Defining Your Perfect Home
Buying a home is a big commitment, both in terms of time, and finances. Because of this, it’s important to go into the home buying process knowledgeable and prepared. Just as you would make a list of items you need before going out shopping for groceries, it’s important to hone in on what you are looking for and what you need when shopping for a home.
When you are considering changing homes, a good place to start is to look at how you live currently, and how you want your lifestyle to change over the coming years. Then, you can consider the housing options available to you and what kind of neighborhood you want to live in, and finally, you can create a “home shopping list” where you can prioritize the things most important to you in your dream home. To get started with this process, feel free to get a piece of paper and begin reflecting on these steps as you continue reading. This article assumes that you already have a budget in mind, and does not cover assessing your finances. To learn more about how you can do that, check out our First Time Buyers: Top Tips for Buying a Home.
Your Current and Future Lifestyle
Take a look at what you like most about your current lifestyle, and what you want to change. This will give you an idea not only about what to look for in a home but what to avoid. What are the most important parts of your life? Time with family in the park, and access to nature? Specific types of shopping centers, culture, and nightlife? Are museums and libraries important? Access to growing space for a garden? Hobbies that must be nurtured, such as a space for working on crafts, or a woodworking shop?
Remember to explore too what you want to avoid the most. Does a noisy street drive you crazy? Are you sick of having a front row seat into your neighbor’s living room? To figure out what you want, sometimes it’s important to know what you don’t want.
Also, consider how your life will change in the coming years. Do you and your partner plan to have kids, if you don’t already have them? Or are your kids getting to the stage where they will soon move out?
Styles of Homes
There are a lot of choices when it comes to buying a home, from small, single-family houses, to large farmhouses, condos, townhouses and manufactured homes.
This is the typical style of home that many people think of when imagining owning a home. It’s a freestanding building not attached to any other buildings, with its own property (a lot). This type of home is ideal for space and privacy but can cost a lot more in time and money to maintain the building and property than some other home styles.
This is a building that has two units, either side-by-side or an upper and lower level. They can either be specifically built as two separate dwellings or converted from one living space into two. If you own a duplex, you can often live in one part of the building and rent the other out to help with mortgage payments. This can also be a disadvantage, however, as the wrong tenants can provide many challenges, from late rent cheques, lease-breaking, or loud music. Financially speaking, owning a duplex can be a little more costly to maintain since you will be responsible for maintaining both buildings, each with its own set of appliances, plumbing and heating systems, etc.
Condominiums, or condos, are like apartments except owned by the people who live in them. Condo owners own not only part of the building, but also have a share in the common areas, such as parking lots, shared buildings and rooms, courtyards, and other shared areas. As a condo owner, you’ll often pay a condo association which manages maintenance and repairs of the structure and grounds. On the plus side of condo ownership, not only are they usually less expensive than single-family homes, but you may also have access to amenities such as swimming pools, gyms, or tennis courts.
However, there is, of course, less privacy in a condo, and less control over your environment and your building (e.g. you must get permission before undertaking any renovations).
Townhouses are simply rows of houses with connected walls, usually multi-storied, each with their own entrance. As with condos, you own a piece of the building, and sometimes, though not always, you may co-own common areas with other residents. Townhouses can offer decent privacy since there are no dwellings above your building, and they are also usually less expensive than single-family homes. Just as with condos, a townhouse owner will often pay a fee to an association which maintains common areas and the overall building exterior.
Modular and Manufactured Homes
These are homes that are pre-built and transported piece by piece to the site.
A modular home is made section by section in a factory, and the pieces are then transported to the lot and lifted into place, where they are put together, and utilities, etc. are installed.
A manufactured home is built from top to bottom directly in the factory on top of a steel chassis, after which it is transported to the site, and may or may not be attached to a permanent foundation.
Home Condition and Age
Do you want a newly constructed, more energy efficient home, a pre-owned home that is relatively new, a home that is a few decades old, or an old fixer-upper? Each may have its pros and cons. Building a home from scratch, of course, gives you the possibility of creating a completely custom design, or choosing existing designs that suit your needs. This may be more expensive than buying an existing one (as much as 10 percent).
Pre-owned homes, if built recently may offer many of the benefits of a new home (better insulation and energy efficiency, etc.), but with less cost and less work on your part.
Older homes run the gamut of everything from a 100+ year century homes, to homes that are a couple of decades old. Older homes are often in more established neighborhoods, with older trees and landscape features that offer a more inviting feel to the environment. Often, older homes may also have larger lots, and although older, may even be more solidly built than a modern homemade on the cheap. And of course, an older home is likely to have more character than a newly built home.
Another type of home to consider is one that needs work. These can be enticing if you have any construction skills, or a bit of a budget to put into it, as you can often get a good deal, and hopefully, not spend as much money fixing it up as you will have saved. This is an important point to assess before investing in such a home.
Finding a Neighbourhood
Finding your dream home is about more than just finding a building you like. It’s also important to keep in mind the location, and its proximity to things that are important to you, like nature, schools, services, and shopping, and of course, your work. You need to ask yourself if you’re looking for a high activity, central location, or a more out of the way, quiet neighborhood. Do you want a country home with access to woodlands and a sprawling garden, or a small lot in the inner city?
Bedrooms, Bathrooms, and Other Details
Finally, you must of course plan for how many bedrooms you will need, and given your family size, how many bathrooms would be ideal. Also consider things like the square footage that would be reasonable for your family, whether you can’t do without a rec room or a laundry room, a pool, and any other must-have features.
Conclusion: Making a List
Now that you have assessed some of the key issues in finding a home, you should hopefully have a list of some of the key things you’re looking for, along with what you want to avoid. Take your time and think it over, add to it, prioritize the items, and consider what you’re willing to compromise on, and where you simply can’t budge. Now when you begin looking for your home, you will have a laser focus on what you want, so you can focus more on certain homes and not waste your time on the ones that simply don’t fit your lifestyle or your needs.
To discuss your findings and translate them into a plan to find your perfect home, contact me now to get the process started!