighborhood a decade down the road? If the answer is 'no,' think carefully about whether or not you want to commit to owning a house in that area.
Find an area you can grow into based on your hopes and dreams for the future. If you can't get that house with a white picket fence out of your head, then maybe high-rise city living isn't the best choice.
On the other hand, if you feel inspired and energized by a certain type of neighborhood or dwelling – regardless of whether it's a high-rise condominium or a rustic country barnhouse -- then perhaps you have your answer. You don't need to follow any particular home-buying mold. The beauty of real estate is that it is highly personalized; you can choose the type of property that best fits your unique preferences, personality and tastes.
Pay attention to the layout of the home, and think about how it will impact your day-to-day living experience.
For example, let's imagine that you have two children. You're trying to choose between two houses. One has a master bedroom that's located right next to the children's rooms. The other has a master bedroom that's on the opposite side of the house from their rooms (or even on a different floor).
Which is better? This will depend on your personal preference. If you like being near your children so you can check on them frequently, the home with the closer rooms is better. If you prefer to have more privacy, you might opt for the house with a more secluded master bedroom.
There's no 'right' or 'wrong' answer. Pick whichever option appeals to you.
Perhaps you love to garden right now, or you really enjoy landscaping and decorating the front and back lawn. But will that hold true in the future, when you're too busy to be bothered with so much upkeep?
You don't want to find yourself overwhelmed at the idea of taking care of your home. Buying a 3,200 sq. ft. house with one acre of yard might seem like a good idea now, but you might not want to be responsible for cleaning and maintaining that large of a space in the future.
On the other hand, perhaps you'd love to have a space of that size in the future. You're the best judge of what "Future You" might want.
You want your house to remain affordable throughout your life. Far too many people make the mistake of buying a home they can afford on their current salary, but jobs are -- sadly -- never guaranteed.
If you lost your job, how long could you continue making payments? If you're buying the house as a two-income couple, could you continue covering the mortgage if one person stopped earning an income?
Don't buy a more expensive house than you can safely afford, and don't assume your current financial position will last forever. Keep a 'safety net' in place, in case your finances hit a speedbump.
Your desires, goals, job situation and income will change throughout your life. While predicting the future is impossible, you should carefully consider the future when you're looking at homes.
Ask yourself what type of financial and life situation you think you'll experience in five, ten or fifteen years – and then ask yourself if this home could fit throughout that journey. If the answer is yes, you may have found your ideal home for the long-term.