By Leonard Baron of Zillow
Define your priorities and preferences to narrow down your search.
When you’re ready to buy your first home, you’ll probably remember those three important words we always hear about real estate: location, location, location.
While the geographic location is important, it’s also the amenities around the location that make a house a home. Every buyer is different in what they desire, so you need to find a neighborhood with the location and amenities that fit your desires — and, just as importantly, your budget.
Location is one factor that will heavily influence the price of a property. You don’t want to shop in locations you can’t afford — even though it might be fun.
The first task in your home purchase process is getting pre-approved by a bank or mortgage lender so you understand the ballpark within which you will be playing ball. Inform your real estate agent about your price range so they can identify the locations where you can afford to purchase.
You also need to figure out what works for you when it comes to the type of location you like: urban, suburban, or rural. Many people live in and love high-density areas where retail, restaurants, gyms, and grocery stores are all within a few blocks’ walk. It’s nice to be able to walk to everything — but with that comes lots of cars, people and sometimes noisy neighbors.
Other home buyers prefer quieter suburban developments that are probably going to require driving for one’s commercial and entertainment needs.
Then there are rural folks who want full quiet and no nearby neighbors. Make sure before you shop that you are shopping in the right type of area for you.
Schools also make a big difference for many buyers, and a buyer will certainly pay for the best school district. School quality is one of the top items on a parent’s mind when looking for property. You can search the Internet for school ratings and check with the city or county for more information.
Of course, if you don’t have children, it’s not as big a deal.
What’s next door — or could be
You should also always consider what is next door to the property you buy. Will you be living among lots of single-family houses, or big apartment buildings?
It’s also important to know if there are currently or once were gas stations or chemical plants nearby. Drive around and look, plus check Natural Hazard Reports to see what is or was in the area.
Additionally, be cautious about empty developable lots or empty retail/warehouse properties nearby, as you never know what might end up being built there.
It’s also smart to understand the zoning on your property, as it might let the single family home next door be torn down and developed into a 4-plex rental property. That might or might not be okay with you, but you should be aware if it’s a possibility.
One more important item to consider regarding location is your chances of owning the property a long time. If you are not sure you’ll be happy staying a while, you’re better off passing on buying for the time being.
Considering all these issues — as opposed to making a quick purchase decision based on what your heart is telling you — should help you buy a home that is a good fit, will serve you well, and will be a good investment for your future.