First-time home buyers guide: Finding the perfect house

April 4, 2018 - 6 min read

In this article:

There are many factors to consider when you are looking for a home, including:

  • Price. When you decide how much home you can afford, use a mortgage calculator to determine a reasonable purchase price, then connect with a lender, who can tell you whether you could be approved for that price. Knowing your price range will help narrow your search.
  • Size. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need for your family? Are the shared spaces (kitchen, living room, dining room) big enough?
  • Location. It’s important to evaluate if a neighborhood is right for you and your family. Will your commute to work or school be reasonable? Is the neighborhood walkable? Does the school system meet your needs?
  • Type of Home. Determine what type of home is right for your needs. For example, a condo or townhouse may be a good choice if you don’t like yard work.

How to find the “best home” for your needs

At any given moment, there are millions of homes for sale nationwide.

With so many homes from which to choose, it’s no wonder that finding the “best house” can be a challenge.

However, for home buyers who take the time to think about what they want in a home — what they really want — shopping for the right home can be a lot more simple.

The key is to keep your interests top-of-mind throughout the home-buying process.

Make a list of the features that you require in a home — and those features you could do without — before beginning your search.

There are ten categories to consider, at least.

1. The price of the home

You can’t shop for homes until you know your budget.

To find your housing budget, determine the monthly payment you’d be comfortable making on a home. Then, use a 3-in-1 mortgage calculator to “work backwards” toward your purchase price.

Once you know your maximum purchase price, it’s time to connect with a lender, who will tell you whether you could be approved at your intended home purchase price.

This process is known as a pre-approval. It helps your offer stand out when you finally find a home. It also helps you to avoid the heartache of falling in love with a home you can’t afford to buy.

Once you have your budget set, look for homes that fit.

Searching for homes in a specific price range will narrow your search results for you and will also help guide you in choosing an appropriate location. For example, homes in the suburbs may be more affordable than homes closer to a city’s downtown district.

Keep in mind that it is important to look at houses that don’t take up your full budget.

In addition to the price of your home, you should leave room in your budget for moving expenses, closing costs, and renovations to the home, if necessary.

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2. The number of bedrooms

Aside from its price, the size of a home is another important factor which will affect your decision to purchase.

Knowing how large or small of a home you need will help you find a home which best fits your needs.

A good way to assess how much home you’ll need is to ask yourself how many bedrooms you would like for your home to have?

This question is especially important for home buyers who have children, or are planning to have children.

Can children share a room, or will it be better for each child to have their own room? Would you like to have an extra bedroom for guests, or a potential space for your parents to move in when they get older?

If a house has fewer bedrooms than you’d like, are there other spaces in the house which could convert to a bedroom? For example, could an office could be converted into a small guest room? Could a finished basement could be converted into a playroom for kids?

You will also want to consider the size of the bedrooms. A large bedroom may be more suitable for siblings to share than a small bedroom.

3. The number of bathrooms

Just as home buyers must consider how many bedrooms are required to meet their needs, they must also consider how many bathrooms are needed.

Will one bathroom per bedroom meet your needs? Would you like for your home to have a bathroom for your guests?

What about an easily-accessible half-bathroom on the first floor of the house? Do you need a bathroom in the basement?

You should also think about what features you want included in your bathrooms.

Would you like to have a bathtub in each bathroom, or is a stand-alone shower acceptable? Would you like a bathroom to have multiple sinks so that two or more children can get ready for school or bedtime at the same time?

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4. The kitchen

Homeowners who like to cook often prefer large kitchens with lots of room for cooking and storage. By contrast, homeowners who dine out more frequently may have different kitchen needs.

When you consider a home’s kitchen, look for up-to-date appliances including the dishwasher, stove, oven, and refrigerator. If the appliances in the kitchen don’t suit your needs, make room in your budget to update them.

Also, consider whether the kitchen will be your primary “meals” room. If you plan to eat meals in the kitchen as opposed to a formal dining room, you’ll want to make sure the kitchen can accommodate your entire household for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

5. The dining room

Some homes feature a combined kitchen and dining room. In others, the dining room is separate.

Whether you eat in the kitchen or dining room, consider the “extra space” a dining room may provide when hosting small or large numbers of guests.

Think about how your household dines, and make sure the home can accommodate. Dining rooms can be repurposed as living rooms or music rooms, depending on your needs.

6. The home’s location

You may know that you’re moving to a certain city, or certain part of town, but every street is different. The location of your home is important.

For example, if you have children or plan to have children, you may want to move into the best public school district you can afford. Do you want to live within walking distance to schools, though? Or, would you rather your children take the bus?

Similarly, would you like to live in a community with a nearby arts district? What about with nearby parks?

Is it important that your neighborhood be kid-friendly? Is there a community pool nearby? What is the crime rate like?

Consider what you would like within walking distance from your home, and what you do not mind taking public transportation or driving to.

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7. The type of home

Just as the size and location of your home is important, so is the “type” of home you buy.

Homebuyers who want a large backyard, or room to grow a garden, may not want to move into a condo or townhouse, where yard space is often limited.

Similarly, if you prefer to live in a home without stairs, a ranch-style home may better suit your needs than a two-story colonial.

8. The back yard, the front yard

When you’re buying a home, it’s important to consider its outdoor spaces, too.

For example, home buyers who love to garden may want to search for homes with favorable sun exposure and ample room to grow fruits and vegetables. Similarly, families with children may prefer a large yard for playing.

Consider whether you will want room a swing set, a playhouse, or a pool.

Home buyers who enjoy spending time outdoors may also prefer homes with a sizeable porch or patio. And, do you want a yard with a bit more privacy? Is there room to build a fence or plant bushes?

9. The parking

Adequate parking is another important factor in a home.

If a house has no driveway or garage, is there ample space to park on the street? Will there be enough street parking for guests during a party or get-together?

A house with a driveway or garage gives a home more privacy, and makes it easier to bring groceries inside. A long driveway may also keep young children from running into the street.

Households with multiple cars or sports equipment may need a garage for storage space.

10. The energy efficiency

Finding a home that is energy-efficient not only helps the environment, but can also save you money.

For example, a home with many windows may help to save money on electricity because of an abundance of natural light during the day.

Insulation of a home is important, too. Homes with proper insulation can save you money on gas and electric bills. Some homes may even come with solar panels to help cut energy costs.

What are today’s mortgage rates?

Shopping for a home that fits your needs and budget can be an exciting and stressful experience — especially for first time home buyers. Planning ahead will help settle your nerves.

Get today’s live mortgage rates now. Your social security number is not required to get started, and all quotes come with access to your live mortgage credit scores.

Time to make a move? Let us find the right mortgage for you

The Newsdesk
Authored By: The Newsdesk
The Mortgage Reports contributor
The Mortgage Reports Newsdesk is a collection of hand-picked mortgage-market experts reporting today's most important and relevant news.