Before you enter the world of homeownership, it's helpful to run through this list of questions to make sure you've covered all your bases. According to one of Keller Williams' top buyer specialists, these are the questions that will keep you on the right track to your dream home.
1) Are you prequalified for a house through a mortgage broker or lender, or do you have enough money saved up to pay cash? Once you know this, you'll have a better idea of the type of budget you can work with. It's also important to know where your financing will come from before you start the home-viewing process because different types of loans will have different criteria that each house has to meet.
2) What's your budget? How much do you want to spend? This is different from how much you can spend. Think about your lifestyle and what you are and aren't willing to shell out your cash for.
3) Once you've got your budget worked out, it's time to think about location. Do you want to live in a neighborhood? Do you want to live on a rural farm? Is it important for you to be close to highways for your work commute, or will you not even consider living anywhere near a main road? Do you want to be near a park?
4) What school district do you want to live in? This is relevant if you have kids or are planning to have them. If you have kids, do you want them to stay in the same school district that they're in now?
5) What are the taxes like on the home you're interested in? This can change based on square footage, the neighborhood, the school district and other factors.
6) How many acres does the property come with? If there is too much land for you to personally maintain, how much will it cost to bring in landscapers and gardeners to help keep it groomed?
7) What are the neighbors and locals like? Whether you're living on a cul-de-sac or off in the rural hills, you'll have to interact with your neighbors or other locals at some point. When looking at a home, try to meet the neighbors or locals and get to know them a bit. See whether it's a supportive, family-oriented community -- or whether you'd be spending the next 10 years begging your partying neighbors to keep the music down.
8) What are the nearby amenities? Are there parks and public pools? Farmers markets on the weekends? An up-to-date library? What kind of lifestyle can you expect?
9) What style of house do you want -- farm, colonial, Victorian? Do you want a single-level or multilevel home?
10) What specific features do you want -- e.g., garage, fireplace, bay windows, high ceilings, carpeting in the bedrooms, a master suite, a finished basement?
11) What's your minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms?
12) In which type of condition would you like your home to be? Do you want to buy a fixer-upper and renovate it yourself?
13) What size home do you want? Approximately how many square feet?
14) How old are the kitchen appliances? Kitchen appliances become less energy-efficient after six years. Other major appliances, such as boilers and furnaces, can usually last anywhere between 20 and 35 years.
15) What type of roof is it? Slate roof lasts the longest, because you'll just have to replace an individual part of the roof, but asphalt shingles usually only last 30 years. Make sure you ask how old the roofing is.
16) Are there any homeowner association fees? If so, what are they? (This pertains more to townhouses and condos.)
17) Who is your real estate agent? Is she or he responsible for also helping you find a licensed inspector after you close on your home? If you're planning to go solo, are you prepared to do the legwork yourself?
18) What's your timeframe? Do you need to sell your current home or wait for a lease to end?
It's also worth noting that while a list helps you cover the bases, it can also pigeonhole you and potentially keep you from finding the home of your dreams because you weren't willing to approach the process with an open mind. While it's great to know what you want, sometimes what you want isn't something you can imagine until you actually see it yourself. Maybe in spite of everything on your list, you'll walk into a house and just know that you're home.