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Buying Your First Home, The Survival Guide: Choosing a Home

By Stevie Duffin Updated on 7/20/2017

Editor’s Note: This article is the third in Lender411’s Buying Your First Home, The Survival Guide trilogy. Skip to the first entry, Getting Pre-Approved or the second, Calculating Costs.

Part Three: Choosing a House

choosing a houseOnce you have an accurate estimate of your budget, it’s time to go shopping. You’ll want to keep the following home attributes in mind to ensure your property is not just a comfortable nest, but a worthy investment.

Secure a desirable property.

This can be fun, or it can be a nightmare. One way to make it easier is by working with a trusted and knowledgeable realtor. House shopping is hard, and finding listings online is not as reliable as it sometimes seems. 

A realtor should be aware of all properties that are for sale, and they have all the keys to get you in. Some general things to consider when looking for a home:

1. Survey the surroundings.

Is the town on a downward financial slope, or on the rise? If the area is modest, but a new high school is being built, and trendy restaurants seem to be popping up everywhere, it’s more likely the value of your house will appreciate with time, rather than the grim opposite. A fiscally sound city is likely to have lower real estate tax requirements as well.

2. Assess pride of ownership aka “curb appeal.”

One thing a Home Owner’s Association is good for keeping a neighborhood up to a high standard of attractiveness. When you have a committee lording over your lawn, or insisting your condo be painted every three years, you’ll feel the pain in your wallet for sure - but there's no doubt the neighborhood will appear tidy, albeit uniform.

So in moderation, some stringent HOA policies are likely to benefit you in a future sale. Having this in mind already at the time of purchase may seem overzealous, but it’s not a throw-away concept considering owners rarely stay in their first house for the rest of their lives.

Lastly, ask your realtor if the area is high in renters versus owners. Typically, rented properties tend to be less well cared for, so steer clear of high renter occupancy areas if you can. 

3. Discriminate based on age and structure.

A house built in the 1960s possesses a certain charm, and often older neighborhoods don’t come hand in hand with HOA drama, which is nice. However, older homes come with older floors, pipes, and possibly older kitchens. You’ll need to decide if your budget can accommodate probable future renovations.

The home’s structure is necessary and here’s why: encroachment. If you’re examining townhouses and notice some adjoining side yards, you’ll have to be aware that putting up fences or planters or anything else along the perimeter of your perceived property lines could be cause for some neighbor-neighbor conflict.

4. Beware the HOA requirements.

If you’re moving into a neighborhood or condominium complex with an HOA, investigate. Maybe they require that you pay flood insurance. See green belts and not much else? Your HOA fees should be low. But if there's a pool and gym, you could be looking at $300+ per month, depending on your city.

HOAs can be tyrannical and fine you for having so much as a flower pot on your front door, or an extra car in your driveway. Find out all the HOA quirks before you fall in love with a piece of property.

5. Get a home inspection, and read the seller’s Sales Disclosure thoroughly.

Past issues that left any wake of damage should be outlined in the Sales Disclosure. Get a home inspection anyway and do not be talked out of this for any reason. Realtors work with familiar companies that will conduct a thorough inspection of your desired home. You do not want a nasty surprise when you move in, such as a busted water heater or a growing army of termites.

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About The Author:
Stevie Duffin
Stevie is the Senior Editor at Lender411. She manages the site's Authorship Program and social media pages. Stevie graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a BS. Contact her: stevie@lender411com.

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