Narrowing Down Your Home Search.
As mentioned in an accompanying article (Part I), prospective homebuyers occasionally find themselves in the enviable position of being torn between two or more homes during their search. When the obvious deciding factors are accounted for and comparable -- including commute time to work, quality of the surrounding neighborhood, quality of the local school district and, of course, asking price -- you're faced with the task of narrowing down your decision to one. It's the house where you'll invest thousands upon thousands of dollars and spend the next several years or more of your life. Needless to say, it's a stress-inducing decision. How do you arrive at this fateful decision?
Part I of this series examined some of the interior features of a home that prospective homebuyers should consider when attempting to narrow down their list. A side-by-side comparison of those features can help you make your decision based on careful consideration, not on impulse or emotion. Exterior features are just as important during the decision-making process. If you don't take the time to think about them prior to signing the dotted line, you could find yourself regretting your decision. And there's nothing worse than regret when it comes to the purchase of a home.
As mentioned in Part I, the best time for considering your preferences is before you begin the home-search process. That can save you and your Realtor a considerable amount of time once you begin to view homes. And clearly communicating your preferences to your Realtor will help him or her determine which homes are a good fit for you and your family and which homes aren't.
Even if you have considered your preferences and communicated them to your Realtor, don't leave home without your pen and notepad once you begin to tour homes for sale. You'll want to make notes of the exterior features you spot around each home. This will help you make side-by-side comparisons of homes that will begin to run together in your memory soon after you finish your tour. Notetaking also is important in case your spouse or other family members can't attend the viewing; you can refer back to your notes later when discussing what you saw that day.
The following exterior features of a home are a good start to your list
of desired criteria. And as you begin to make notes, you'll probably
want to add others according to your needs and those of your family.
Location of the lot: How close is the house to the street? If it's close, is that a selling point for you because you want to minimize the yard maintenance you'll need to perform? Or is it a negative point because you want to install landscaping or have a suitable play area for your children? Is the home on a corner lot, which often means you'll have more land to mow and maintain? Is the lot on a busy corner? If so, you may have difficulty leaving your home during rush hours, and you're probably going to have to listen to the noise of traffic. You may also want to consider whether passing headlights will be traveling across your bedroom or living room walls at night. Another point to consider: Does the house face south, allowing you to enjoy maximum sunlight?
Backyard: Does the house have a backyard, and if so, how large? Do you plan to install a pool? If you do, does the yard seem large enough for a pool? Will you have space left for landscaping and/or a table and chairs? What kind of privacy does the yard have? Is there a fence already installed, or will you have to assume the expense of building one? If the fence is already there, is it stable, or does it look like the next strong wind will cause it to collapse? Have the previous owners made any attempt to landscape the backyard, and if so, is it well-maintained and attractive?
Deck: Does the backyard have a deck? If you plan to entertain, or your family enjoys spending time outdoors, a deck is an excellent selling point. If the home doesn't have a deck, you can assure yourself that you'll build one, but it's a large and sometimes expensive task.
Distance between homes: How close are you to your neighbors? Are some homes two-story and others one-story? If so, your neighbors may be able to peer out of their second-floor windows and see directly into your backyard. Your next-door neighbors may be able to wave at you during breakfast. This may not be an issue, of course, if screens have been built or trees provide privacy. If you have to plant trees or build screens, remember to factor those expenses into your immediate plans.
Landscaping: Does the home have any landscaping, and if so, is it in good condition? Will trees have to be uprooted or planted if none exist? Is the neighborhood managed by a company that maintains landscaping for a monthly fee? It may be worth your while to explore that option. Do the neighbors on either side of the home appear to take good care of their own landscaping? Do their trees obstruct the home and provide too much shade?
Garage/driveway: Does the home have a garage, and if so, how large is it? Would you be willing to settle for a carport? Are you going to have to build one? (Remember that you'll still have to figure out where to store your lawnmower, tools and other items typically stored in a garage.) Does the home have a driveway either beside it or in front? How easy is it to leave the home using that driveway? Will you have to back out onto a major street?
Siding: What kind of siding does the home have? Is it stucco, wood, stone, alumninum or vinyl siding? And is it in good condition? If it's painted, remember that you'll face the task of repainting your siding periodically. If the home is brick, do you notice any loose bricks?
Front porch: Does the home have a porch out front? This may be a selling
point if you enjoy spending leisure time outdoors. Porches also can add
value to your home if they're well-maintained. They provide a prime opportunity
for displaying potted plants, hanging baskets and other greenery, not
to mention a location for a relaxing porch swing.
Even if you're torn between two homes, and you're convinced that they're both perfect, reviewing your notes of the interior and exterior features of those two homes can go a long way toward helping you make your final decision. The little factors that don't seem terribly significant now can enhance your home or create a hassle later. If you're still wavering, ask your Realtor for guidance. Realtors are experts in pinpointing the criteria that homebuyers should take more time to consider. By the time you've reached this stage of the homebuying process, your Realtor will know your preferences well enough to provide you with objective guidance.
Written by Courtney Ronan
Copyright © 2005 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.