(Hey all! This is a guest post from Roger over at Blue Water Mortgage, as someone who has built their dream home I thought this would be of interest to a lot of you, enjoy!) Searching for the home of your dreams is exciting, but also challenging. After long hours of reading through listings, attending open houses and scheduling showings, it can be easy to burn out. However, it’s all worth the effort because once you’ve found it, your home becomes the setting for countless happy memories, from birthday parties and holidays to all the quiet moments in between. We’ve compiled this list of tips to help remove some of the stress around finding your ideal home.
Define the Dream
Create a list of must-haves.
This is one of the least sexy parts of searching for the perfect house, but it’s a necessary first step. Your list of must-haves should be relatively basic — think the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, ideal square footage, whether you want a garage and so on — because it will serve as the foundation of your dream home criteria.
Create a list of love-to-haves.
Even if you don’t have a dedicated Pinterest board for them, you probably have some idea of the types of features and design elements you want in a dream home, the kind of stuff you ooh and ah over every time you turn on HGTV. These features can run the gamut from the practical (a home office) to the purely aesthetic (teak flooring, granite countertops) to the luxe (a full-fledged dressing room off of the master bedroom) — but keep in mind the more extravagant the must-have, the more it’ll cost. So, whether you dream of soaking in a marble tub in your master bathroom or of playing rounds of pool in the family game room, take the time to put together a list of features you’d love to have prior to establishing your budget and starting your house hunt.
Define your style.
It might seem silly but it’s worth saying: What’s the point of a dream home if you can’t stand the sight of it? It wouldn’t make sense for someone with minimalist design sensibilities to make a down payment on an eclectic and ornate Queen Anne, nor for someone who prefers the traditional design elements of a Colonial to move into a retro-futuristic mid-century modern home. Having an idea of which architectural style or combination of architectural styles you like best will narrow down the number of available listings, making it easier to find a home that checks all of your boxes( use this buying a house checklist to help ).
Find your ideal environment.
When you picture your dream home, where is it located? Is it in the city, the suburbs or somewhere in the countryside with a dozen acres (click here see how much is an acre )? Is it at the end of a sleepy cul de sac or at the top of a high-rise building? Is it up in the mountains, deep in the woods, on the beach or in the middle of the desert? Your location will directly affect your access to public transportation, your proximity to schools, hospitals, stores and restaurants, and the type of recreational activities available to you, so think long and hard about where you’d like to be to narrow your search.
Keep your eyes on the horizon.
Life can change in the blink of an eye and your housing essential needs along with it. Since you plan on staying in your dream home for a good long time — if not forever — you should consider all the ways your needs will change over that time. For example, say you’re newlyweds with plans to start a family in the next few years; you might look for homes with multiple bedrooms that will give you room to grow. Or maybe you’re empty nesters who are approaching retirement; you might considering downsizing to reduce upkeep around the house. Whether you have plans to someday move your parents in, make the transition to working from home full-time or rent out space in your home, having some idea of what your future looks like will help you find the perfect home for your particular situation.
Make It a Reality
Establish a timeline for moving.
Setting a timeline will not only help you stay on track through every stage of the house hunting and home buying process — it’ll also give you the opportunity to get your finances in order. If you have blemishes on your credit or debts to pay, give yourself the time to sort things out; doing so will put you in a much better position to afford the home of your dreams.
Find the right mortgage option.
Once you’ve straightened out your finances, you’ll be ready to apply for a home loan. There are a wide variety of mortgage options available, each suited for a different purpose. For example, a Federal Housing Administration loan is a low down payment government loan intended for borrowers who might not otherwise be able to qualify for a loan, and a home improvement loan is exactly what its name implies. If you intend to stay in your dream home for the forseeable future — say, 10 years or more — you might consider applying for a fixed rate loan. A fixed loan enables you to maintain a fixed interest rate for the entire duration of the loan, which allows for more predictable mortgage payments. If you aren’t sure which loan type makes the most sense for you, and which you’ll be most likely to qualify for, talk to a mortgage broker.
Set a budget — and stick to it.
When it comes to determining how much house you can afford, home buyers should observe the 28/36 rule, which dictates that your monthly housing costs shouldn’t exceed 28 percent of your gross monthly income, and that your monthly debt payments shouldn’t exceed 36 percent of your gross income. It’s smart to incorporate emergency funds into your budget for things like repairs and small home improvement projects; whether you want a fixer upper or a new build will also affect your budget. Although it can be tempting to see how much more square footage you can get or what amenities are available to you if you increase your budget, it’s only advisable to do so if you’re in a buyer’s market and stand a chance of negotiating the list price down to your price range.
Bring in an expert.
Whether it’s a loan officer or a real estate agent, working with experts on the home buying process who can represent your interests every step of the way will significantly reduce your stress levels and get you into the home of your dreams that much faster. Roger Odoardi is a co-founder, partner and licensed mortgage broker at Blue Water Mortgage Corporation, an independent mortgage broker serving Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut and Florida with 20-plus years of experience in the financial services industry.