Buying your own home is a major investment that you shouldn’t take lightly. That’s why it’s important to try to get it right, whether you’re buying your very first one, climbing a rung higher on the property ladder to accommodate your household’s changing needs, or looking for a comfortable nest to retreat to when you retire. Making sure that you’re well-informed before putting any money towards a property—even one that you’ve fallen in love with at first sight—can help you avoid making a costly mistake that is also sure to affect your future quality of life.
But how does one purchase a home, exactly? First-time buyers aren’t the only ones that can get lost in the minutiae of it all. Even those who have been through it before may still find a refresher useful. Here’s our guide to assist you to narrow down what you really need in a home, and to help demystify the process:
Start by Deciding on an Area
Before anything else, it’s best to think about what kind of area you want to live in. Some people might say that doing so whittles your choices down too much, but that’s not a bad thing when it comes to house-hunting. Having a clear idea of the area you see yourself living in can help inform many of the choices you’ll have to make later on. It can also save you from potential heartache and regret. After all, there’s not much of a point in putting the down payment on a property that’s located in the wrong area.
There are several questions that you can ask yourself to help you narrow down your ideal location. For example, the climate of the area may not be an element that you’ve consciously considered until now, but it can be a make-or-break factor once you consider this factor. Another detail worth giving some thought to is the area’s level of activity. If you’re sensitive to loud noises or having too many people around, you may want to look for someplace a bit quieter. Finally, if you don’t own a vehicle, you may want to look into an area’s accessibility and proximity to your essential destinations, such as your place of work, the supermarket, nearby schools if you have children, and so on.
Plan your Home Minimum Size Requirements
We all have changing needs in our living arrangements throughout our lives, which translate to how many rooms we need in our homes. Some young people have saved enough money for a deposit and have a well-paid job that can support a mortgage so they can invest in their first property which may be a modest house or a small apartment which suits them fine while they are single. Most of us wait until we are married and have a double income to support the mortgage to buy our first home. It’s when there are big changes in lifestyle that we tend to look for new homes. For example becoming newlyweds, starting a young family, finding new employment, needing a home office, becoming empty nesters or retirees; what we look for in a home will change over time. Be very clear about what your minimum needs are now and into the future. Prepare for tomorrow but make sure you consider your budget.
Understand Your Budget
Once you’ve picked your area, it’s time to take a closer look at your budget. Determining exactly how much you can spend on a property can also prevent future problems later on. When you have a specific number in mind, you’ll be less likely to land yourself in financial trouble when you make that all-important purchase. Doing so also narrow down the available choices to a more manageable number, ultimately making going out to viewings easier.
To calculate a very basic home-buying budget, start by adding up all of your household’s sources of income. Next, make a list of your monthly expenses, and don’t skimp out on the details! As much as possible, you’ll want every dollar accounted for.
Ideally, you should limit your housing payments to no more than 25 per cent to 31 per cent of your monthly income. It’s not worth going over that number for a dream home that will only bury you in debt.
While most properties will not need much to renovate to your style, you need to be aware of how much additional money is needed for any changes. Make sure you are realistic about this renovation cost. As we point out in the next section, some changes needed will just be cosmetic. Some tradespeople may deliberately seek out properties that need repair that they can fix themselves so they can save that money on their budget. It is about knowing your budget, and understanding your capabilities and being aware of the time it may take to complete the renovations yourself.
Don’t Get Caught Up in the Cosmetics
It’s easy to get put off, as a buyer, if the home you’re viewing seems to be on the shabbier side. Things like an overgrown front yard, peeling wallpaper, faded flooring or carpeting, or the occasional broken window can make a home look less than welcoming. Minor signs of damage like these can also intimidate the average buyer into thinking that they’ll need to put in a ton of effort just to make the house liveable. This is hardly ever the case, though. If anything, you can actually save a lot of money just by looking past these cosmetic faults.
Again, these are minor signs of damage that shouldn’t take too much time or money to fix. However, they can drag the price of a property down a lot and can be used as leverage to pull it down even further. To determine whether the place is a fixer-upper or a financial sinkhole, though, it’s always a good idea to enlist the assistance of an architect or surveyor to inspect the property before committing.
When it comes down to it, buying a new home doesn’t have to feel like rocket science. With a bit of practical knowledge and a healthy dose of common sense, it shouldn’t be that difficult to find a property that you’ll absolutely love living in for years to come. Make sure that you diligently do your homework and are attentive during viewings. Before long, the right place should reveal itself to you.
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