5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting Your House Hunt
posted on August 27, 2019 | by Heather Bien
Buying a home. It’s one of the most adult things on our to-do list, right? It’s also one of the biggest, scariest, and most exciting purchases we’ll ever make! Shouldn’t there be a guidebook out there to tell us exactly step-by-step what to do?
Well, in lieu of searching the internet for Home Buying 101, we’re going to break down the 5 questions to ask yourself before you start your house hunt from money to location to that fabulous soaking tub that you 100% need.
ONE: What can I afford?
Think about this in terms of what you can really afford, not just the amount the bank will approve you for. The number on your pre-approval letter may be right on target or it may be higher than what you would actually be comfortable with when it comes to your monthly mortgage. So, consider the monthly number that fits within your budget and work from there. A bonus here: your mortgage won’t go up every year like your rent does!
You’ll often hear 30% of your net income as the ideal number to hit when it comes to housing expenses, but that can vary depending on the real estate market where you live. Add in additional monthly costs like insurance, estimated utilities, HOA, etc. to get the full picture.
And, don’t forget, the down payment isn’t the only cash you need to have on hand before you get the keys to your dream home –– closing costs are no joke!
TWO: How long do I plan to be in this home?
Many real estate experts say that you shouldn’t buy unless you plan on staying put for 3 to 5 years. Is that your plan for this home? Or are you looking at your next decade home, your “until the baby is grown” home, or maybe even your forever home?
Also, consider how your family dynamic could change during the time you’ll own your home. Are you single, but anticipating that you’ll move in with a partner someday? Are you childless currently but hoping that you’ll grow your family in the years to come? Do you or your partner plan on staying home with children at some point? Think about how your future plans could affect space needs, location, and finances.
For me, I so wanted to be in a bustling, cool part of town –– but, I also know that a few years down the road, we may decide to start a family. So, school districts and family-friendly vibes had to play a role in our search. We’re still in the city, but we’re surrounded by cozy restaurants rather than trendy bars –– and there’s an elementary school with a super-involved parent group within a stone’s throw of our front door.
THREE: What do I prioritize in my day-to-day: square footage or proximity?
There are lots of decisions you’ll make when it comes to your house hunting priorities, but the one I found most critical was the question of square footage v. proximity. In most places, you’re going to have to find a compromise between the two.
So, do you feed off of the energy in the heart of a city? Or, are you dreaming of a huge, bright, sunny kitchen and a garden to call your own? If you can make both happen, first of all, I’m super jealous, and, second of all, do it. And then, let us see the home tour!
But, for the rest of us, think about how you want your day-to-day to play out. Are you willing to have a longer daily commute so that you can have weekends playing in the yard with your toddler? Or, are you okay giving up that second bathroom in exchange for walkability to your favorite coffee shops and restaurants?
It really is all about location, location, location –– but location means something different to everyone. I recently bought a tiny (read: under 850 square feet!) 2-bedroom condo, so you can guess where my answer to this question landed!
FOUR: Am I willing to renovate or do I want move-in-ready?
We all want to believe we could be the next Joanna Gaines –– just give us some shiplap, some white subway tile, and we’ll have our home TV-ready in no time. But, the reality is, living through a renovation is a journey! And, not everyone wants to take on the challenge (hand raised right here, I love an old home, but I’m not up for the dirty work at this point!).
Are you eager to coordinate contractors, hire vendors, and dive into a DIY project or two? Maybe, move-in ready sounds pretty good right about now –– let’s save those Pinterest boards for the decor. Or, are you somewhere in between? You could find a home with some good bones, a few renovations here and there, but that also has potential for smaller-scale reno in the future.
If you decide to go the renovation route, remember to build some buffer into your budget. Things don’t always go as planned! (Or, you might fall in love with the most expensive bathroom tile…and you want to leave room for that!)
FIVE: Lastly, the fun stuff: what do I love in a home?
Okay, finally, we can get to the exciting questions! What do you LOVE in a home? Think about all the things you’ve been wishing for –– exposed brick, outdoor space, a spa-like soaking tub, an open kitchen with a professional range. Write it ALL down.
You may not find every single item on your list, but you deserve to check off a few. Because, after all, this is one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make, and you want to love the place you call home.
So, are you a homeowner already or someone that’s just starting out on your house hunt? Let us know if these are questions you’ve considered or if you’ve found other questions equally important in the process!