It’s quite natural to feel overwhelmed when you’re shopping for a new home, especially if it’s the first time when you’re doing it. With such an expensive purchase and probably a long-term mortgage, you have to be certain you picked the right house for you and your family.
Choosing the ideal home can be a highly personal decision, but you always need to think about the different aspects of a home and rank them by importance, keeping in mind your specific needs. You should know what things you can’t live without, which aspects are deal-breakers and which ones can be negotiable.
But first, you should determine exactly how much you’re willing to pay for your next home and find the ideal area you’d like to live in – the right neighborhoods, proximity to schools and work, parks and other services. Then, when you start to look seriously at different houses, you need to evaluate each of these factors:
1. House Size
Before you start searching for your dream home, you should know exactly how big of a house do you really need, including the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and a minimum and maximum square footage. The size of your future home should depend on your needs and personal preferences.
Large families will require more square footage, bedrooms & bathrooms, but smaller houses are perfect for just you or you and your partner, because they’re more affordable. Smaller homes are also easier to maintain and furnish and that can be very helpful if you’re just starting out. Condos are also a popular choice for smaller families. In Canada, for instance, new condominiums Toronto offers are filled with starting families and young professionals.
But having a large house means you’ll have plenty of room for all your family members and several guests as well. How big or how small you can go depends on needs first, and personal preference of course. You might want to look at a few houses first to get an idea which might be the best option for you.
Outdoor space is also very important for every house and you need to decide first what kind of yard you’d prefer. Do you want a big yard, with plenty of acreage, or do you prefer something smaller, to avoid the responsibility that comes with gardening or landscaping? If you want more privacy, you might want a home that is tucked away from the main road, and you’ll enjoy your backyard even more.
You also need to decide what kind of features you might want in the backyard. There are so many homes with man-made features like ponds, streams, pools, swing sets, small patios, decks, hot tubs, built-in grills, etc. When you think about what kind of yard would be good for you, you should consider the size, maintenance costs and requirements, and of course, the type of features you might want there.
But finding a home with the perfect interior layout and an awesome backyard isn’t enough, if it doesn’t have a sturdy exterior. No one wants a home with a deteriorating exterior and if you can’t inspect thoroughly every single corner of the home’s exterior alone, you can hire a pro or a trusted real estate agent to help you. Keep an eye for red flags if you want to avoid any unwanted surprises in a few years.
A few exterior elements you should check out:
- The Roof: It’s definitely a major part of every home and new roofs may cost anywhere between $5,000 and $15,000+. Try to find any signs of damage, leaks, and ask about its age, although older roofs don’t necessarily mean they’re bad. A sturdy, well maintained roof will last for decades, especially if it’s made from great materials.
- The Foundation: Any problems with the foundation may cost thousands and thousands of dollars and will only deteriorate in time. Check out if there are any cracks in the walls, especially around the doors and windows.
- Siding: The exterior walls should be also checked carefully to see if there are any disrepair or damage signs. Keep an eye on rotting wood, peeling paint, signs of decay and cracks.
If you’d like to purchase an old house, you could do a quick background info check to find out more about past owners of each home and even get in touch with some of them to see if there were any repair works done to the exterior.
The number of bedrooms in your future home should depend on your needs and how you plan to use them. For instance, families with small children probably won’t choose a house with a master bedroom located on a different floor from the other bedrooms. If you want to convert an extra bedroom into a home office, that bedroom should be located away from the living room and the kitchen, to make sure you can work from home in silence.
The size of the bedrooms is also crucial when you’re choosing the right home for you. Think about closet space, sources of artificial & natural light, window views, privacy in general, an attached bathroom to master bedroom, etc. Ultimately, you must find a home that fits all your needs.
Bathrooms are also very important, that’s why you have to check them carefully to see if everything is in working order. With the seller or the agent’s permission, test the shower, the faucets and flush the toilets. Make sure the fan works ok or the windows open properly. Look around the toilet and the sink for any water damage, leaks and especially mold formation. If you want to avoid and surprises after you move in, like having any plumbing issues and low water pressure, you should inspect everything carefully.
You should also see exactly what type of shower or tub is present in each bathroom. Is it only a shower, a tub, or a combo? Do they have glass doors or just a plain curtain? Is the bathtub made from low-quality plastic or porcelain? Renovating a bathroom can be very expensive, that’s why it’s great if you can find a home that doesn’t need any major work there.
6. Living Room
We all spend most of our days in the living room and I’m sure you already have an idea about what kind of ambiance you’d like there. Do you want a cozy and warm living area or something more upscale and modern, with minimalist furniture? When you’re looking at living rooms, try to imagine how they would turn out with your ideas and tastes.
Ignore the current décor and focus more on the room’s layout. Does it fit with all your ideas? Do you have enough natural lighting? Can you see yourself relaxing there all day long? If you already have some furniture for the living room, do you think it will blend in seamlessly?
7. Cooling & Heating Systems
Apart from the electrical and plumbing systems, heating and cooling are also essential for every home. Make sure you get help from a professional to evaluate the current condition of the HVAC system in the home. You should also find out first what type of heating and cooling systems that home uses to see if you might need to upgrade it or not.
There are many different heating systems, each of them with its pros and cons. Does it have a forced air system, powered by a furnace? Is the furnace on electricity of gas? Or does it use boilers or heat pumps or something else entirely? Different systems have different results and maintenance costs.
Air conditioning might not be so important for some of you, but if you live in area where summers are scorching hot, you might want a home with a central air conditioning system. Make sure you find a house with ideal heating and cooling systems, if you don’t want to invest more after purchasing the property.
The basement is another part of the house you need to inspect carefully. Check out if there are any signs of water damage, stains, musty smells and mold growth. If the basement is remodeled or finished it might be a cool extra space for you to hang out. You should also do a radon test because in some parts of the country radon exceeds the maximum levels outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency.
After you’ve checked the roof from the outside, it’s time to peek into the attic to see if there are any damage or leak signs on the roof’s structure. Make sure there are no animal droppings, since that might indicate you have some little friends there. Rodents can cause a lot of damage to your house. Also check the attic’s insulation and ventilation, the type of insulation used, and so on. If you have any concerns, get help from a home inspector. If it’s big enough, maybe in the future you can turn it into something like this.
Not all homes come with a garage, but it’s definitely a welcomed bonus. Do you want a big garage, with room for two cars or a lot of ample storage? Do you want to add a workbench there? If you plan to use the garage for more than just parking your car, you might want a bigger space. Check out the width and length of the driveway and see if there’s any street parking available as well.
In the end, it might be really hard to find a house that fits all your needs. They all have their pros and cons. You have to decide which aspects you can’t live without and which ones you’re willing to compromise on. There’s likely no home at a great price without at least a couple of faults. The goal is to find a house that checks off most of your boxes and won’t need too much investments afterwards.