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Mortgage Education

Finding your home—features to consider

Whether you’ve purchased a home in the past, or you’re a first-time home buyer, here are some tips to find the perfect home. Take your time and think about schools, shopping, traffic, proximity to work, parks, coffee shops, restaurants, etc.

Here are some ideas to consider during your search:

  • Focus on areas where houses are in your price range. You can work with a qualified real estate agent, check the real estate section of the newspaper, and search online at real estate sites.
  • Choose where you’d like to live. Demographic, employment and community information is also online, often on the same sites where you’ll search for a home.
  • Drive through the neighborhoods you’ve selected. Starting with your top two, drive to your place of work, both in the morning and the evening. How long is the commute? Is the time commitment reasonable? Are there alternative forms of transportation (bus, ferry, train) that you could use?
  • Visit the neighborhood you’ve chosen. Drive through the neighborhood where you plan to live at different times of the day and night (especially late night if you’re a light sleeper) to check traffic and noise levels. Is there an airport, train station or freeway nearby? Are there nearby businesses with an active nightlife?
  • Think about this: what are your chances of staying in the job you have now, for the length of time you’ll be living in the house? If changing work locations is a possibility, you won’t want to pick a house just because it’s near your current job.

Evaluate nearby schools

Even if children aren’t a consideration, a neighborhood with great schools is generally more desirable and worth considering because homes in good school districts are generally more desirable. Conduct online research. Most school districts have websites, and they’re a great place to begin.

Consider local conveniences

  • Look at the local Chamber of Commerce website to get a feeling for the type of community you’ll be joining.
  • Drive around the local shopping areas and take notes on what you find. You’ll want easy access to grocery stores, dry cleaners, doctors, a hospital, fire station, restaurants and entertainment.

Learn the rules

  • Tax rates for your area are usually available online and from your real estate agent.
  • Some neighborhoods may have requirements that you must follow, such as house paint color, how many outbuildings you can have or build, or a maximum number of pets. Your real estate agent can provide this information to you.
  • Crime rates. You want your family and your possessions to be safe, so be sure to check out the rate of personal and property crime in your area. This information is available online.
  • How is your new neighborhood zoned? Could you wake up one morning with an office building going up across the street? Ask your real estate agent or check online for help identifying any zoning issues.
  • Natural Hazards. Research natural hazards that may or may not be obvious. Is the neighborhood on a flood plain, over an earthquake fault or in a potential wildfire zone? To check out these potential hazards, you may want to pay for a report.

Think carefully about needs vs. wants

Make a list of all the things you want in a home. Be as specific as possible. It will save you time in your search for a new home.

Consider some of the following features:

  • Think about what you want on the outside of your home.
    • Will it have a yard? If so, what size?
    • Do you want an established garden or a chance to create your own?
    • Do you want a garage? Attached? Detached? One, two or three cars?
  • Think about what you want on the inside of your home.
    • How many bedrooms do you need?
    • How many bathrooms? (not just for the immediate future, but for those teenage years, as well)
    • What about a den or office? A guest room for grandparents and out-of-town guests?
    • Do you want a basement or an attic?

Your real estate agent can help you find the perfect home once you determine what’s important to you.

Hopefully these tips are helpful. Good luck on your home search!

Learn more about mortgages on our Mortgage Resources web page.