Schools are important
Even if you don't have kids yet or don't plan on having kids ever, schools in the neighborhood are important to consider when buying a home. A good school district can help maintain home values and boost resale opportunities. It usually brings with it higher taxes, which go partially to the school district. Do your research to determine if buying in a good school district is worth it for your household.
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Get pre-approval to know your limits
Understanding the maximum mortgage amount that you can afford helps tremendously during your home search. It'll save you from looking at homes (and potentially getting your hopes up) that aren't within your means. And don't forget, fixer-uppers are cool, too, if you're into DIY! Click here for some must-know tips for DIY home improvements.
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Ask about utility expenses
Get estimates for utility expenses from the real estate agents or current or former homeowners. It helps to know how much it'll cost for water, waste management and other monthly and annual expenses before you move in. If cable, Internet and good celluar service are paramount in your family, be sure to ask questions about those options, too. And remember, there are also ways to save on utility bills after you move in.
Homeowner's association rules
Some neighborhoods have homeowner's association rules to abide by. If that's the case for a home you're considering, be sure to ask questions and gather information to look over. This is especially important if you plan to do improvements later on. Some homeowner's association rules can be pretty particular and constricting, especially when it comes to exterior changes to the homes.
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When you have a specific house in mind, think about potential developments. For example: If the home is near a busy road, will there be expansion in the near future? If there is a lot of open space around the home, will more homes be built in the area soon? If there are several homes for sale in the neighborhood, are they selling quickly and who's moving in? It may be difficult to find concrete information about future developments, but keeping some what-ifs in mind as you look can help you find your ideal home.
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Get the most out of a home inspection
A proper home inspection is your best defense against buying a property that will be a home-improvement nightmare. Use these 12 tips to get the most out of your home inspection.
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Take your own photos
Sometimes the photos in an online listing can look better than the real thing. Whether it's a wide-angle lens that makes rooms look bigger or artificial lighting that makes more natural light than there really is, online photos can be a bit deceiving in some cases. Rather than relying on those too-good-to-be-true shots as you review homes that you've seen, take your own photos during walk throughs.
Common mistakes to avoid
On top of mortgages and money, it's easy to get wrapped in the dream of owning a home and overlook issues that will cause problems down the road. Check out this house-hunting checklist to make sure you have your bases covered while you work to buy a house.
You can't predict the market
This one isn't much of a secret, as we all know there's no predicting the future. But simply keeping that in mind while you go through the home-buying process can relieve some stress. The best time to buy a home is when your finances are in order and you find a house you love.