Buying a home is one of the most significant financial transactions most people make in their life. But your house is also about where you go to sleep and wake up, the place your friends and family will come to identify as where you belong. Making this important decision involves both the head and the heart. To reconcile the two, here are some things to consider when looking at listings:

  • Strip it – If a home is still occupied by a current owner, it helps to mentally remove all furniture, wall hangings and even the paint and carpeting in your head. Some people are better able than others to do this, so ask your Realtor to talk about the “bones” of the home – are the floors hardwood under the carpet, for example. This helps you understand the home as you might change it to your own taste.
  • Measure it – If you currently have larger furniture (a king size bed, a piano, dining room table or large sofa, for example) that you plan to keep, make sure the room dimensions are appropriate.
  • Assess the features – A back yard can be a gardening opportunity or a burden, depending on what it is that you like to do. The same goes for pools, garages, rooftop decks, fireplaces and heating/cooling. Also, if repair work is required, understand the costs and whether or not you can DIY.
  • Put it in context of your life – How will a location affect your work life, in particular the commuting time? Are the schools what you want for your children, or is proximity to restaurants, cafes and nightlife important to you? If you host out-of-town guests, will the baths and bedrooms be sufficient? Conversely, are you buying more space than you will really need or use?
  • Kitchens! – Yes, they really are the heart of the home. But older homes, in particular, are built such that the meals are eaten in a separate dining area, not over an island that facilitates conversation between cooks and diners. This often is the make it/break it decision point for buyers. Sometimes a remodel or addition will allow opening up rooms and reconfiguring appliances, cabinets and counters, but expect that to cost at least $15,000 – or many times that amount.
  • Trust your instincts – The “feel” of a home, townhouse or condominium has to be right. Sometimes a vague discomfort is a sign from the gut that it isn’t right for you. At the same time, if it feels good you might well be in a place that suits you well. It’s ok to allow your emotions to surface as part of the buying decision.

It’s an unfortunate fact that in a hot market these decisions sometimes are rushed. If you miss out on a home, write it off to your education process. Remember that there are many, many homes out there. It’s usually better to lose a home under hurried circumstances than to buy one. Next, proceed in earnest to find another opportunity – and keep in mind that something great will come along eventually.

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