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Decide What Kind of Home You Want

Buying your new home: decide what kind of home you want

Your search for a new home will be more successful if you form a good idea of what kind of home you would like to buy ahead of time. Here at Tellus Real Estate Solutions, we believe that you should start by looking at your personal requirements and then look at the numbers.

To educate first time home buyers on the buyer process, Tellus Real Estate Solutions regularly conducts a “Home Buyer 101” class at various locations throughout Puget Sound. Informative slides and handouts from one of our classes are available as downloads on our website here:

Here are some of the most common factors that a buyer should consider when deciding what kind of home to purchase:

Location, location, location The old adage about real estate being about “location, location, location” is true for many reasons, including the following:

  • Commute time: How long do you want to spend commuting to your work? Drive times can be a significant factor in your decision as to where to purchase a home. If you need access to public transportation, that too can help direct your choice of location.
  • Family and friends: You may want to remain close to family or friends, which will target the area where you want to search. Alternatively, you may decide, for whatever reason, that you want to be located a minimum distance from close family. Include this reason as you’re looking for your new home.
  • Activities and social organizations: You may want to keep a club, team, church or other organization close enough so that you can remain involved.
  • Schools or school districts: If you have children in school, you may want to make sure they are able to remain in their school. If your current schools don’t meet your academic needs, then you might decide that it’s okay to move out of the system. New parents or future parents should consider which school districts they would like their children to attend when they start school.
  • Crime: Different cities and neighborhoods have different levels of crime. This may be an important factor for you.  Even when choosing a ‘safe’ city it is a good idea to check with the local police department or other sources of crime information to verify there are no issues for a particular property.
  • Economic trends: What are the economic trends for a county, city or community? This could have a significant affect on the future value of your home, schools, crime, etc. Positive trends can make what seems a less desirable neighborhood at present a good place to live long term. Declining economic trends can make a great city at present become an undesirable location to live in the future.

Physical features What size and style of home will work for you? What features should it have on the inside and outside? Some obvious and not-so-obvious items to consider are:

  • Number of bedrooms: How big is your family and how old are family members? Small children can share a room but that is harder for teenagers to share or when children are not the same gender. Will you have visitors who stay the night or who will stay for an extended period?  Having extended family, such as parents or grand-parents move in has become much more common. A general rule of thumb is that three bedrooms is the minimum for most families (one or two bedrooms being appropriate for single owners or young couples just starting out).
  • Number of bathrooms: How many bathrooms do you need? Do you want a bathroom off the master bedroom?  Do you need toilet facilities that are easily accessible to visitors? Most new homes have at least two bathrooms with one part of a master suite and the other shared by occupants of other bedrooms. In two-story homes, its common to have at least a half-bath on the main level for guests.
  • Lifestyle: What kind of lifestyle do you have? The layout and physical features of your home can have a significant impact on your lifestyle or at least how well your home fits your lifestyle.
    • Guests and entertaining: Do you have guests frequently or do you entertain? As mentioned previously, overnight guests may mean you need more bedrooms or bathrooms. The floor plan can also lend itself to entertaining or make entertaining difficult.  Open concept floor plans, with living rooms, family rooms and kitchens open to each other have been popular in recent years.
    • Children: Some parents might want to keep the bedrooms for small children close to them. Parents with older children may want the bedrooms of children to be as far away as possible for increased privacy.
    • Medical issues: If you have arthritis or some other medical issue that makes going up and down stairs a problem, you may want to consider a one-story home.
    • Pets: Do you have pets? You may want to make sure to have a fenced yard. You may also want to think about what kind of flooring makes sense. Hardwood floors may be easier to clean that carpet and make it easier to get rid of dog hair. Pets can also be rough on the home, so a more rustic home or one with an industrial feel may hide the affects better than a Victorian mansion.
    • Maintenance: How much maintenance do you want to do or do you have time for? Do you have the extra money to have someone else maintain things for you? New homes should require fewer repairs than an older home. Large yards require more upkeep than small yards. Different construction materials are considered low maintenance while others have specific guidelines for periodic care.  In some areas, basements are common feature that provides a cool getaway during summer heat, but in the Pacific northwest, basements are less common and are notorious for having moisture issues. Some buyers may enjoy remodeling their home on their own. Being able to add value and make the home just the way you want by upgrading a bathroom or kitchen may be ‘just the ticket’.
  • Personal tastes: Every buyer has a personal sense of style and a set of personal preferences. You may love certain architectural styles and hate others. Hardwood floors may appeal to you or you love the feel of soft carpeting. A brick facade may remind you of the home you grew up in.  Or, perhaps you may have always dreamed of living in loft-style condo downtown.

Personal finances

Sooner or later you will have to figure out how much you are able to spend and how much you are comfortable spending on a new home. Its important to think about this after listing out the requirements for location and the physical aspects so that you can consider the type of loan you will need (assuming you need one).  For example, if your dream is to find a fixer-upper and remodel it, you will want to look at a rehab loan instead of a traditional loan. Location can also affect your financing options. Homes in some areas qualify for low-down or zero-down payment programs. Some communities may offer financing for low-income home buyers or for buyers considering buying a home in an economically depressed area. If you are targeting new construction homes, builders often work with lenders to provide special financing. Use our Home Buyer Budget spreadsheet to help you determine how much you are able to spend on your new home.

Your requirements list

Make a list of your requirements for your new home on a sheet of paper or download and complete our free Home Buyer Questionnaire and keep it handy. It will help you set up a search for your new home. It will also help you keep an objective viewpoint on that cute place you fall in love with as you drive up to the entrance.  Don’t forget to list the things or places you don’t desire as well.

Another good idea is to prioritize.  Its not often you find a home that will match your requirements 100%. Prioritizing will help you decide when the perfect floor plan outweighs the small yard, for example.

Check out what others have to say on this topic
Don’t take just our word for it. Take a look at these articles from other trusted sources for their point of view:

Motley Fool:  Pick Your Home Type

Digerati Life:  How Much House Can You Afford? 10 Steps to Determine Your Home Buying Budget

Trulia.com: 2010 Most Popular Home Features

Realtor.com: How to Choose a Home

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