Are you in the market for a new home? Millions of Americans move each year, so even if you’re not quite ready to answer “yes” at the moment, you likely will before long.
But buying a home isn’t like going to the grocery store to stock up on supplies for the coming week. it is a major investment that could have huge ramifications for your family’s finances, lifestyle, even physical health. If you go into the home shopping process blind, you could wind up making a mistake that takes years to fix.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of help to be had for novice homebuyers. If you’re curious about where to start, try out these five home shopping tips for a better buying experience.
Who Are the Neighbors?
You’re probably not going to ease into your new home if you don’t get along with the neighbors. Before putting in an offer, take some time to speak with the folks you’ll be living near. Get a sense of their values and priorities. Do they have kids who might make nice playpals for your brood? Are they concerned about the same issues — safety, security, well-kept parcels, whatever — as you? If you’re getting a dissonant vibe, trust your gut and keep driving.
What’s the School Situation?
The quality of the local schools — as measured by school performance, student outcomes, per-pupil spending, and other objective metrics — is critical to the success or failure of your home buying operation, even if you don’t have kids at the moment. Before you buy, spend as much time as necessary for researching the school districts in the areas you’re considering.
Can You Walk Around the Block?
Walkability isn’t a top priority for every family — you might like having plenty of space, ample parking, and the ability to retreat to a comfortable car whenever you wish. This is America, and that’s your right. But walkable neighborhoods are increasingly in-demand — and, by some measures, they may actually be safer than spread-out, exurban neighborhoods, particularly for families with small children. The Walk Score is a good measure of walkability and street life.
Do You Fit in?
Talking to your neighbors is important, but don’t neglect the broader culture in your chosen district, city, or county. This is an especially critical consideration for long-distance movers — uprooting oneself to a new, unfamiliar state or region of the country necessitates some adjustment. Since you can’t always control where or why you relocate, the secret to success and happiness lies in finding like-minded, or at least tolerant, communities near your new home. A little nostalgia never hurt anyone!
Will the House Age Well?
Most people don’t buy a home with the expectation that they’ll sell it the following year. In fact, life circumstances often change faster than one’s living circumstances. it is easier to transform your home office or “storage bedroom” into a nursery, for example, than to pack up the whole house and move into a bigger place across town. But to successfully grow into a house, the house needs to have space for you to grow into. Keep future plans for kids and live-in parents in mind when selecting a new place.