Beyond these quantifiable items, though, there are aspects of choosing a home that take more time and effort to check out. Follow these tips to make sure you find the perfect home for all your wants and needs.
Get an agent
The most important decision a first-time buyer makes is to choose an agent “who constantly works to meet your expectations,” says Mike Wolf, a San Diego-based real estate agent and author of “The First Time Homebuyer Book” (Dog Ear Publishing, 2010).
A good agent will outline the highlights and the lowlights of a property, never leaving out information that could make a purchaser think twice. Buying a new home is a big deal, so having good help along the journey is essential. Follow up with a solid foundation
Wolf says to be mindful of four major attributes of a home that you may not immediately notice: the foundation, plumbing, electrical work and roof. Rely on professional home inspector to red flag potential problems.
“Don’t try to pretend like you know what you’re talking about because you read a few articles online,” Wolf says. “Let your real estate agent get you linked to people who deal with these things every single day.”
Double-check the neighborhood
The house may look good, but how is the ’hood? Even safe neighborhoods have fallbacks. Check out the neighborhood more than once and at different times of the day.
Katherine Ross, director of coaching at Corcoran Consulting & Coaching, a real estate consultancy in Swansea, Ill., suggests asking yourself questions like, “Is there garbage on the street?” or “How do the yards look?” She also says to be aware of the amount of street parking, which can indicate the level of commotion, and be on the lookout for future projects like building and construction that might intervene with your move.
“A home’s value is based on location and condition,” says Ross. “You can change the condition, but you cannot change the location.” Wolf says to make it a mission to meet the neighbors and ask them questions about the neighborhood.
“There are going to be people coming and going, parking their cars, walking their dogs,” he says. Get to know them, find out more about the area and the maintenance of the neighborhood. Is it clean? Is it safe? Are the rates good?
“That gets you the best, most honest answers,” he says.
Can you walk it?
In 2014, the median age of a first-time homebuyer was 31, according to the National Association of Realtors. Many firsttime homebuyers are young, and young couples are more apt to search for a home that supports green and healthy living. That can mean anything from solar panel roofs to energy-efficient lighting and insulation. But the biggest energy saver is one many might not consider: being carless.
Walking instead of driving not only cuts energy usage, but it also saves a homeowner money and contributes to a healthier, active daily routine.
The website WalkScore promotes walkable neighborhoods by ranking cities and towns based on how easy it is to reach amenities and services on foot versus using automotive transportation, among other pedestrian-friendly measures. House hunters can enter an address on WalkScore to determine a neighborhood’s walkability. The higher the WalkScore, the more walkable it is. Scores are determined by the distance between homes in a neighborhood to places of importance: the grocery store, school, work.
Keep amenities in mind
A quick, easily walkable trip to the supermarket is great, but remember that proximity comes with a price.
“The amount of amenities and the proximity of them to a specific house is highly correlated with price,” Wolf says. “You definitely get what you pay for in real estate. If living centrally is important to you, be prepared to pay a premium in order to do so.”
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