While everybody knows that buyers shop based on price range, there are many additional considerations to make when looking for a home. And, most buyers end up refining their criteria as soon as they begin touring homes.
Ultimately, your home criteria should depend on your personal lifestyle and needs. Regardless of what you’re looking for, here are some general rules you should follow to make sure you’re going to be happy with the home you buy for the foreseeable future.
What are the best features buyers look for in a home?
Today’s buyers are juggling an assortment of priorities when it comes to purchasing a home.
Area wants and needs for buyers
Safety: 82% say a neighborhood that feels safe is extremely or very important
Walkability: 60% say it is extremely or very important
Preferred area: 56% say it is very or extremely important
Proximity to shopping, services and/or leisure activities: 53% say it’s very or extremely important
Optimal commute to work or school: 52% say it is very or extremely important
Offers a sense of belonging or community: 48% say it is very or extremely important
Close to family and friends: 46% say it’s extremely or very important
In preferred school district: 43% say it is very or extremely important
Home features buyers want
Within initial budget: 83% say it’s very or extremely important
Air conditioning: 78 percent of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
Preferred number of bedrooms: 76% of buyers say it is extremely or very important
Preferred number of bathrooms: 67% of buyers say it is extremely or very important
Private outdoor space: 67% of buyers say it is extremely or very important
Preferred size/square footage: 67% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
Floor plan/layout that fits preferences: 67 percent of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
Search for the Ideal price
Price will ultimately dictate what you can or cannot buy. While taking a look at homes above your price range can be fun, it is not a great use of time and it can lead to heartbreak when you realize it is not financially feasible. Resources say that in 2019, just 55 percent of buyers stayed on budget, while 26% went over their initial budget.
How to set your home buying budget
Get pre-approved: as soon as you’re ready to really start your home search, you will want to get pre-approved from the lender of your choice. They’ll approve you for a loan up to a specific amount, based on your income, debt and credit history.
Forecast your mortgage payment: Even if you are pre-approved for a large loan from the lender, you should make sure that you’re comfortable with your estimated monthly housing payment. When you use Zillow’s mortgage calculator to estimate your monthly payments, make certain the taxes, insurance, and HOA fees are accurate — these items can make a huge difference in your monthly expenses.
Prioritize the location
Next to budget, location is one of the most important things to consider when buying a house. The 2019 report found that 24% of buyers found it difficult or extremely difficult to find a home in their desired location.
If you can’t find or afford a home on your ideal neighborhood, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions (and enlist the support of your agent) to find a location that fits your lifestyle, needs and budget. Remember — your home’s location can’t be changed, so take the time to really identify a locality where you’ll be happy live.
Proximity to downtown
Unsurprisingly, homes closer to center downtown areas have better resale value, thanks to their shorter commutes. In addition, resources say that in 29 of the nation’s 33 largest metro areas included in the analysis, buyers should expect to pay more per square foot for a home within a 15-minute rush-hour drive into the downtown center.
That may be 15% of buyers that compromise to stay within their budget add time to their commute.
If you enjoy being able to walk to restaurants and shops, try walking the distance to city to see if it’s doable. Spend some time exploring the area, checking out nearby parks and figuring out what types of attractions are nearby.
Alternatively, if you are someone who enjoys a more solitary life and doesn’t mind driving, you might prioritize a home that offers more privacy, perhaps in a location that’s off the beaten path.
School district quality
If you have kids (or are planning on having kids in the future), you want them to get the best education possible. Checking out the school district ratings is a starting point, but you need to visit the local colleges to gather your assessment of the education and programs.
Even if you don’t have children, the school district that your home is in can impact your future resale value.
Flood zone status
Homes located in flood zones require additional insurance, and buying a home in a flood-prone area means you want to be prepared if a flood actually happens.
Think long term
The typical homeowner stays in their home for 14 years before selling. While looking for a home, don’t just think of your immediate demands. Make sure the home you will meet your long-term goals, so you won’t have to move again in the near future.
Bedrooms and bathrooms
If you plan to expand your family in the near future, make sure the new home can accommodate your plans, whether it’s an extra room for a new baby, an in-law suite for parents, or a guest bedroom if you are moving out of state and anticipate lots of visitors.
The same is true if you are planning to downsize or you have grown children who will be moving out soon.
As mentioned above, most buyers rank outdoor space as important. If you have a dog (or plan to get one), have children who want a safe place to play or are an avid gardener, you’ll want to make certain the home’s outdoor space meets your requirements.
Potential to personalize
Many buyers look for a home that’s move-in ready, so they can avoid costly repairs and updates (especially right after moving in). But at the same time, it is nice to be able to add some personal flair to make a house feel like home. If you’d like to add some of your own style, be sure to steer clear of homes that you won’t be able to change enough to fit your preferences.
In a perfect home, your new home should enhance your current lifestyle — and you’ve probably already envisioned what your life at a new home will look like. As you evaluate houses, think about your hobbies and what makes you happy.
For example, if you love spending time outdoors, you probably want a home with a nice yard. If you like to cook, maybe a nice, big kitchen is on your wish list. And, think about your current living situation: What things do you wish were different?
Assess property condition
TV makes home renovations look easy, but in reality, they’re anything but. If you are a first-time buyer that has never undergone a renovation, you may want to steer clear of a home in disrepair. The costs can add up quickly, and if the home needs structural work, it could delay your move-in, causing unnecessary stress. Here are the 3 major categories of property condition.
A move-in ready home is new, near new, or has been recently renovated.
A home that requires minor updates might have cosmetic issues you want to change, or have some dated mechanical methods that could be updated for energy savings.
A home that needs major repairs is usually priced lower because of the work that needs to be done. 1 upside to a major renovation is the opportunity to personalize the home to your tastes. Bear in mind that the return on investment for a major renovation isn’t 100%, and you risk a delayed move-in if the repairs are more extensive than anticipated.
Check condition of costly systems
No matter the condition of the home you’re buying, make sure your inspector checks to make sure major systems and mechanicals in the home are functioning . If issues are uncovered, you will want to ask the seller to either repair them before closing or offer a credit so that you can fix them yourself. Look out for the following expensive issues:
- Damaged roof
- Older furnace or HVAC system
- Flooding, water damage or mold
- Old insulation
- Plumbing issues
- Exterior cracks
- Uneven floors
Don’t focus on minor cosmetic details
No house is perfect, so try not to get hung up on small imperfections. For example, don’t eliminate a home from the list just because you don’t like the interior paint color.
Cosmetic changes are fairly easy and affordable to make. Don’t let the following minor issues keep you from buying a house you’d otherwise love:
When you attend showings and open houses, or when you’re just browsing through images online, it’s easy to get distracted by clutter. Try not to pay too much attention to the seller’s stuff — it’ll all be removed by the time you move in. Put in the effort to picture the house as a blank canvas for all of your possessions.
Stick with your must-haves
There’s a huge difference between wants and needs, so create two different lists when searching for a home. For example, a shorter commute may be a must-have, but smart home features are a nice-to-have. Practicality and functionality should always take priority over the bells and whistles.
Things to consider when buying a house: needs vs. wants
For example, your list of needs might look like this.
Need: shorter commute
Need: specific number of bedrooms and bathrooms
Other things might fall to a list of wants, like these.
Want: updated kitchen
Want: upstairs washer and dryer
Want: smart home features