Buying your first home is exciting. There are so many options available and so many things to look for when making the purchase. You probably already have a laundry list of features and amenities you’d like your first home to have.
It is also terrifying. Buying a home is a huge investment. For most families, it will be the largest single investment you’ve made at this point in your life. Beyond that, it isn’t something you do every day. The first leap is a large one. That is why you want to make sure you get it right before you take the plunge.
Understanding what is most important to you will help you make wiser decisions when buying your first home. These are three things that are important for you to look for during the home-buying process.
- 1 1. Growth Possibilities
- 2 2. Suitability Factor
- 3 3. Neighborhood
1. Growth Possibilities
In all things in life, growth is a factor to consider. That doesn’t change when buying a home. The average mortgage is 30 years. That is without any refinance offers or other options that extend the life of your mortgage along the way. Your first home is a long-term investment. With that in mind, you need to explore several areas of growth you may anticipate over the next 30 years.
While not everyone is thinking about starting families or raising children when buying a first home, you never know what the future has in store. Whether you’re hoping to have a large family and a home filled with the laughter, tears, and utter chaos many children deliver, or you want a small family, with perhaps a single child, you want room for your children to grow and thrive. This may include things like:
- A large lawn for your children to play on.
- A huge, mature tree of treehouses.
- Room for a pool and playground equipment.
- A fence to keep them corralled.
You might also be interested in finding neighborhoods where there are indications of many children for your kids to play with, playgrounds, and even community pools. You know, plenty of ways to keep your children entertained inside and outside your home as they grow.
You also want to make sure that your first home is fit to accommodate family life. That means you want plenty of public and private spaces where your family can enjoy spending time together while maintaining some sense of privacy.
It may sound like a lot to ask for in a first home, but it is important to have appropriate gathering areas while also providing space for husbands to tinker outside, children to make the occasional out-of-sight mess, and mothers to have a quick moment of peace without someone demanding all of her time and attention.
Open concept homes are great – as long as everyone has a quiet place to go when “alone time” is needed. Look for a home that accommodates this as your first home so that everyone can appreciate the benefits this home offers for many years to come.
Room to expand.
With so many housing communities being built with postage-stamp lots, it’s hard to imagine a home that offers room to grow. Not to mention homeowners’ associations that have strict rules about additions and changes.
Make sure you know the facts going into the situation and are prepared to keep the footprint of your home the same for as long as you own the home, or that you have a lot large enough to expand and an HOA that allows for future expansions within the community.
Not everyone needs room for expansions but you never know what the future holds. This is why you need to look for a home that offers room for growth and expansion when buying your first home.
Bringing aging parents into the home.
Is there room in the home to bring your aging parents (or other loved ones) into the home if needed? This is a question more and more families are considering as parents live longer and these costs of medical care continue to rise. Some older adults are spending more on medications each month than all their other living expenses combined.
Bringing them into your home, with a mother-in-law suite or creating an addition for them to live on your property can help your aging parent enjoy important bonding time with the family and greater quality of life without crippling financial fears. Will you be able to do this with your first home?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many families had to find a way to bring their work home. For most households this meant changing the layout of the home, with little (if any) notice, to accommodate working from home. We don’t know what the future holds but having room to grow and expand in a home is increasingly important in an unpredictable world.
Even without the need to bring 100 percent of your work home, you may need a quiet place, in the future, where you can take care of work responsibilities. It helps to have room to create an office space in your home to accommodate this possibility.
As you can see, growth possibilities play a large role in the buying process when exploring options for your first home.
2. Suitability Factor
Now that you’ve taken the growth possibilities of your first home into account, it’s time to explore other important details that impact the suitability of the home. These are some of the suitability factors you’ll want to consider when buying your first home.
Condition of the home.
Most people purchasing a first home aren’t skilled at home improvements. More importantly, many first-time homebuyers do not have large amounts of left-over cash to begin investing in the home. You need to purchase a home that requires few, if any, immediate repairs.
You also need to be certain that major repairs, renovations, or improvements are at least a few years away. This means you’ll want a home inspection to reveal there are no obvious concerns about replacing a roof, HVAC system, etc. within the first few years of homeownership.
Cost is one of the most limiting factors people face when buying a first home. You need to have a list of things you’d like in a home as well as things you can’t live without in your first home. You’ll be surprised by the many items you can live without when buying your first home, even if they are things you’d love to have.
The key is to keep your first home well within your budget so that you can pave the way to a solid credit history should you decide to upgrade your existing home in the future or purchase another home along the way. It also helps to avoid stepping outside of your financial comfort zone when shopping around for your first home. Going above your budget leaves little room for improvements and repairs that do crop up as a homeowner.
The location of your home matters, too. In fact, more people find that proximity to work, school, and even churches greatly impacts their enjoyment of their homes. Some people prefer to be right in the middle of it all, while others want a slower pace of life – country living suits them best.
Whether you are a bonafide city dweller or a country mouse, you want your home to be in a location that works for you and helps you make peace with things like commute times, access to entertainment, and opportunities for your children. Choosing the right location for your first home can make a world of difference for its long-term suitability.
HOA fees (if applicable).
One thing many homebuyers dismiss, overlook, or ignore when deciding if a house is truly within their budgets is HOA fees. Most people will calculate things like property taxes and homeowners insurance into the budgeting process but seem to dismiss the importance of HOA fees. The problem with HOA fees is that they are not static numbers.
While some states limit how much these fees can increase from one year to the next, many states have no caps in place. This means that acceptable HOA fees when you buy your home can become crippling after 10, 15, or 30 years of homeownership. They can also impact your ability to sell your home when the time comes.
It’s not enough to simply find a first home that is suitable for your family today. You also need one that will provide a suitable exit strategy by maintaining home value (even increasing values over time) and remain attractive to potential buyers should you ever need to sell your home.
The neighborhood is another important consideration to keep in mind when buying your first home. It doesn’t take much time exploring your options to see that some neighborhoods are poised for growth while others seem to stagnate or are in a state of decline. You want to buy your first home in a neighborhood where people are tending their lawns and keeping up with the curb appeal of their homes. You also want to purchase a home in areas where new businesses are being built, where there are plenty of family-friendly activities, and where you can see families outside enjoying their community.
Character or charm.
Look for neighborhoods that have character or charm that you find appealing. It likely indicates that there is common ground and shared interests between you and your neighbors and may invite a sense of community that is often lacking in communities and neighborhoods today.
Take the time to explore area crime statistics. You want to buy your first home in a neighborhood that is safe for you and your family. Of course, crime isn’t the only thing that can impact your safety. Also, check out the types of businesses in the area to make sure there aren’t any that could prove toxic for your family in the future.
If you have the opportunity before you buy your first home, try to engage the neighbors in conversation. See how friendly and welcoming they are. You may make a new friend before you even move in.
Access to entertainment.
Check out the area. Are there restaurants, theaters, museums, playgrounds, bowling alleys, skating rinks, bounce parks, sports complexes, fitness centers, splash pads, and other entertainment options for you and your family? For some families access to entertainment is a key attraction for the neighborhoods where they buy a first home. This could be the same for you.
Sense of community.
Is there a strong community organization? Signs of this include things like community rummage sales, neighborhood potlucks, and other events scheduled throughout the year. Ask around to see if there is anything like this in the neighborhood you’re considering for your first home.
HOA or community rules and regulations.
Finally, you want to know if there are HOA or community regulations for the neighborhood that might interfere with the way you want to live your life. For instance, if you or your spouse enjoys tinkering with cars, are their regulations that would impose fines if you do so where others can see?
If you work from home, are their regulations that prohibit you from conducting certain types of business in the neighborhood? What about kids play equipment, swimming pools, or trampolines? You need to make sure, if you move into a neighborhood with HOA regulations, that they are regulations you are willing to abide by for as long as you own your home.
Buying a first home can be intimidating. If you keep these things in mind when choosing your first home, though, you are likely to find your first home to be a wise investment that serves you well.