We’ve just recently bought a new home after a long and tedious search. While we’ve owned and built homes before, this was still a fresh experience for us – this time, we have two kids to think about too.
Read on for my tips in regards to househunting, and picking the perfect home for your family for years to come!
I won’t really go into finding a realtor, financing, etc. My only thoughts are to find someone who represents, defends, and looks out for YOU. Not themselves, and not their realtor buddies. I feel like a realtor should be like your lawyer, fighting aggressively for you (with integrity of course). And as far as financing, it’s ok to look a bit out of your price range but I wouldn’t recommend buying a home at the top of what you can afford. Think about savings, an emergency account, etc.
What is enough?
The main thing is to think about a house which is “enough” for your family to live in, for a minimum of 5 years. That means you need to have a conversation with your significant other about potential future kids, how old they’ll be, how many bedrooms you’ll need, etc. Having to sell a house sucks when you have no equity, because it means either you have very little wiggle room for negotiations or that you’ll have to show up at closing with a lot of money.
You also need to have a clear idea of what your priorities are in a home. (And you need to be aligned with your SO’s priorities too). For example, a garden tub in the master bath would be great for us, but it’s not a deal breaker. How much time do I really spend in the bathroom anyway? (Alone, in particular). But I do cook all meals every day, so a claustrophobic or poorly arranged kitchen is a no-no.
Do you have a clear idea of your priorities?
Our priorities are: an open, light-filled floorplan in a one story home, with no pool, a big yard, and a well-designed kitchen. Everything else is secondary. Now we know what matters the most, since realistically we can’t have it all.
While these concepts are floating around in your mind, also be aware of what you can easily change in a house versus what is unchangeable. For example, the school district (and cluster) the house is in, is pretty set. You know what they say: location, location, location! So unless you’re sure you’re either homeschooling or sending the kids to private school, that’s a factor you have to consider. Yard size, room dimensions, and number of floors is pretty set in stone. Other things like a crappy paint color are easy to change, and shouldn’t be a reason to walk away from a house on the market.
Other thoughts come in to play when you’re prospectively
buying a home and you have children.
Is there a split master bedroom, or are all bedrooms close together? We will be moving our littles into their own rooms in a few years (they currently both still sleep in our room), and while I love a split master I hate the thought of them being across the home from us. I know I would never sleep well, worried that they needed me and I could not hear them.
What about sharing a bathroom? This is inevitable in the future for our kids, and it’ll be extra fun since we have a girl and a boy. If you only have two bathrooms, that means that the kids’ bathroom will also be the one used by guests whenever people come over.
Do you need a formal dining room for that nicer furniture? What about an office space or a playroom? Does the yard have room for a pool if you plan to build one?
In my personal opinion…
This is more just my opinion from experience, and is a lot more objective than the first part of the post. We’ve lived in many places in our lives, and have bought two houses (and built another).
Here are our tips:
No more stairs! I will never live in a multi-story home again. I hate stairs – with small kids I hate them more, because I’m terrified something will happen. Multi-story homes also aren’t as energy efficient, at least in my experience. I know lots of people love them, but no thanks. Being a SAHM with two kids under three, there’s no way.
We love to have large, open living spaces and smaller/fewer bedrooms. It’s my husband’s and my theory that our kids do deserve their own private space as they get older, but that technology will allow them to sit anywhere to study, read, and do homework due to advancements in portability. Basically they’ll need a room to call their own, but they won’t need a huge desk with a clunky computer. It will be easy for them to study or be on their devices from anywhere in the home. So we plan on having a room for all our girls, and a room for all our boys. Just something simple. They can talk on the phone, or read or write or study, anywhere in the house.
Right now, with our children being so young, they sleep in our room; they have a huge open playroom where all of their toys and books are. We are buying a three bedroom home which will be organized as: master bedroom, my office/music room, and hubby’s workout room/man cave. Once our son is older and needs his own space, we will move things around so that he has his own bedroom.
On flooring… Yes, technically it can be changed. But it’s a big deal and a big expense and a big pain in the ass honestly. As a mommy to fur babies as well as human babies, I am sooo done with carpet. I’m sick of stains, and clumps of hair piling up, and Hot Wheels not able to drive very well. (I’m also in south Texas, where we don’t really have the issue of cold floors in winter). I prefer laminate wood flooring or ceramic tile throughout, even in bedrooms. Just easier to clean… Especially if you have a Roomba.
I never ever want a pool either. That’s a deal breaker for us. You have to maintain them year round but only get about four months of enjoyment. Apparently in our area, everyone wants a pool. Except us.
When you walk a potential home, have a list of things to check out in person.
Photos on listings can be tricky. They can either make a home look better than real life, or worse. I have some tips of obscure and overlooked things to check out when walking a home you’re interested in. (On that note, try to actually use the MLS whenever possible, instead of just Trulia or Zillow. Those apps can have outdated information, and it’s super disheartening to find a house online you love, only to learn that it sold two weeks ago. Get a realtor to set up daily searches for homes with your qualifications).
Physically go stand in every room and every closet. Really get a feel for the space you have, and visualize what you’d put in there.
Notice where outlets are in every room – for your TV, mixer, whatever. We need one for each of our night stands, for example. And we have a big entertainment center so the layout of the electrical helps determine how we’d stage the room.
Count the number of cabinets. How would you organize? Open them to see the condition on the inside, and if there are shelves built inside.
Be very aware of the ceilings and floors. Look for cracks, damage, etc.
Listen. Can you hear lots of traffic? What about trains? Are there packs of wild dogs next door, or is there an airport nearby? Go stand in the yard and get a feel for a noisy environment.
Look at the traffic going by the house. Chances are, if the home is near a major entrance to the subdivision, you’ll have a steady flow of cars going in and out.
How big is the attic or basement?
As usual, the biggest piece of advice I can offer you is: be educated!
You need to be acutely aware, especially as a first-time homebuyer, the expectations and costs involved with potentially buying a house. Never blindly follow any one person’s advice, even if they have good intentions. We have taken an online course before provided by eHome, and it is extremely thorough.
As I said, also realize that you really need to leave any tiles for five years or more to gain any significant equity. If you are no in a permanent or stable job, or if it makes you nervous to think about being locked into one place for that long, there is no shame in renting! Do what is best for you.
Ultimately, this is a major decision. And you need to discuss all facets with your spouse or significant other. Be careful and look out for your family, and with these tips you will be well on your way to finding your own home sweet home!