Think long-term and think re-sale. You might be planning to live in your first home for only a few years. In that case, who is your target audience when it comes time to sell the house? If you buy a house in a very bad school district or a house on a very busy street, when you are ready to sell the house, most families with children will be out of your list of potential buyers.
Make a list of items to check: Home-buying is an emotional process. Ideally, you should set aside all your emotions when evaluating a house. Practically, that is impossible. Instead, make a checklist of your must-haves, and any other “requirements,” that you seek in a home. If you fall in love with the house, but it has none of the amenities you want, it will at least make you pause and think.
Look at ALL the expenses when you are budgeting for the house: When budgeting for the house, you must add in utilities, cost of commuting and upgrades. Call the utility companies that service the house you are considering and ask for an estimate of what the cost will be. Utilities and commute factors are often overlooked, which is unfortunate, because little costs like these add up to a lot of money.
If your long term plan is to rent out the house when you move away; keep in mind, once you identify the neighborhood you like, ask for a copy of the HOA contract after going to an open house in the area. It may be that none of the houses in your area can be rented out. If you are buying a house that is part of an HOA, it is absolutely essential to read the HOA contract before you do anything else.
There are many different options based on profession (grants for teachers, farmers, etc.) as well as the area of the potential house (whether it’s in a rural area, high-poverty area, etc.) Research all the grants and funding options you are eligible for before you automatically decide you won’t qualify for anything.
A house is probably the largest purchase you will ever make in your life, so make sure you understand the terms of your contract. If you don’t understand any of the terms, ask your mortgage broker and your real estate agent. If they won’t explain the terms clearly to you, fire them; there are enough people who will be more than happy to help you and work for your business.
Also be sure to learn about the neighborhood demographics.If you are buying a house in a neighborhood full of renters, it only takes a few bad renters or bad landlords to drive the neighborhood down fast. If the neighborhood is full of single people, will you be happy there if you have very young kids?
Be sure to look past the “staging,” of the home. This can be hard to do. Don’t be fooled by the recently decorated home. Unless you are also purchasing everything in the house, it is going to look different when you move your things in. Unfortunately, the psychology does work; staged houses look far better than houses that are still being occupied. When you are considering a house, mentally try to remove the staging. Pay more attention to the layout of the house and the structure itself. Ugly wallpaper and paint can be easily fixed later. Read this great article by HGTV on Essential Tips for First-Time Homebuyers.