Buyers Toolchest

Narrowing Down Your Home Search.

It's an enviable position in which to find oneself, but it happens. You're approaching the end of your home search, and you're torn between two or more homes. The major deciding factors -- asking price, quality of the neighborhood, quality of school district and commute time to your office as well as your spouse's -- are relatively equal, so those won't help you favor one home over another. What to do now? The decision could drive you batty. If you lean toward one home, you'll be looking over your shoulder longingly at the other home. All of those "What ifs?" questions will run through your mind. Maybe the carpeting in the other house would have been more versatile. Maybe the layout of the other home would have been more agreeable both for your furniture and for your family's lifestyle.

Undoubtedly, after you make your decision and move into the home of your choice, you'll encounter situations during which you may question -- if only for a brief moment -- your decision. And it's natural for those thoughts to cross our minds at some point because it's human nature to view the grass on the other side as greener.

But depending upon the process you go through before you select your home and close the deal, you'll either settle that question in your mind with the knowledge and satisfaction that in general, you're happy with your decision; of you'll be in a state of regret, which will ruin what should be one of the most exciting times in one's life (attaining the great American dream of homeownership).

As with so many other aspects of the home-search process, you should get out your trusty pen and paper and prepare to take some notes that explore your preferences and those of your family. When you're having trouble making a decision, you'll need to consider which amenities are most important to you and then do a side-by-side comparison of homes to help you narrow down your choices, ultimately pinpointing the best choice.

Ideally, you should sit down before you even begin your home search and list all interior and exterior amenities that are preferable to you. Place a star beside the amenities you consider mandatory (for example, a garage, a fourth bedroom or an eating area open to the family room). Before you arrange to view a home with your Realtor, make sure the home in question contains your "required" amenities. Your Realtor will appreciate the time you're saving him or her by stating up front what it is you're looking for, so that the two of you won't spin your wheels viewing homes that clearly aren't of interest to you.

As you make notes of these features, you may place stars beside the amenities that were of particularly high quality (i.e., extra-large bedrooms, three-car garage versus two-car garage, etc.). This will help you later when you review your notes. As every prospective homeowner knows, all of those homes you viewed tend to run together in your mind within a few short hours after you've walked through them with your Realtor.

To help you get started as you begin to consider important interior amenities on your personal priority list, make sure you list the following -- and feel free to add more as you see fit:

Number of bedrooms: How many does each home contain, and how large are they? Will you have an extra bedroom to convert into a home office, play room or hobby room?

Number of bathrooms: Think you can live with two instead of two and a half or three? Think again if you have children; otherwise, you could be breaking up World War III every single morning.

Two-story/one-story: Is it important to you to have the bedrooms on the second floor for reasons of privacy?

Family room: Does the home have a family room, and how large is it? Will it be adequate for the size of your family? Is it connected to the kitchen? Is it important to you to have those two rooms connected so that you can keep an eye on young children or interact with guests as you cook in the kitchen?

Size of kitchen: Do you have adequate counter and walking space for cooking? How large is the eating area? Will you have to move your table every time someone needs to walk through the area? Do you have enough cupboard space for your needs? Do you have a pantry?

Closet space: How many and how large? Will you have a coat closet? Are there enough closets in the master bedroom to accommodate you and your spouse?

Fireplace: Does the house have one or more?

Windows: Is the house filled with light, or do you need lights on during the day in order to get adequate light? How old are the windows? Are they in good condition?

Appliances: How many of them come with the house, and are they in good working condition? What is the status of the warranty for each appliance? How many appliances are you going to have to purchase if you move into each home?
In an accompanying article, we'll talk about the exterior features of a home that can help you narrow down your home search.

Written by Courtney Ronan

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