This is an important question, and having good answers is a helpful way to narrow down the choices you have when looking for a home. If you are a first time home buyer, it can be daunting. Searching for Austin homes, my spot on the map, can leave you scratching your head in confusion. Of course, the most important guideline is budget, but that isn't usually up for debate. Buy once you have a budget nailed down, how do you decide what home you like best? I think the first thing a potential buyer should do in their home search is ask the right questions.
First, why do you need a new home at all? Why are you moving in the first place? If you are a first time home buyer, your first home is a great investment. There are many reasons for moving, and these reasons are important because they influence your search for a home from the beginning.
- Tired of your neighborhood, or do you need a change of location?
- Relocating (to Austin?) for a new job is a good reason.
- Another neighborhood that you love to drive through
- Need to up-size or downsize?
- A long term or a short term investment?
Second, how will you spend your time in your new home? What is the function of the home, what is it for? This seems like a foolish question. You say, "I'm going to live in it!" Really? Well "living" in a home is different for a small family, a large family, or a bachelor. Many people in the Austin area spend a lot of time outside.
- Will you have many guests? Do you entertain friends?
- Do you prefer a quiet neighborhood? or do you want an active community
- Would you like to walk to the local shops? The East Austin neighborhood is great for this!
- Do you want to show off your home?, then amenities could be important
- Need a yard? For gardening or for playing baseball?
- Are you raising a family?
- Do you work from home?
Lastly, what are your needs and wants? What are basic, bottom line, and nearly unchangeable factors you need in your new home? What are the things you want, but can do without? Some of these are searchable factors that you can perform from your agent's web site.
- Number of Bedroom, Baths, floors
- Square footage, acreage or lot size
- Year built
- Local schools
- Home Owner's Association
Other things require some research, which your Realtor can provide, such as local crime rates, commute times, local businesses, floorplans, room sizes, etc. Don't forget, the size and layout of the home, as well as the neighborhood factors, are very difficult to change!
I would say that the first two questions are probably most important. The last question is easy to narrow down by a basic home search. Buying a home is an important investment, and an important decision (especially as a first time home buyer), so you really should be clear. If you take some time to answer the first two questions, then the right home will most likely jump out at you when you see it. Finding the home you want becomes an exercise in intuition. Talk to your agent and use more than the standard search terms when looking for your new home.