Home Buyer’s Guide (Part 1)

How to Get Started Finding Your Dream Home

You’re sure to have heard before that location is everything, and real estate is no exception. One of the key factors to the cost of a home is the area that the neighbourhood itself is in. While there are some personal preferences involved in this decision, there are still variables that will affect the cost of the home based on the location, even when every other quality is almost identical.

In 2017, you could buy a three-bedroom home in the city of Atlanta for around $450,000, but if you look out of the city you could find a three bedroom home closer to the $200,000 range. So, consider what other locations can offer as well as deciding on what is most important to you as a home buyer.

Another important part of location to consider is if it is close to your other needs like stores, entertainment, doctors, and are there places available later at night? How do the schools rank in the districts of the homes you are considering? There are a number of other factors that are going to apply to your needs individually, so do adequate research into the areas that you rank as most important.

A lot of home buyers invest a considerable amount of time researching the locations that they are interested in buying a home in. It being such an important decision for their families, a lot of people can’t afford to get stuck in the wrong home for the term of a thirty-year mortgage.

If you are considering the savings in purchasing a home outside of city limits, be sure to consider the cost of commuting to work or to other places like frequent doctor’s office visits. But on the other hand, sometimes living in the city has other costs like paying meters for parking, parking garage fees, metered water, and extra fees regarding pets and even sewage & disposal.

Are there any other bylaws in the city that might apply to you? Bylaws are important to pay attention to as different areas, cities, and neighbourhoods could have limits on pets, landscaping, home decoration, and some other things that may seem a little unexpected later if you don’t research them now. So, take into your calculations more than just the cost of the home. Each location will have its own pros and cons depending on your own situation.

Talk to your real estate agent about the bylaws, laws, and other restrictions that might apply to the area for each home you consider. These kinds of things might not be brought right to the table without you first opening the conversation and asking key questions about the subject. Most real estate agents pay attention to these kinds of things and should have the answers to your questions.

Also take the time to be in and explore the areas you are looking at. Don’t just drive through as you go look at the house. Stop and see what the local area has to offer. Are there parks? Does the neighbourhood have a safe reputation? How well does the community seem upkept? Are there frequent community events or festivals? Try also staying at a local hotel or bed and breakfast close to the area and get a feel for the area itself as well as the people. Even be bold enough as to speak to the locals. Ask them how they enjoy living in the area and if they feel safe there.

This part is easy to overlook as it is so easy to get caught up in the numbers and online analytics instead of looking with our own eyes. If you are going to be moving there then these are the attractions (or dis-attractions) that you will be passing by every day. Do they create the feeling of home and community that you are looking for?

It is also important to involve all members of the family in the process when it comes to buying a home. If you have kids, get a feel for what they think about the home, the neighbourhood, general area, and even the school. You want to root your family somewhere your kids are as excited to be in as you are. Spend some time as a family at the local park or playground. Go out to eat and make an adventure out of it. And at the end of the day, let them know that they have a voice in making this decision.

If you consider living in the area for many years, also reflect on the amenities, attractions, and the different things that your family may need in the future. Will your children be teenagers here? Look at the schools all the way to the University level. Are there plenty of opportunities for your children to benefit from down the road? How might the area itself also grow throughout your time there? Also consider how far away these things are. If everything is far away then you can count on yourself driving that distance back and forth quite often. The school they go to now might be down the road, but the high school could be 30 minutes away.

Be thorough when you assess the pros and cons involved in searching for your new home. Make sure it’s a place you can grow and be comfortable in. This means that you’ll need to think ahead to what your long-term goals are and how they might become needs in the future.

Examining the Pros and Cons

City living carries many different benefits, including: 

  • Quick & Easy access to local events.
  • Extended business hours for many different amenities.
  • More options for stores, restaurants and schools.
  • Public transportation.
  • Typically offers more cultural events, concerts, attractions.

Just the same, there are also cons to living in the city as well, including: 

  • Higher population.
  • Less property.
  • Higher housing costs.
  • Higher taxes.
  • Higher crime rate.
  • Higher pollution rate.
  • Limiting housing available.

If considering buying a house in the country, you will also want to weigh some of the pros and cons including:

 Pros:

  • More property available.
  • Lower tax costs.
  • Less population.
  • Not as many zoning issues or bylaws.
  • Overall cost of living is lower.

Cons:

  • Fewer amenities available.
  • Further commute to work and shopping.
  • Fewer schools & businesses to choose from.
  • Issues dealing with wells, septic systems, etc
  • Less entertainment, cultural events.

 Other Location Considerations:

 Weather & Climate

  • Road conditions
  • Location of property in the neighbourhood, and
  • Room to expand

More Considerations for Home Buying

Especially with the unpredictability of the weather in a lot of areas lately it is important to include the weather of your top locations into your researching. What are the norms as well as what are the extremes? If you are looking at something by a beach, how often does the area experience major storms or flooding? In the winter what is the snow and ice like and how prepared are these locations? What is it going to be like getting back and forth to work year-round? Pay attention also to the flood zones of locations because what might seem high enough ground in good weather, but could be in a run off area that experiences more flooding than other locations.

What are the roads like? Are they all paved or will you be encountering some dirt or gravel roads as well? If you are looking at a home on a dirt road be sure to check who is responsible for maintaining it, and if they use gravel who does it and how often? This is something that can be easily forgotten but could become a much bigger pain later when you find yourself footing the bill for the maintenance.

As for living in the city or busier areas, consider the public transportation. Do they have a system that would reach all the places you need to go? What are the single trip or monthly fees that you can expect to budget for? When buying a home in Atlanta you want to consider your transportation options carefully because some areas are less covered by the bus or MARTA system than others.

In the spirit of finding a home that can grow with you and your family, consider also if the property has enough room, or is allowed by the laws to build add-ons. These can be additions to the home itself, the landscaping, and even driveway modifications. If you buy a boat one day would the city or neighbourhood let you add on to your driveway to store it? Also pay attention to where the actual property lines exist. If you want to install a shed eventually also look at the laws regarding adding such structures. Be sure to invest in a property that has the space to legally do these kinds of things later.

If you are planning on financing your home through a mortgage it will be incredibly hard to leave an area that doesn’t suit your family’s needs after you sign on that dotted line. If you discover something unexpected after the fact you might just find yourself stuck dealing with it for the next 29 years. This can include things like neighbours, a leak, foundation issues, or pest problems. Make sure to also have the homes independently surveyed for just those kinds of concerns.

Make the Right Choice Now, Not Later

So, spend as much time as necessary on your research. Don’t feel rushed to decide on the spot, not until you are sure, even if there is the pressure from other offers on a home you are interested in. Getting caught up in the moment with this decision could cost you, and others, a lot more down the road.

Another very important factor to research is going to be the crime rate. What are the main crimes committed in the community? You can also check local sex offender registries to ensure the safety of you as well as if you have children. Look online for neighbourhood reviews or statistical collections. Your real estate agent may also know a good bit about the area and its crime.

Don’t forget to compare the crime rates in different areas and neighbourhoods. It’s important to also follow your ‘gut’ on whether you think you’ll feel safe in the location. Do you feel calm and at peace in the area? Are your feelings positive or negative? Are there possibly some good memories here for you? Does the area appear to be clean and well maintained? Are the people generally friendly and helpful?

There are a few other factors that could be important to you based on your interests and lifestyle. You will want to pay attention to these variables as well:Is there high-speed Internet available?

  • Is there cable television available?
  • Are there ponds, rivers, lakes or oceans nearby?
  • Are there 24-hour conveniences? (drug stores, grocery stores, etc)
  • Is the neighbourhood aesthetically pleasing?
  • Is there garbage pickup?
  • What is the average value of a home in that neighbourhood?

These things will all play their part in helping you make one of the most important decisions at this stage of your life. Take notes and record all your findings. Research, compare, and make the most educated decision you have available to you. Preparing all this information earlier on in the process makes it easier to communicate with your real estate agent as well as help you find your dream home along the way.

 

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