With our recent move across the world, we have had an opportunity to really think about what our perfect home looks like. I love the saying "Home is Wherever I am With You" - With the "You" being my amazing hubby! But there is a lot more that goes into finding the perfect place to call our own. And so, as we started the search for our forever home, we sat down and came up with a list of essential items that we needed to consider.
1. What does a perfect home look like?
It's important to sit down and ask yourself, what are the non-negotiables when it comes to the things that you absolutely must have in your home? What are the things that would be nice to have and what are the things that don't really matter? We were previously lucky enough to own a little duplex and this gave us a great launch pad when it came to thinking about all the things that were important to us and the things that we absolutely have to have in our future home. Don't be afraid to ask family and friends what is important to them, this could be a great guideline on things for you to consider.
2. Stay within your budget
How much home can you afford? It's important to set a budget and stick to it. We made a couple of online "applications" to get an estimate of what type of loan we would be approved for. Then we started looking for houses that were well below that max. There are always unexpected expenses, whether you by a house that needs some work (or on the face of it doesn't), or whether you build from scratch, being a home owner comes with unexpected costs. For us, it was important to make sure that we weren't flying so close to our maximum budget that a potential unexpected expense could break us.
3. Size Matters
While a huge mansion with 6 bedrooms and a stately garden may sound wonderful, you need to think about what size home your family really needs and a place that you can grow into (are you planning on expanding? do you regularly have visitors?). Size really does matter and bigger isn't always better. Bigger homes come with additional insurance, upkeep and utility costs and you need to make sure this all fits into your budget (see point 2 above), and that you have the time it takes to maintain a home (think cleaning and cutting the grass). Are you a family that likes to spend time at home and needs an extra space to hang out, or are you always out and about and in need of a place that is lock up and go.
4. Location, Location, Location
Where do you want your new home to be? This is an important decision and there is a lot to consider. Do you work long hours and want to have a short and easy commute? Do you need to be close to public transport? If you have kids, then what school district do you need to be in? Do you want to be close to family and friends? Is proximity to restaurants, trails, open space or social activities important to you? Will you feel safe? Are you hoping to be in an established neighborhood or an up and coming neighborhood that might allow for a profitable resale?
Once you have narrowed your search down to a few areas that you think might work for your family, spend some time driving around the neighborhoods and getting a feel for whether they are areas you would be comfortable with.
5. Do your Research
Now that you have narrowed down your neighborhoods, do your research. What are the home values in the area and are they within your budget? Are there any issues with crime in the area? If you have children, is it a family friendly neighborhood that is in close proximity to good schools. What will property taxes, utilities and HOA fees set you back every month (back to the budget in point 2)? If you know people in the neighborhood or have other resources, do not be afraid to ask questions.
6. Are you Willing to take on a Fixer Upper?
It's possible that you may find the perfect neighborhood, but finding a move in ready home would completely blow the budget. Would you consider a renovation project? How much time and money will you need to make a Fixer Upper the perfect home? Are you prepared for the inevitable surprises that will pop up and do you have a plan on how to tackle these? A Fixer Upper could be a great way to get your dream home in a great neighborhood and stay within your budget, but it's not for the impatient or the faint hearted.
7. Manage your expectations
While its not impossible to find the perfect home, in a great neighborhood that has absolutely everything you ever dreamed of, make sure you manage your expectations, be flexible and keep an open mind. Whether you are purchasing a fixer-upper, a move in ready home or building from the ground up - there are always things that could have been different. Remember your non-negotiables (see point 1 above) and move on from there. Once you have moved into a house, you can put your own unique signature on it and make it into your dream home. After all "Home is Wherever I am With You".