Are you thinking of buying a home? Even if you’re just idly daydreaming for now, it’s important to know the basics of what to look for when buying a house – after all, you never know when you’ll want those dreams to become reality. As with all big decisions, it’s important to have a plan in place so you know which choices will be best for your needs, lifestyle and budget. If you’re not sure of what things to look for when buying a house, don’t worry – we’re here for you. Our list covers most of the basics, as well as some things you may not have considered before. By the time you’re finished reading, that image of your dream home may be a lot more focused.
The top ten things to know when buying a house
Everyone’s a little different, so your home-buying journey may not be the same as your parents, friends or co-workers. Still, there are universal questions you should ask before bidding on a house. Your home is a long-term investment, so you’ll want to do all you can to make the right choice.
- Credit score: What’s one of the most important things to know when buying a house? Your credit score. While it may seem like a minor detail compared to other aspects of the home buying process, your credit score can have an effect on loan approval, interest rates and more. Before you start looking at homes, request your credit score from the three major reporting bureaus from annualcreditreport.com, then review your score and make sure there aren’t any mistakes.
- Cost: How much money can you pay for a house? Unless you’re able to pay with cash outright, you’ll probably need to apply for a mortgage. You’ll want to get pre-approved first, since this will give you a better idea about how much you can realistically spend on your home purchase. Most credit unions and banks like Santander offer mortgage pre-approvals; you can use a mortgage calculator for basic estimates on how much you may be able to borrow, or how much your monthly payments could be. If you’re serious about buying a home, speak with a personal banker to start the process.
- Realtor: If you’re not sure what things to look for when buying a house, don’t panic – find a realtor. In addition to being familiar with specific properties, these professionals are also familiar with nearby home prices, neighborhood amenities and so on. Not only will they help you find a neighborhood that’s comfortable for your needs, but they’ll also help ensure that you’re not overpaying for a property. Your realtor is an important member of your home-buying team, along with your personal banker and your home inspector.
- Home Inspector: A home inspector usually comes on the scene when you’ve made an offer, but before you close the deal. Still, it’s good to research home inspectors while you’re searching for your dream home as you’ll want to find someone who is reliable, professional and experienced. Home inspectors can look for structural problems and other issues that aren’t easily seen; you can use their report to negotiate repairs with the seller, or even to decide whether to rescind your offer altogether. While you’ll have to pay for an inspection, the upfront cost is worth the peace of mind.
- Type of home: Once you have your home-buying team together, you can start thinking about the type of home you want. From lofts to log cabins, the options are truly endless. But while you can choose from just about anything, one of the most important things do know when buying a house is which style you prefer. Telling the difference between a Tudor and a Contemporary home – and knowing which you prefer – can help your realtor narrow down your options. If you’re not familiar with home styles, a real estate glossary may be a good place to start.
- Amenities: You may have a particular style in mind, but do you know what else to look for when buying a house? Take a moment to think about what else you want from your dream home. It’s not just a matter of a master bedroom or multiple bathrooms, either. Some homes come equipped with a walk-in closet, while others have a large deck and backyard that’s perfect for entertaining. Consider your family’s lifestyle and needs, then write down a list of “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” so your realtor can discuss them with you.
- Location: It’s often overlooked, but one of the most important things to know when buying a house is how your location may affect your lifestyle. After all, you don’t want to buy your dream home if it results in a longer commute! On the flip side, moving from a place in the city to a suburban or even rural atmosphere may be the right move if you’re looking to relax and settle down. Talk with your family and your realtor to get feedback so you can make the right choice for everyone.
- Schools: For parents, finding a good school district can be just as important as finding the right home. If you already have a few areas in mind, take some time to research the local school district. Be sure to mention this to your realtor as well – in addition to telling you more about the area’s schools, he or she may help you find homes that are closer to a primary or secondary school, depending on your child’s age.
- Safety: One of the most important things to look for when buying a house is the safety of the neighborhood. Many real estate websites feature information about crime statistics, and your realtor can answer questions about this topic as well. But while crime is an important factor, it’s not the only one. If you have pets or children, you may want to avoid homes near busy streets, highways, train tracks or other potential hazards.
- Community life: In the end, buying a house isn’t just about owning your own home – it’s about enjoying a new neighborhood and everything that comes with it. As you search for your new house, take some time to explore the community you’ll be living in. Ask your realtor about public spaces like parks, playgrounds and community pools. Check out the community online or via social media to learn more about events and cultural opportunities. If you’re moving to a larger metropolitan area, you could even ask residents about day to day life via social media groups, apps or other outlets. It’s a great way to learn more about potential neighborhoods so you make the best choice for your family.
If you’re ready to buy a home, be sure to research your options and work with trusted partners that can help you find the right fit. A mortgage specialist can help you review your budget and get pre-approval so you’re ready to buy your dream space. Contact your bank to speak with a mortgage specialist or visit the nearest Santander branch to get started.
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Santander Bank does not provide financial, tax or legal advice and the information contained in this article does not constitute tax, legal or financial advice. Santander Bank does not make any claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in this article. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial strategies mentioned in this article. These materials are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Santander Bank.
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