1st Time Homebuyer Guides Real Estate

What to Look for When Buying a House?

13 Non-Negotiables on Our List!

You’re ready to plant roots and find a home. But the sheer number of factors you need to consider on your journey to homeownership can be overwhelming. 

With most buyers having at least five key features on their list when choosing a home, it’s clear you’re not alone in wanting specifics.

If you’re thinking about buying your first home, you’ve come to the right place. This article will guide you through 13 critical elements that should be on your radar when house hunting — helping you identify what’s really important. 

Sit tight — valuable insights await!

Key Takeaways

  • Always distinguish between your needs and wants; prioritize essentials like location, bedroom count, and affordability to guide your home search efficiently.
  • Pay close attention to the condition of vital home features such as the roof, HVAC system, kitchen appliances, and energy efficiency. While you’re at it, ensure there’s adequate natural light and ventilation, too.
  • Consider long-term aspects — like a safe neighborhood and quality schools — since they can impact both living satisfaction and property value over time.
  • Factor in additional costs beyond the purchase price — including property taxes, insurance, and maintenance fees — when assessing overall affordability.
  • Don’t skip a professional home inspection as it could reveal hidden issues that may cost you significantly in repairs after purchasing.

Buying a new home: Understanding needs vs. wants

Distinguishing between what you need in a new home and what you want is crucial. 

Your needs are the essentials, like enough bedrooms for your family or a reasonable commute to work. These are your non-negotiables that directly impact your day-to-day life. 

Wants, on the other hand, might include a swimming pool or granite countertops — features that are nice to have but not dealbreakers.

Prioritize items from your must-have list when searching for homes as these factors will guide your decision-making process. Making this distinction early helps keep your home search focused and efficient, ensuring you invest in a house that fulfills both practical requirements and personal desires within budget constraints.

As you assess potential homes, remember to weigh each feature against this list; it’s easy to get swayed by lavish extras, but you should stay true to what’s essential for long-term satisfaction with your purchase.

With clarity on needs versus wants, it’s time to start considering the ideal features you want in a house — the next step in finding the perfect home.

13 must-have features to look for in a home

When buying a home, it’s important to prioritize features such as a great location, enough bedrooms, adequate parking, outdoor space, rental or resale value, safe neighborhood, quality schools nearby, good condition of the property, natural light and ventilation, energy-efficiency, affordability and access to local amenities.

As you narrow down your options, remember these non-negotiables that can significantly impact your overall satisfaction with your new home.

1. Great location

Finding the right location is crucial as you hunt for your new home. A great spot means different things to different people, so think about your daily routine and what’s important to you.

Do you crave the excitement of city life or the peace of suburbia? Maybe a cozy neighborhood that’s just a stone’s throw from work, schools, shops, and parks checks all your boxes.

Keep in mind that homes in prime locations maintain their value better over time, making them smart investments.

While you’re at it, consider how the location impacts other aspects like safety and local amenities. You want to feel at ease whether you’re taking an evening stroll or sending your kids off to school.

A safe environment ranks high on anyone’s list — so take some time to research crime statistics or talk with potential neighbors about their experiences living there. And don’t forget commute times! Living closer to work can save hours each week, giving you back precious time for family activities and hobbies.

Make sure the place fits not just your needs now but also has room for whatever future plans might unfold.

2. Enough bedrooms

Having enough bedrooms is critical when it comes to meeting your current and future needs. If you’re planning on expanding your family or simply need an extra room for guests, make sure the house accommodates that.

Consider how each bedroom can serve multiple purposes over time. Today’s nursery might be tomorrow’s home office, for example.

Choose a home with a bedroom count that aligns with your lifestyle and long-term plans. A spare room often serves as a versatile space; it could become a craft area, storage space, or workout room if not used for sleeping.

Check this off your must-have list to ensure everyone in the household has their own comfortable retreat after a long day.

3. Adequate parking

Adequate parking is a crucial non-negotiable when buying a home. Having enough space to comfortably park your vehicles — whether it be in a garage, carport, or designated parking area — ensures convenience and security for you and your family.

Not having to worry about finding street parking or facing potential issues with neighborhood regulations can significantly enhance your everyday living experience and overall peace of mind.

Prospective homeowners should prioritize homes that offer ample parking options. This feature not only adds practical value but also contributes to the overall appeal and functionality of the property.

4. Outdoor space

A house with outdoor space is a definite must-have when buying your first home. A yard or patio offers additional living and entertaining space, which can be significantly beneficial for both you and potential future buyers.

When considering your non-negotiables, prioritize the type of outdoor space that fits your lifestyle. Maybe it’s a spacious backyard for gardening and recreation, or a smaller area ideal for low-maintenance upkeep.

Incorporate practical aspects into your evaluation of outdoor spaces, such as privacy from neighbors, the orientation of the sun in relation to the yard, and any existing features like decks or sheds.

5. Rental or resale value

A home’s rental or resale value is a crucial consideration when making a purchase. As a first-time homeowner, you should prioritize properties with the potential for appreciation in value over time.

Research suggests that neighborhoods with good schools, access to local amenities, and low crime rates tend to have higher rental and resale values. Analyzing the property’s location, future development plans in the area, and historical sales data can help you make an informed decision about its long-term investment potential.

Additionally, understanding market trends and seeking guidance from real estate professionals can provide valuable insights into determining which areas are likely to experience growth in property values.

6. Safe neighborhood

A safe neighborhood is non-negotiable when buying a home. Research crime rates and speak with local residents to assess the safety of the area. Consider factors such as street lighting, security systems, and police presence to ensure your new community provides a secure environment for you and your family.

Local crime statistics can offer valuable insights into the safety of a neighborhood. Look for well-lit streets, gated communities, and active Neighborhood Watch programs as indicators of a secure environment that aligns with your needs for peace of mind in your new home.

7. Quality of schools

When considering a new home, the quality of schools in the area is a crucial factor to think about. Research shows that top-rated schools can significantly impact property values and provide better educational opportunities for your children.

Paying attention to school district ratings and extracurricular offerings can help ensure your family’s educational needs are met. Understanding local school options will empower you to make an informed decision about your future home.

8. Good condition

Ensuring that the house is in good condition is a non-negotiable aspect when buying a home — which is why you must get a home inspection. The structural integrity of the property, including the foundation, walls, and roof, should be thoroughly inspected to avoid costly repairs in the future.

Additionally, checking for signs of water damage or mold can save you from potential health hazards and financial strain down the line.

It’s crucial to look out for any signs of wear and tear on essential components such as plumbing, electrical systems, and HVAC units to ensure they are functioning properly. Addressing any maintenance issues before purchasing will help prevent unforeseen expenses after moving into your new home.

9. Natural light and ventilation

When looking for a new home, it’s crucial to consider the amount of natural light and ventilation available. Homes with good natural light and airflow not only feel more inviting but also promote better health and well-being for you and your family.

10. Energy-efficiency

Energy-efficiency is a crucial feature to consider when buying a home. Lower energy bills and reduced environmental impact are key benefits. Look for homes with modern insulation, efficient heating and cooling systems, and energy-efficient appliances to save on utility costs in the long run.

Investing in an energy-efficient home aligns with your financial goals while contributing positively to sustainable living. Choose properties featuring LED lighting, high-efficiency windows, and Energy Star-rated appliances for a more eco-friendly lifestyle that doesn’t compromise on comfort or convenience.

11. Affordability

Affordability is a crucial factor when buying a house. Your budget will determine the type of home you can afford and its location. It’s important to consider not just the purchase price, but also ongoing expenses like property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and utilities.

Prioritizing affordability ensures that your dream home won’t become a financial burden in the long run.

Keeping costs manageable allows for future financial security and flexibility. Researching mortgage options and consulting with financial advisors can help you make informed decisions about what fits within your budget while still meeting your needs for space and amenities without sacrificing your fiscal health or peace of mind as you embark on this significant investment in your future.

12. Local amenities

When buying a house, local amenities play a crucial role in your day-to-day life. Access to grocery stores, restaurants, parks, and medical facilities can greatly impact your quality of life.

Proximity to public transportation and recreational facilities is also important for many homeowners.

Having schools, fitness centers, and entertainment options nearby is often non-negotiable for families or individuals with specific lifestyle needs. Living near amenities that are important to you can enhance your overall satisfaction with your new home and community.

13. Close commute

A close commute is a non-negotiable when buying a house. The average American spends around 28 minutes commuting to work each way, so finding a home with easy access to your workplace can significantly improve your quality of life.

Research shows that long commutes have been linked to higher levels of stress and lower overall satisfaction with life. Additionally, shorter commute times allow for more time spent with loved ones or engaging in leisure activities, enhancing overall well-being.

When looking for a new home, consider the proximity to your workplace and the ease of commuting as one of your top priorities. A shorter commute not only saves time but also reduces expenses related to transportation while positively impacting mental and physical health.

What to look for when buying a house: Red flags

When buying a house, it’s important to watch out for red flags that could indicate potential issues with the property. Keep an eye out for old HVAC systems, broken appliances, leaky roofs, outdated kitchens, and high property taxes or insurance costs.

These factors can impact your overall satisfaction and financial stability as a homeowner.

Old HVAC system

An old HVAC system can lead to costly repairs and high energy bills. It’s essential to ensure that the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in a potential home are updated and well-maintained.

An outdated system may not efficiently regulate indoor temperatures, causing discomfort and potentially impacting your health. When considering a new home, prioritize inspecting the HVAC system to avoid unexpected expenses down the line.

Older HVAC systems often lack modern energy-efficient features, leading to increased utility costs for homeowners. Prospective buyers should prioritize homes with updated HVAC systems, as they offer improved energy conservation and contribute to lower monthly expenses.

Broken appliances

When looking to buy a new home, be on the lookout for broken appliances. Malfunctioning or outdated appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, and dishwashers can add unexpected expenses to your move-in budget.

Prioritize a property with well-maintained and functional appliances to avoid the hassle of immediate replacements.

Consider hiring an inspector who will thoroughly check all appliances in the house before finalizing your decision on purchasing the property. In case any issues are identified, negotiate repairs or replacements with the seller, taking into account their potential impact on your overall investment in the new home.

Leaky roof

A leaky roof is a major red flag when buying a house. It can lead to costly repairs and potential water damage inside the home. A well-maintained roof is non-negotiable, ensuring protection for your investment and peace of mind in any weather conditions.

Ensuring that the house you’re considering has a sturdy, watertight roof is essential. Without this non-negotiable feature, you risk facing extensive repairs or replacements down the road.

Water intrusion can cause structural damage and mold growth, affecting both the safety and value of your potential new home.

Outdated kitchen

Ensure the kitchen is updated as it can add significant value to your home. An outdated kitchen can be a considerable expense, requiring immediate updates and renovations. A modern, functional kitchen with updated appliances and fixtures enhances the overall appeal of the house.

Consider renovating the kitchen to match your needs, as an old-fashioned design may not suit your lifestyle or aesthetics. Upgrading countertops, cabinets, and appliances will make a noticeable difference in both aesthetics and functionality.

When you’re evaluating potential homes, take note of any need for kitchen upgrades. Keep in mind that remodeling costs should be factored into your overall budget when considering a property for purchase.

High property taxes and insurance costs

When considering a potential home purchase, accounting for high property taxes and insurance costs is essential. These ongoing expenses can significantly impact your budget, so it’s crucial to factor in these additional costs when evaluating the affordability of a prospective property.

High property taxes may necessitate adjustments in other areas of your finances, while expensive insurance premiums could strain your monthly expenses. Prospective homeowners must carefully weigh these financial obligations alongside the home’s purchase price and any mortgage payments.

To prevent unexpected financial strain after buying a house, conducting thorough research into the typical property tax rates and insurance premium ranges within your desired location will help you make an informed decision about whether a specific property aligns with your overall budgeting strategy.

Buying a house: Frequently asked questions

– Wondering about the down payment? Curious if you really need a home inspection? Get these questions answered and more in this section!

How big of a down payment should I put down?

Consider the current housing market and your financial situation when deciding on a down payment. You should strive to put down at least 20% of the home’s purchase price to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI) and secure better loan terms.

Additionally, a larger down payment reduces your overall mortgage amount, decreasing interest costs over time. However, if saving for a 20% down payment seems unattainable, various programs offer lower down payment options that may be suitable for first-time buyers or those with limited savings.

When deciding on the size of your down payment, assess how much you can comfortably afford while keeping ample emergency funds available. Research different loan options to find one that aligns with your circumstances and discuss potential scenarios with a trusted real estate professional to determine a suitable down payment amount.

What if I can’t find the perfect home?

If you can’t find the perfect home, focus on your non-negotiables and prioritize what’s essential for you. Consider compromising on features that can be updated or changed over time, such as interior decor or landscaping.

Keep in mind that no home is entirely perfect, but finding one that accommodates most of your needs and some wants is a realistic goal. Be open-minded and willing to make adjustments to fit your budget and lifestyle, while also considering the potential of a property to grow with you in the future.

Remember that it’s important to stay adaptable during the home search process. Don’t feel discouraged if every house doesn’t meet all of your criteria; instead, keep looking until you find one that comes close enough to meeting most of your key requirements.

Do I really need a home inspection?

A home inspection is a non-negotiable step in the homebuying process. It provides vital insight into the condition of the property, ensuring you make an informed decision. Be sure to choose a qualified inspector who will thoroughly assess the structural integrity, electrical and plumbing systems, and overall safety of the house.

Home inspections can reveal hidden issues that may not be noticeable during a casual tour of the property. This critical step helps you avoid costly repairs down the road and gives you peace of mind about your investment.

Make sure to schedule a home inspection before finalizing your purchase agreement to protect yourself from unforeseen problems.

Who can help me find my first home?

Professional real estate agents with experience working with first-time homebuyers can provide invaluable assistance in navigating the complex process of finding and purchasing your first home.

These agents possess expert knowledge of local housing markets, access to comprehensive listings, and can guide you through each step of the buying journey. They will aid in identifying suitable properties that align with your non-negotiables and assist in negotiating favorable terms, ensuring a smooth transition to homeownership.

Mortgage brokers or lenders are also crucial allies when searching for your first home. Their expertise enables them to assess financial readiness, advise on available mortgage options, and secure pre-approval for loans within your budget.

Are you ready to buy your first home?

Ready to purchase your first home? Consider these 13 non-negotiables on our list. Prioritize your needs, like a great location and enough bedrooms. Do thorough research and stay focused on the ultimate prize of finding the perfect home.

As you continue through the process, make a list of must-haves — it could make or break the deal! 

And remember, it’s crucial that you’re ready to commit to this life-changing investment. The last thing you want is to buy a home only to find out the hard way you bit off more than you can chew.

To learn more about what to expect on your journey to homeownership, check this out.


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