Mike O'Keefe's Blog
Architecturally speaking, many home buyers have very definite ideas about their preferred house style.
Whether it stems from a sense of practicality or positive childhood memories, few house hunters are "on the fence" when it comes to the number of stories their ideal house should have.
Perhaps you're one of those people who grew up in a two-story house and wouldn't feel right sleeping down the hall from the kitchen and family room. Some people just prefer their sleeping quarters to be on the second floor!
Although it's a matter of personal preference, there are certain practical aspects to buying a ranch-style or traditional rambler house.
Less stair climbing: While this is an advantage that seniors typically value the most, stairs can be a burden anyone -- especially when you're lugging suitcases, boxes of books, or that heavy new futon you wanted to put in the guest room.
You can probably also recall countless evenings when exhaustion set it, and the last thing you felt like doing was climbing a long, winding staircase to get to your bedroom. (Okay, well maybe it's not "winding," but you get the idea!)
Then, of course, there are those times when you haven't been to the gym in a few months -- make that years -- and your home treadmill has turned into more of a clothes rack than an exercise machine! Although going up and down stairs a few times a day can help counteract the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, sometimes stairs can feel like they're more trouble than they're worth! That would definitely be the case if you have any physical conditions or health problems which make climbing stairs painful or medically unsafe. (Your physician can provide helpful advice on the latter.)
Home maintenance: If you hate getting up on tall ladders to paint your house or clean your rain gutters, owning a one-story home is a solution. Since home maintenance and repairs can often end up costing a bundle, it may make sense to consider doing your own exterior house painting. Although it's time consuming, messy, and sometimes a bit strenuous, painting your own house can potentially save you thousands of dollars in labor costs. Naturally, you'll still need to buy your own paint, brushes, rollers, and other supplies, but the amount of money you can save on labor is substantial.
Personal safety: If there's a fire or other emergency and you need to quickly evacuate your home in the middle of the night, a first-floor window can be safer and less scary than having to exit your house though a second-story window. While this type of dire situation is unlikely and will hopefully never happen to you, it's one of many factors to consider when comparing and contrasting ranch-style homes with other architectural styles.
If you do opt for a two-story (or three-story) architectural style, such as a colonial, craftsman, Tudor, Victorian, or farm house, it's especially important to have a fire escape ladder on hand, as well as a working knowledge of its proper use.
When you’re shopping for a home, one of the most important things is that you feel comfortable in the home. Sure, you can look at the listing and visit the property, but you’ll never know what it’s like to sleep in a home until you move in. While there aren’t many homeowners that offer overnights in order for you to feel out their property listing, there are ways that you can test a home out subtly.
Check Out The Neighborhood
You can learn a lot about a neighborhood just by observing the area. See how many people are out walking around. What is the age group of the people you see? This can give you a great idea of the neighborhood that your potential home is in. You could do this investigating several times at different hours of the day to get a full picture of the area.
Getting out and taking a stroll around the neighborhood is also a great idea to see what potentially living in your new home will be like. Check out public transportation options and local establishments like restaurants and coffee shops. Another great place to check out is local parks and recreation centers. This will allow you to see both the quality and the quantity of the options available to you.
Test The Plumbing
If you have a chance as you’re walking through a home, touring it, be sure to check out the plumbing. Turn on the faucets. See how the water pressure from the shower is. It seems like kind of a strange thing to think of testing, but it’s important. You don’t want to move into a house only to find out the water pressure is unlivable and the hot water isn’t so hot!
Check Out How The Windows Work
A home with a breeze is always nice. See if any windows get stuck or are leaking out cold air when shut. This is a subtle way to do your own home inspection of an important aspect of your potential future home. Paying attention to the windows can also help you to hear the noise factor that you might face in the home. Can you hear a lot of traffic? Is the neighborhood quiet? Discovering these things will be very important in your decision to purchase a home.
How Is The Storage Space?
Look around the homes that you’re considering and see how much storage space you’ll have. Is there a basement or an attic or both? How easy are these spaces to access? If a home lacks adequate closet space for storing things like towels, cleaners, clothing, etc, you may find yourself scrambling for ways to keep all of your things in the home once you move in. Make sure the storage space you see is enough for you and your family’s lifestyle.
Everyone is looking for something different when it comes to finding the ideal home. While some people prioritize architectural styles and curb appeal, other house hunters place the most value on the quality of the school district and proximity to jobs.
Neighborhood quality is also a significant factor in house-buying decisions. What exactly does "neighborhood quality" mean, though? Although definitions may vary, the characteristics that are typically considered to be desirable include a low crime rate, relatively light street traffic, a minimal amount of "noise pollution," and neighborhoods in which houses and properties are consistently well cared for and in good condition.
If peace, quiet, and tranquility are high on your list of house-buying requirements, here are a few other items you might consider adding to your "wish list."
Space between neighbors: While it's generally a good thing to get to know your neighbors on a first-name basis, you don't necessarily want to get to know them too well -- or vise versa! In other words, it's nice when you can sit out on your back porch without having to be too concerned about being overheard or needing to edit your conversations. If privacy is a top priority for you, then you might want to limit your search to properties that provide a comfortable buffer zone between houses.
Greenery and privacy hedges: A residential street with green, well-tended lawns and mature, leafy trees is not only visually appealing, but it's also a sign that people take pride in their property and care about the neighborhood. Homes for sale that offer a "park-like setting" on a nice street can be the ideal environment for creating a private, backyard refuge.
Fireplaces: Even if a fireplace is not on your "must have" list, it's a relatively inexpensive luxury to have and enjoy during the holidays and when the temperature drops. Regardless of the climate in which you live, there are going to be plenty of wet, cloudy, or snowy days during the winter months. When the weather turns chilly, there's nothing like a crackling fire in the fireplace to infuse your home with a cozy, relaxing atmosphere!
Large windows: Large bay windows, picture windows, and floor-to-ceiling windows not only let in a lot of natural light, but they also help you enjoy views of your neighborhood and backyard. That combination of sunshine, green foliage, a well-landscaped property, and the smell of freshly cut grass can set the tone for a relaxing home environment -- both indoors and out! Along those same lines, a sunroom can also be a highly desirable feature in a new home you're considering buying.
Although there are a ton of things you can do to enhance the beauty and relaxation value of your next home, the starting point is to find a peaceful neighborhood and a spacious, nicely landscaped property on which to add your own personal touches.
Finding the ideal home for your family's needs is no easy task, but if you stay organized and focused, the right property is sure to come along!
One of your most valuable resources in your search for a new home is an experienced real estate agent -- someone you trust and feel comfortable working with.
They'll not only set up appointments for you to visit homes in your desired price range and school district, but they'll also help keep you motivated, informed, and on track. Once you know and have shared your requirements (and "wish list") with them, your agent will be able to guide you on a path to finding the home that will best serve your needs -- both short- and longer term.
In addition to proximity to jobs, good schools, and childcare, you'll probably want to pick a location that's close to supermarkets, recreation areas, and major highways. If you have friends or family in the area, then that would also be a key consideration.
While your immediate needs are a good starting point for creating a checklist of requirements, it's also a good idea to give some thought to what you may need in the future. Plans to expand your family, possibly take care of aging parents, or adopt pets are all factors to consider when looking at prospective homes to buy.
If you have college-age children or recent graduates in the family, you might have to save room for them in your new house. Many grads need a couple more years of financial and moral support from their parents (not to mention home-cooked meals) before they're ready to venture out on their own. Houses with a finished basement, a separate in-law apartment, or even a guest cottage on the property are often well-suited for multigenerational households.
In many cases, people tend to buy a home based on their emotional reaction to it, and then justify the purchase with facts. For example, if the price was right and a particular house reminded you of your childhood home, then that combination of elements could prompt you to make an offer on the house -- assuming those childhood memories were happy!
Sometimes prospective buyers might simply love the look and feel of a neighborhood or the fact that there's a spacious, fenced-in back yard in which they can envision their children or dogs happily (and safely) playing.
According to recent surveys, today's buyers are attracted to homes that have energy efficient features, separate laundry rooms, and low-maintenance floors, counter tops, and backyard decks. Gourmet kitchens, stainless steel appliances, a farmhouse sink, a home office area, and outdoor living spaces are also popular features. Although your tastes may differ, many house hunters also like design elements such as subway tiles, hardwood floors, shaker cabinets, pendant lights, and exposed brick.
When it comes to choosing the home that you and your family will live in for the next few years, your top priorities will probably include a sufficient amount of space, plenty of convenience, and a comfortable environment in which you and your loved ones can feel safe, secure, and happy for the foreseeable future!