Picking out a new house can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. How do you choose the best location? What if the house has problems you can’t afford to fix? What’s the tiebreaker if you love two places equally?
You should have a plan prior to starting your search. Figure out what you absolutely need in a home and then prioritize additional features that you want. Remember to think ahead as this list may change in the next few years.
The first and only way to begin the decision-making process is to grab your calculator. A dream home becomes a nightmare the moment you can’t afford it. As you calculate, look beyond the listing price. Here’s why: A house with a vaulted ceiling costs more to heat than one with a low ceiling, and a house with a pool means paying to maintain it. All of these extra factors can add up.
Another less tangible way to decide if a home is right for you is to trust your intuition. Most buyers form an impression in the first few seconds after they walk into a house. Once you walk in the door of a potential home, you may want to ask yourself, Is this a happy house? or Does it depress me? Notice how you respond and trust your reactions. If you’re viewing a house and find yourself imagining your sofa near the fireplace and your brown chair near the window, pay attention. Chances are the house is a good match for you.
That said, there’s no such thing as a crystal ball when it comes to house hunting. And wondering whether the house will be too small if you get a dog or too big when the kids leave for college is inevitable. While it’s important to envision a home’s role over time, making a decision with too many variables in mind can work against you. Buy the house for the way you are living today. Then adapt as you go.
Make your home decision based on how you live, not where you’ll live. A house that offers dramatic mountain views and enormous windows onto a pond can seem like a wonderful place to call home. But if you’re rarely home the views aren’t going to be that important most of the time. Focus on features that will please you indoors. This advice is particularly applicable to high-traffic parts of the house, such as the kitchen. A sleek, minimalist stainless steel breakfast bar may set your heart on fire, but if you’ve got busy toddlers, a practical kitchen with lots of room and smudge-resistant cabinetry may be a better choice.
When you finally do make a decision – should you make an offer right away? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. I usually advise sleeping on it overnight. The exception can be when a market is especially active. This is a real gut check time. Would you be broken-hearted if you lost the house to another buyer? If the answer is yes, make an offer. Seldom will you go wrong if you follow your heart.