The Top 10 Tips for Buying a Home in 2021
2020 taught us that home is not just where your heart is, it might also be your place of work, your go-to restaurant, your child's classroom, your gym/yoga studio, and last but not least, the place you get to wind down and fall asleep in.
The past year might have shown you that you need a bigger place to live comfortably with your family. Maybe you need to leave your cozy apartment and find a place with a yard and a pool so you don’t feel so locked in if your vacation plans get canceled by something like a pandemic or a natural disaster.
Whatever your reason might be, you’re far from the only one searching for a new home this year.
Not sure where to start?
Here’s my list of tips to help you find the perfect home for you:
1. Make a list of exactly what you want out of a new house
Even if you think the only reason you need to move is to go from a three-bedroom home to a four-bedroom home, you might forget the things you require that you've been taking for granted in your old home or apartment.
When you go to a house showing they're going to showcase the best points to you. It's up to you to focus on the fact that you would rather not have one less bathroom to get that slightly larger renovated kitchen.
So sit down and write out exactly what you want out of a place before you start searching.
2. Make a list of potential neighborhoods you would be willing to live in
Too many people make the mistake of focusing on living in a neighborhood that they think would sound good to live in that they forget that they'll have to sacrifice a lot of the things they want out of their dream home in order to live on a certain street.
So don't worry about where the Jones’s want to live, they aren't moving in with you.
It's probably best to avoid high-crime neighborhoods, but word of mouth isn't always the best way to figure that out. I recommend going to a site like City Protect
where you can type in a zip code and see info posted by thousands of law enforcement sites showing incidents that happened in that neighborhood and all of the sex offenders that live in or near that area.
3. Don't consider a fixer-upper unless you know what you are doing
I would seriously advise against buying a fixer-upper unless you already work in construction or home repair. It's entirely possible that after watching hours of youtube videos you might be able to reasonably replace drywall, but that doesn't mean that taking on a large project like this is a good idea.
Those people on shows about house flipping make it seem super easy to fix a place that's falling apart. Without a crew making movie magic for you this will take more than a few days.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you tackle a fixer-upper:
Do I have enough in savings to hire contractors to do this if I break a leg?
Do I have enough time outside of my job to finish the project in a reasonable amount of time?
Am I the sort of person that can quickly learn from videos and articles on the internet how to do a DIY project? Or do I just hope I could be?
Is the amount I have to spend to do these repairs myself going to outweigh the good price I got on the house?
There is no shame in saying no to any of those questions. A house is a much bigger commitment than that craft project you keep putting off.
4. Make sure that you'll be able to afford your new mortgage
Before you start looking at house prices, make sure you have an idea of what you can reasonably afford based on the type of loan you want to take out.
I recommend going to https://www.mortgagecalculators.info to get a better idea of what sort of monthly mortgage you’ll be looking at and if you can afford it based on your annual income and down payment.
They also show you exactly how much a bad APR on your home loan or a low down payment will cost you in the long run.
5. Look into local schools
If you don’t have children and don’t plan to or if your children are no longer school age you can go on ahead and skip this one.
If you have children or plan on having children you might want to look at local schools as well. Planning on paying for a private school is a bad plan in case your finances change in the future.
You might want to check out www.greatschools.org to see how schools in each neighborhood rank.
6. Pay for a home inspection
Buying a house is a huge investment. It might seem silly to tack on one more fee to the whole process, but it can give you peace of mind that there aren't any hidden and costly problems.
You can't always tell when a house has structural damage, especially if the house looks otherwise perfect. A home inspector is trained in looking for hard-to-see mechanical and structural flaws in the house and can help you better decide if this is a sound investment.
7. Find out exactly where the property lines are
The current owner might have cool neighbors that don't care if the fence goes into their property a bit. That might change if those people move out in a year and suddenly you have neighbors asking for you to build a new fence over your lovely garden.
The owner should have this for you to see, but if they don't you can usually request it from your local surveyor or at your county clerk’s office.
8. Don't stop looking when you find the perfect house
I know, this one sounds like bad advice. But think of it this way, how often have you found a “perfect” piece of clothing and bought it in that happy moment and only wore it once?
Now you're obviously not going to stick your house in the back of your closet for a year, but it's a great example that just because you love something at the moment, doesn't mean it's going to be your favorite next to other options.
So if it’s the first house you’ve liked you might want to look at some similar ones before you decide on it.
9. Don’t automatically count out ugly duckling homes
I get it. No one wants to live in a house with old carpet and awful wall colors.
The beautiful thing about buying a home, though, is that you aren’t renting this and can change those things pretty easily.
If the only problems are an outdated kitchen, old carpets, and ugly wall paint it might be worth reconsidering. Those are cheap and easy fixes and if it’s going for less than market value for being an eyesore you may have your dream home for a lot cheaper.
10. Take your daily commute into consideration
If you work outside the home make sure that the commute to your job is reasonable for you.
What might be a fun drive out to the country one day, might become a nightmare five days a week. Also, take into consideration any extra mileage it will put on your car.