If you decide to invest in a home, you have to find the right one for your needs at the right price.
As a first step, get clear on your vision of the house that fits your lifestyle. Do you want a quiet bungalow in the countryside, or a duplex in the heart of downtown? Are two bedrooms enough for your needs, or is there a baby on the way?
Once you can visualize the perfect property, you can figure out how much you can afford for a down payment and monthly housing costs.
The following set of questions can help you get a clear image of your new home, and what life will be like after you move in. So grab a pencil and start planning!
DREAM HOME QUESTIONNAIRE
- What is the minimum size in square feet that you need to live comfortably?
- How many bedrooms and bathrooms should your house have?
- Is having a yard important to you?
- Do you want a freestanding house, or do you prefer an attached unit, such as a townhouse or condominium?
- Do you want to live in a city, a suburb, or a rural area?
- Do you want to stay within a certain distance of family and friends? If so, what is the farthest you are willing to travel?
- Are you concerned with the quality of schools near your home?
- Will you need to commute to work, and if so, what’s the farthest you are willing to travel?
- Do you want easy access to public transportation?
- What’s your price range for buying a house?
You and your partner may have very different desires and expectations about where to live. Buying a home is a big commitment, and it’s no surprise that coming to an agreement about how much space you need and how much to spend can be tricky. (Just wait till you go furniture shopping together!). Here are some pointers to help you find a solution that suits both of your needs:
Share your vision
Make a copy of the Dream Home Questionnaire for each of you, fill it out separately, and then compare your answers. Talk about the image each of you has in your head about your house and the area in which you want to live. One of you may envision a ranch style house with a big lawn and a white picket fence, while the other wants a two-story town home in a housing development. By sharing your thoughts, you can merge your visions to find a home that meets both your expectations.
Assess your finances
Use the worksheets in this chapter to figure out how much you can afford to spend on a house, and the tax consequences of home ownership. There’s no use quarreling over a property that’s beyond your budget, or limiting yourself to cramped quarters if you can realistically afford something more comfortable.
Do your research
Numerous factors weigh into the decision to live in a certain area, including the growth potential for the housing market, strength of the local economy, employment opportunities, recent crime rates, environmental issues, and access to good schools. Contact the local Chamber of Commerce, school board and police department to get statistics and information for the area in which you want to live.
Discuss your fears
Are you concerned that you will lose touch with friends and family members if you move too far away? Is your husband or partner afraid of the financial responsibilities or long-term commitment that come with owning a home? Hidden emotional factors may lurk behind your disagreements, so put all your cards on the table and be honest with each other about your motives when making plans.
Think about the future
Remember when discussing your housing options to think about the home you will need tomorrow as well as today. It’s not wise to buy a house you’re likely to outgrow in a few years, or one that will soon be too big for your needs. Look for one that you will be comfortable in for a number of years and that will appreciate in value while your housing payments stay the same.
Postpone your plans
If after all this, you still can’t reach an agreement on where to live or what kind of house to buy, you may want to wait a year or two before making a decision. Putting your plans for home ownership on hold is probably smarter than making a major purchase one or both of you is uncomfortable with. Changes in your career or your family situation may dictate which path is best and provide a natural resolution to your conflict.