3 Things You Should Pay Attention to When You're Shopping for a Home (And 3 to Ignore)

3 Things You Should Pay Attention to When You're Shopping for a Home (And 3 to Ignore)

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Julie Sprankles
Aug 16, 2016

If you're in the market for a house, first of all, congrats! Buying a home is one of the most rewarding — albeit at times exasperating — things you'll do in your life. By the time you're ready to buy, you likely have a sufficient grasp on the basic necessities: a solid foundation, a roof that doesn't leak, wiring that won't cause your new home to spontaneously combust, and so on. But what about the other stuff you should be mindful of? You know, the considerations not covered during your home inspection?

These more personal assessments may not be as "dear-god-get-me-out-of-here" detrimental as a crumbling foundation, but they could likewise affect your quality of life for the foreseeable future. So here are a few things to watch for, as well as the ones you shouldn't sweat.

3 Things to Pay Attention To

1. The amount of natural light

Unless you're particularly partial to living like a cave-dweller, you want your home to have ample natural light. Besides making everything inside look better, it just makes you feel better. Yet this is often glossed over by some buyers during the house hunt. If you have your sights set on a house, schedule viewings at different times of the day to get an accurate picture of the natural light situation.

If you need secondary motivation outside of how beautiful natural light is, consider this: The amount of natural light in your home could indicate bigger (read: more costly) issues. Too little and you may have to add or modify existing windows, which could run upwards of $15,000.

2. The driveway and parking situation

You may be thinking, "Really? The driveway?" To which the answer is, "Yes. Really, really." The dimensions of your driveway could very well determine how quickly your new-home infatuation fades. It may seem silly in the grand scheme of things, but consider your parking spot like an extended part of your entryway. If the drive is too narrow, you'll spend countless hours playing musical cars to squeeze vehicles in. Alternately, if it's too long and you live in an area prone to snowdrifts, you may never want to leave home during the winter months. Street parking may seem like a viable option, but some cities have strict regulations regarding visitors and even overnight parking. Be sure to ask!

3. The neighborhood

This is the epicenter of the house hunt for many people for one readily apparent reason: You want to like the area where you live. But there are a few less obvious things to consider before you hit the local coffee shop in preparation for your first early Saturday open house. Are there ample sidewalks in case you want to take a leisurely stroll or go for a bike ride? Is it in close proximity to public transportation? If you have kids, there's little doubt you looked into the local school district. Even if you don't, though, keep in mind a better school district equals a better resale value. And, finally, read any HOA documents before you sign on the dotted line. It will be tedious beyond belief, but doing so will alert you to restrictions, bylaws, and other issues that could be unwelcome surprises down the road.

3 Things to Ignore

1. The seller's style

Don't let that Day-Glo paint in the kitchen be a deal breaker. For that matter, don't let any paint color put you off of a home you like. You can always repaint and, let's be honest, what first time home-buyer doesn't want to hand-pick their own hues anyway? Similarly, if the seller's fuzzy toilet seat cover stresses you out, don't worry — they'll take it with them when they go. It can be hard to envision your stuff in a home that currently clashes with your personal style, but try to remember decor is easily changed and offers you the opportunity to tailor things to your own tastes.

2. Clutter

Hey, life is busy, you know? Sometimes a seller just can't find the time to pack up the plethora of tchotchkes littering their living room before a showing. Cut 'em some slack (selling is just as stressful as buying) and think outside the box. Just bring a tape measure to make sure there actually is enough room for your belongings and focus on the condition of the house as opposed to its clutter.

3. Unsolicited opinions

You'll soon find that everyone and their brother has an opinion about your potential new home, from the color of its exterior to the quality of the finishes inside. If you feel as though a particular piece of unsolicited advice may be helpful, by all means cull that wisdom. Fortunately, though, you can simply ignore anything else. You're the one who'll be living there and paying the mortgage. Ultimately, the only person you need to please when you pick your house is you.

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