Buying a home involves so many options. How can you possibly narrow the choices and make the best decision? Begin by looking at your finances, then your personality and how you enjoy spending your time. Eliminate home styles that don’t support your life now or in the near future.
In most cases, your financial resources will limit your choices. This isn’t a bad thing since you have to start narrowing options anyway. This is an easy starting point.
It’s important to retain some “breathing room” in your budget. Lenders and mortgage companies will offer the maximum you can possibly afford, which benefits them, not you. Don’t borrow so much that you feel “house poor” and miserably trapped.
Before shopping for homes, it is a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage, but that doesn’t mean you have to use the full amount. Once you‘ve determined a budget for buying a home, consider the lifestyle you want your home to support.
Where’s your happy place? Do you love the ocean? Prefer having wooded areas nearby? Is it important to have majestic views of snow-capped mountains or do you prefer an intimate backyard garden? Do you like dry, arid climates? Do you need all four seasons or are you perfectly happy with one or two?
Ideally, you want to select a home that makes it easy to access the type of recreational activities you enjoy, meets your health needs, and pleases you visually. When you are at home you should be happy with what you see, both inside and out. It’s important to select carefully because where you live will shape your perspective on your life.
City Mouse or Country Mouse?
If you can’t bear the thought of missing out on an active nightlife, find your home in a cityscape. Conversely, if you don’t want to live where there’s constant traffic noise and lights that obscure your view of the stars, look in more rural areas.
Yard or No Yard?
If you have children (or fur babies) and want them to have a private yard, you won’t be happy in most condo environments. Ditto if you love spending time planting and tending a flower or vegetable garden each year. If, however, the thought of raging allergies during a weekly enslavement to a lawnmower and trimming shears makes your eyes water, a condo or other yard-less options may be a better fit.
An urban setting or condo building may work for you even if you have little ones who need regular interaction with the outdoors or you want to garden. How? By selecting a high-density home with close access to parks and community green spaces (that are maintained by others) and a community garden that’s within walking distance.
Lifestyle and Maintenance Considerations
Do you want to own a home so you can tinker with things and practice your DIY skills? Are you anxious to begin entertaining? Do you plan to cook gourmet meals for dinner parties? Do you have children now, or do you plan to have them in the next several years? Do you like the idea of having a workshop, a detached art studio or writer’s space at home?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you will probably be happy with a larger home and one that isn’t necessarily attached to someone else’s home (no townhouses, condos or shared walls). Recognize that this type of home requires more maintenance and care, but also offers more opportunities to customize and make changes to deeply personalize your space.
Do you have a busy career and spend little time at home, preferring to relax and be completely off call when time permits? Do you prefer to eat out, rather than cooking at home? Would you rather go out with friends than entertain in your space?
If this describes you, it’s better to have a smaller home than paying for space you’ll seldom use, especially if you would rather use that extra money on a great vacation, a new wardrobe or a flashy car. You will probably be happier with a condo or similar space that offers easy access to a maintenance crew, a vibrant social scene, and requires less of your free time to keep things clean and well maintained.
Home is where you go to nurture your soul and spend time YOUR way. It’s your haven and shelter from the outside world. Select a home that brings you joy, while keeping stress, frustration and worry at bay.