Your dream list may include items like 4 bedrooms, full finished basement, upscale kitchen and baths, large fenced backyard, and three car garage. Maybe all of these features are within your range, but will it be the right home for you? Should you consider a condo or townhouse rather than a single family dwelling? Yes, you need to have a list of what you need or want in a home, but to have a home in the right location may require some flexibility.
The first thing is to get pre-approved for the mortgage loan. This is not pre-qualified, but the full process of a mortgage loan to make sure you qualify for the amount you want.
Find the appropriate agent
You may already have an idea of where you want to live. Get an agent in that area. Every agent has an area they work in. If the agent needs to go 20 miles outside of that area, they may not know the area well enough.
Both spouses will have to decide how far and how much time they want to devote to their work commute. It may be different for each spouse, so figure out ahead of time what type of compromise can be made.
If you have children or plan to, the school district you want your children to attend is very important. Depending on the age of the children, you will want to plan 5 to 10 years out. A good resource for choosing a school is Great Schools.
There are many resources to find out about crime statistics in the neighborhood you may be interested in. A very good resource of 5 top tools to use is listed on SafeWise. In your crime search, be sure to include a search of registered sexual offenders. Be aware that every area has some crime and some sexual offenders. Decide what you can be comfortable with. Having an offender living next door to you would most likely not be comfortable. It is your responsibility, not the agents' to look into these things.
If you choose to live in a metropolitan area you will want to consider walkability in measuring whether you can conveniently walk to places you need to go, rather than always using your car or public transportation. In a suburban area, you may want to consider it for leisurely walking or jogging places. The site Walk Score can help with this assessment.
Determine if shopping is close enough to the home. You will want grocery shopping and gas stations within 5 minutes of your home.
In suburbia, there are many types of neighborhoods. Some may boast of tennis courts, swimming pools, amphitheaters, work out centers, golf courses, family activities, and the list continues. With all these choices or combination of choices also comes a lifestyle choice you will need to decide when choosing where to live. Both single-family neighborhoods and condos or townhomes offer these choices. What is most important to you?
Factors to Consider Between a Home or Condo
- Responsible for all maintenance inside and out.
- Weekly cutting of lawn and landscape maintenance including trees.
- Larger yard.
- Usually, a two car garage is included.
- Possibly more private.
- More Square footage.
- Price higher on single- family home.
- Usually, a smaller yard.
- Often only responsible for inside maintenance. Outside is by the association.
- Association cuts lawn, landscape and tree maintenance.
- Assigned parking spots, or 1 car garage.
- May lose some privacy with neighbors close.
- Square footage may be smaller.
- Many times a lower price on the unit.
Your already established lifestyle is also a factor. If both you and your partner work a lot of hours or do a lot of traveling you may not want to be tied to mowing the lawn. These are just a few of the factors to consider.
HOA or condo fees
Many times the price of the home will be just right, but then you are surprised by the monthly HOA or condo fees. You must figure these into the price. Also, check if there are any special assessments the homeowners are expected to pay in excess of the regular fees. In speaking of HOA's or condo fees, make sure to read the rules or by-laws of the community before buying to make sure you are comfortable to live within them. It is much better to know before buying instead of getting a "rude awakening" later.
Another expense to be aware of is taxes. If you are deciding on two areas, but in one area the taxes are much higher, that may factor into your decision.
Check the real estate records in the area you want to live to determine if the properties have a steady appreciation. If they have dropped in value, that should be a consideration.
Decisions and Compromise
There are a lot of decisions to be made, and whether to buy a single-family home, condo or townhouse is part of it. And, yes compromise is most likely. What is most important? All of these decisions can be overwhelming unless you have a professional helping you. Start the first step of getting pre-approved for a mortgage loan today.