It took my husband (Drew) and me about six months to find our first home. That’s not a typical schedule, and I’m incredibly grateful for how much patience our real estate agent had.
Part of the reason it took so long was that the house marketing was hot at the time. A few times, we were standing in a house (the day it went on the market, ready to make an offer when our agent found out that the homeowners had just accepted another offer.
But it also took us so long because we were nervous about making such a big purchase. And why wouldn’t we be? House hunting might just be one of the most stressful shopping you’ll ever do.
During those six months, we learned a lot about what goes into choosing and buying a home. If you’re buying your first home, I wanted to share a few of the things you to keep in mind.
1. Location matters
You’ve probably heard that the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location. And for a good reason. You can change almost everything about a house except its location.
When you’re looking at a home, think about how close it is to work, the charm of the neighborhood, and how much noise you’ll hear from nearby neighbors.
I think the neighborhood is one of the most essential factors. If you love a community and your neighbors, you can forgive almost any imperfection in your home. But how do you know if you’ll love the neighborhood before moving in? Our real estate agent suggested that we drive through the area at various times during the day and week. We even took a few walks beforehand to talk to anyone outside and ask them what they liked and disliked about the neighborhood.
2. The size & floorplan are important
Not all square footage is created equal. Just because two houses have 2,000 square feet of space doesn’t mean they use it the same way. So when you’re touring a home, think about how you plan to use the space and if the rooms are laid out well.
Drew and I toured this one house that I loved. It had updated trim work and an updated kitchen (very different than the house we ended up buying). It was even in a good neighborhood. But it also had large hallways… unusually large hallways. They were so big that they cut into the living spaces. We ended up buying a home with a little less square footage but ended up with a larger living room, kitchen, dining room, and master bedroom than the other house.
3. You can’t have too much storage
There’s no such thing about too much storage, so make sure your new house has plenty of it. If you’re looking at a house that the homeowners still live in, pay attention to whether they had to add any other storage solutions. If they have tons of bins under the bed or shelves full of food that would typically go in a pantry, the house might not have the storage you need.
4. There’s no such thing as a perfect house
You’re not going to get exactly everything you want in one house. I’ve even heard the same thing from people who built their homes.
Before you start house hunting, I recommend making two lists: nice-to-haves and must-haves. Try to find a house that has as many of your must-haves as possible.
Everyone’s lists will be different. Your must-have list might look something like this:
- 4 bedrooms
- At least 3 bathrooms
- Office space
- A large bonus room
- Proximity to work
And your nice-to-have list might include:
- An updated kitchen
- First-floor owner’s suite
- Fenced in backyard
- Brick exterior
If you’re working with a real estate agent, share your lists and talk to them about what they think is realistic in your area and for your budget.
5. You can always paint
When I first started watching house hunting shows on HGTV, I was always shocked when the couple said something like, “I hate the color of the dining room.” That always seemed to be a reason they didn’t like the house.
It’s easy to be turned off a house because of the wall color, but painting is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to make a house your own. Instead, focus on the structure of the house and the things you can’t change easily.