Jan Kennemer | Arlington Real Estate, Alexandria Real Estate, Falls Church Real Estate

Finding the right house that meets your family's needs is an important decision; it's one that can affect the quality of your life for years to come. That's why it's especially important to be in a focused, resourceful state of mind when house hunting. It's also helpful to have a clear idea of what you're looking for and have a system in mind for comparing the strengths and weaknesses of every house you visit.

Knowing What You Want

Chances are, you're going to approach your house search with some preconceived notions about features like the floorplan, bedrooms, and number of bathrooms. You may also have strong preferences for a particular school district, the size of the back yard, and proximity to neighbors. One thing's for sure: There are a lot of details on which you'll need to concentrate as you meet with your real estate agent and visit different homes for sale. While conditions are not always ideal for taking it all in, here are a few tips which may help you get the most from the experience.

  • Work from a checklist: Before plunging into a serious house-hunting campaign, it's a good idea to prioritize the features and characteristics you're looking for in a new home. Ideally, you should have a separate copy of the list for each home you visit and create a simple rating system for evaluating how well each property lives up to your expectations. Make note of your impressions and take a few photos of key rooms, such as the kitchen, master bathroom, or whatever areas are most important to you. As a courtesy, ask the real estate agent if they or the homeowner would mind if you took some pictures.
  • Arrange childcare if possible: When you're going over important details with your real estate agent or visiting a listed house for the first time, you'll be able to get more out of the experience if you can devote your full attention to it. Children, especially young ones, tend to be more focused on their own agenda, including hunger, boredom, sibling conflicts, and the impulse to wander off on their own to explore unchartered territory! When the opportunity arises to check out a potential new home, you'll want to have 100 percent of your mental and emotional resources available to appreciate and absorb all the details, nuances, and possibilities of a house that's for sale. Since "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry", it won't always be feasible to arrange alternative (and sometimes last minute) childcare plans for your little ones. When it is possible though, you'll have more of your wits about you for the important task at hand.
  • While it's unrealistic to always expect house hunting to go smoothly and without a hitch, a focused and organized approach to finding the home of your dreams will always yield the best results!

    You'd have to take out a four year student loan to get a hint of how much is involved in buying a house. And this only applies to the financial side of home ownership. In fact, depending on the college, buying a house could be like taking out a student loan every year.

    Money isn't the only reason why you don't want to buy a house

    But, that doesn't mean that you won't think twice before you postpone buying a house. It is hard to turn away from a house that you really want, a house that you feel is meant for you to live in. Yet, buy a house at the wrong time and live years in regret.

    Already being in the hole for steep student loans is just one reason why you don't want to buy a house right now. Some of the other reasons why it could hurt to buy a house now have absolutely nothing to do with money. For instance, you could regret buying a house right now if you:

    • Are seriously thinking about making a life change that will require you to relocate or downsize within three or less years. Plans to start a business, return to college and get a graduate degree or move to another part of the country could all lead to significant life changes that call for you to alter your living arrangements.
    • Recently started to deal with a significant physical or mental health issue. The last thing that you need right now is to take on the weight of owning a house. This doesn't mean that you can't buy a house and make it work. It means that you could add pressure to your life if you buy a house now.
    • Own another house in an area where housing prices are dropping. If you wait until house prices stabilize or increase where you currently live, you could sell your house for a profit or break even when you sell your current house.
    • Don't have a lot of home repair and home maintenance knowledge and experience. Buy an older house and you could save on the overall price of the home only to get stuck with steep repair bills months or a few years down the road.
    • Are working to repair your credit. The better your finances are, the more likely you are to secure a quality mortgage from a reliable lender.
    • Have just gone through a divorce and were left with child support payments or other financial payments that have left you with next to no disposable income.

    You could go ahead and buy a house even if you know that you're not ready. But, you'll end up paying more than a monthly mortgage. As you struggle to stay current in your mortgage payments, you might end up losing sleep. The appreciation that you once had for the your house might vanish, going the way of savings and peace of mind.