Buying a home is an exciting experience. It's like a Saturday shopping trip on steroids and the price tag has a few extra zeroes. There are a few facts that every potential first time home buyer needs to reconcile with before they head out with their Realtor, however.
1. Location: You may find the perfect house, but you can't change its location. If it backs to a freeway you are going to hear the cars. If it is next to a cell tower, it will block your view. The key here is to ask yourself how much you like the house. Think of it this way, many grocery shoppers will avoid the apple with the obvious bruise, but the bruise may not bother you because you like the apple. Plus, as an added bonus, the price is often lower compared to similar houses in the area to compensate for the location.
2. Square Footage: You can't add square footage (without remodeling), so many buyers are given the advice to buy as big as they can afford. While the basis of that advice is true, buy what works for you. Do not stretch your budget thin just to try to buy the biggest house. In fact, most people will move 11.7 times in their life so don't sweat the square footage. Chances are pretty high that you will move again.
3. Budget: Before you head out with your real estate agent, you will most likely meet with a mortgage expert. After running the numbers with you, they will give you a maximum amount that the bank will lend you, along with a rough guesstimate as to what the monthly payment will be, including PITI (principal, interest, taxes, and insurance). This is a max number. It does not have to be what you end up spending. Maxing out that pre-approval may mean that you have to cut your things from your household budget, like your annual ski trip or frequent runs to Starbucks. Give yourself some wiggle room and shoot to spend less than that bank preapproval.
4. Compromise: Every house that you look at will be a compromise. You may have to give a little on the kitchen, when you gain a 3-season room. You may give up a garage space, but gain an incredible deck. Have a list of one or two must haves, like number of bedrooms or school district, and stick to it. Know that every other feature is a compromise of something else.
5. See Past the Ugly: The mantra "one man's trash is another man's treasure" most definitely applies to home decorating. When house hunting, you have to look past the garish red sofa and the 1960s metallic, floral wallpaper to see the potential house underneath it all. Paint can be covered. Wallpaper can be removed. Sofas don't come with the house. With a little elbow grease, an ugly house can be your diamond in the rough.
House hunting is hard work and, if you go in expecting perfection, it can be even harder. Know the truth and shop with an open mind to find the perfect house for you.