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Downstairs master, playroom, island kitchen, backyard space, high ceilings and, of course, OPEN CONCEPT.  How many times do you hear that term on HGTV?  A list of your preferences is imperative when you consider purchasing a home.  But there’s so much more to it.  Selection criteria should take into consideration where, how and when you use the space, just for a start.

In Texas, morning sun is a fabulous perk!  But when was the last time you noticed every home in a neighborhood was built with the patio facing East-Northeast?  Lots have a ‘premium’ for a reason.  Solutions are available but when you find ‘the perfect house’, it’s easy to get carried away and overlook important points.  Do you have sufficient afternoon shade for entertaining?  Do you garden?  Have outdoor pets?  Want a pool?

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What about new construction?  Is the house on a lake?  (That will require another post!)   How will the house sit on the lot?  Do you enjoy morning coffee or evening wine?  Will the glare through the windows require everyone to don dark glasses at breakfast?  Will guests simmer during dinner?  And, if you’re watching the playoffs, will the glare on the screen make your head pound?

Consider wall space – are there too many doors or windows?  Will the sectional sofa you’ve been considering work when you add a Christmas tree in December?  It’s not important to everyone, but is it important to you?  Will traffic flow smoothly through the kitchen or will the family be trampling each other while getting meals on the table?

Imagine getting groceries from the car to the pantry.  Must they be carted down the hall, across the living room, around the island and through the laundry room?  Again, not important to everyone.  But it’s a deal breaker for others.  The monetary investment required for a home is certainly sufficient to require a few thoughtful notes about your lifestyle.

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1. Location, location, location

There’s a very good reason that the word “location” is repeated three times when given as a selection criteria. It’s that important, not just to your enjoyment of the home but what it will mean when it comes time to sell it.

The house may be ugly, the yard may look like a desert, but if it is in a really nice neighborhood, close to things that people value, then you definitely should give it a hard look. A great location will remain an asset no matter what the real estate market does in the future. You can make an ugly house attractive but you can’t make a bad location great.

2. School districts

If you have school-age children then, of course, you’ll be concerned about what school district the house is in.  But even if you don’t have kids at home, having a home in a desirable school district will pay off when it comes time to put your home on the market.

Desire for certain school districts drives up prices of homes in those districts. Even though you might end up paying a bit more for such a house, be assured you will get it back – and more – when you list your home for resale. Once you move in, don’t ignore the schools. Stay in touch with how they are doing because it’s in your best interests that they maintain their lofty standards.  And remember that districts do change.  The lines are redrawn from time to time.  What might that look like?

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3. Lot position

A house doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is surrounded by trees, other homes and terrain. This can affect the desirability, both for you and a future buyer. For example, what is the set-back from the property lines? A large set-back will give a feeling of spaciousness. A short set-back could mean your living room looks into your neighbor’s bedroom.  Is it possible the street might be widened?  How would that impact your property?

Topography is also very important. Ideally, the house should sit at a higher point of the surrounding area for good drainage.

If you are considering a condo, a first floor unit may be more desirable than one on the sixth floor. An end unit townhouse is more desirable than an interior unit.

4. It’s criminal!

A great house at a bargain asking price could mean it lies in a high crime area. Before you get too involved in the home-buying process, check out the crime stats in the neighborhood. A lot of this information is online, meaning you don’t have to pour through police reports. Websites, like MyLocalCrime.com, can provide a snapshot of recent crime activity reported in the vicinity of the home you are considering.

Don’t be surprised if you see more crime than you expect. Crime is everywhere these days and several reports of petty crime, like theft, may mean that people in the neighborhood are vigilant about reporting it.

5. Walkability

People like to be able to walk to a destination now and then, even if it is just to a nearby park or a corner drug store. Are there sidewalks in the neighborhood?  Sidewalks encourage people to be out and about in the neighborhood, a key factor in discouraging crime. It’s increasingly an important consideration for home buyers.

6. Character – what about the neighborhood

What’s the neighborhood like?  It’s an important question you should answer before getting serious about a home. If you prefer quiet evening at home and the neighbors have loud parties on weekends, you might want to keep looking. And if you like to party on the weekend but the neighbors look like they hit the sack at 9 p.m. most nights, you might not fit in.

Visit the neighborhood at different times of the day and night and, if possible, try to meet some of the neighbors.

7. The best house on the block!

Generally speaking, it’s much better to buy the worst house in the neighborhood than the best. The worst can only go up in value but the best (or the largest) may be as good as it’s going to get. If you buy the worst house in a great neighborhood, you can improve it and add value to what you have derived from being in a desirable area.

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8. What are you buying?

You can get a great deal on a “handyman special” but if you aren’t aware that is what you are getting, you could be in for a nasty surprise. Today, with home inspections being standard operating procedure, it’s harder to get blindsided this way.

If the listing states the property is to be sold “as is,” it usually means repairs will be required and the seller isn’t making them. If you aren’t willing to take on a project, it’s best to keep looking.

9. Down the road

Things change.  Neighborhoods go through cycles.  People come and go.  Think about ways you can add some value.  If market conditions change and you need to sell, you want to be sure than you can at least recoup your investment.

10. House payment plus –

After you purchase a home, there are still costs involved in owning it – costs above and beyond normal maintenance. If you are in a community with a homeowners association, there will be an assessment. It could be a small annual fee for a single family home but keep in mind condo fees are usually monthly, and can be quite high.

You could pay a little more for a single family home and still save money over a condo because you would not be paying a fee that can be every bit as much as the taxes.

Taxes are another cost many people tend to overlook.   In our area, you might add over $1000 per month to your house payment, depending on tax rates.  If you are looking for a home in a city, keep in mind the taxes may be significantly lower if you bought just across the city boundary in a neighboring jurisdiction.  Also, remember you’re going to pay taxes on the value of the home as determined by your purchase.  If the house hasn’t been reassessed for a number of years, that could be a significant increase.

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Realtors are great sources of information about all the items listed above.  Find an agent you’re comfortable with.  Ask questions.  Your agent may have to do a bit of research to get the right answers for you, but he or she won’t mind.  A successful agent enjoys helping you make the best decision for your family.  And if you need more information, give me a call!  I love talking about real estate!

Upcoming posts – Lot Premiums, Home Safety and Security, Lake Homes

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