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Home buying checklist: Tips for house hunting

You know how much you can afford for a down payment. You’ve met with a mortgage lender to look at your financing options. Then comes the final step: making an offer on a home that you love!

 

It's hard not to fall in love once you can see yourself in your new home, but there are still a few logical steps to get you to the good stuff. Here are some house-hunting tips to keep you on track, organized, and focused while you’re exploring your options.

 

Know what you want

 

Before you even walk through the door, you should have a list of everything you want in a home, incorporating input from everyone who will live there. Settle on five must-haves and keep that list handy when you start to feel overwhelmed.

 

It's okay to have other nice-to-haves in mind. These might help you decide between two similar options, but keeping the core focus in mind can help you prioritize your efforts.

 

Take a first-impression walkthrough

 

The first time you enter a home, do an initial walkthrough without dwelling on a specific room or feature. Take note of your first impressions and enjoy the opportunity to soak it all in. Once you have a gut feeling, it’s time to consult your priority list.

 

If a paint color isn't to your liking, that's an easier fix than spending time on a house with too few bathrooms. By having those five priorities top of mind, you'll know if a house meets the test to be on the shortlist.

 

Think like an inspector

 

Once you’ve done your first walkthrough, take another trip through the house. This time take notes and pay careful attention like an inspector. Be critical — that's okay — but focus on the bones of the house.

 

If you are going to have to replace all the bathroom fixtures, that's more cosmetic than finding leaky pipes. It's worth getting a tutorial from an expert on building codes and solid construction.

 

Bring furniture measurements

 

Don’t forget to measure your favorite furniture pieces that you plan to take with you to the new house. Making sure your giant sleigh bed fits into the master bedroom could be a deal-breaker. Don’t burden yourself with the unnecessary cost of an entirely new furniture collection.

 

Don't overlook appliances, too, but even more importantly, measure the sizes of doorways and staircases. That bed might fit in the room, but if you can't get it up the spiral staircase, just hollering "pivot" at your movers won't be good for your furnishings.

 

Take photos and video

 

You’d be surprised how much you can forget the moment you walk out of a potential house. Ask the realtor or homeowner if it’s possible to take photos or even a quick video tour so you can better remember what the house looks like.

 

This isn't time to get into the nitty-gritty of the house, but to help recall small details you might overlook. For example, if a picture window has a beautiful view, what will the room look like in a few months when the sun is lower and there is lots of direct sunlight? These small considerations may not stick with you after the initial tour.

 

Come back at another time of day

 

If you decide you’d like another showing of the house, be sure to come back at a different time of day, or under different weather conditions. Take note of the changes in the lighting and atmosphere. Each time you return, you’ll discover something new about the location.

If you're working with a realtor, ask plenty of questions about the surroundings: Is there a homeowners association? Are there plans for the empty lot at the end of the street?

 

Knowing more about the neighborhood will help you make more aware of the peaks and valleys of the community, traffic patterns, and nightlife.

 

Before you put in the offer, use these house-hunting tips to make sure you’ve found the one that's for keeps.

Tags: Home ownership, Borrowing

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