If you're a first-time home buyer, then you've probably been feeling pretty overwhelmed when you go out to look at homes. After all, in this buyer's real estate market you have endless homes to choose from. How do you know what you want, especially when you've never had your own home before?
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This is a common problem with many first-time home buyers. And it certainly was with me when I bought my first home. Because I didn't know what I wanted, and didn't take the time to figure it out before I started looking, I wasted a ton of time walking through houses I'd never even consider buying.
This is why creating a home vision is so useful. A home vision is a statement that describes the ideal home, and life, you'd like to have. A home vision helps you create a vivid, detailed picture of the life you'd most like to live. And having this vision on paper while you house hunt can really help you remember what you want, and why you want it, so you don't waste time on homes that will be nothing but a disappointment.
Having a home vision before you go out house hunting also helps you find a great real estate agent, and allows you to more easily communicate your needs and wants so they can help find the best home, and town, for you.
How to Create Your Home Vision
Start by thinking of the ideal life you'd like to live in your new home. Write it out just as if you're telling yourself a story. For instance, you could write out a short narrative, like this: I wake up early and walk down to the local coffee shop for breakfast. When I get home I head up to the home office to start work, while my partner gets the kids up and ready for school. When they're ready, I stop work and walk them to class. During the day, I work on projects, and take my bike to the library for some books.
I hit the farmers' market on the way home, and then start dinner by the time the kids get home. The kitchen is big enough for the kids to work on homework while I cook, and in the evening we all relax in the TV room with a movie.
From this short and simplistic home vision, you know you should look for the following attributes in your new home and neighborhood:
- Close enough to walk to a coffee shop or downtown area.
- Relatively bike friendly.
- Has a room for a home office.
- Is close to a farmers' market.
- Has a spacious kitchen and TV room.
As you can see, writing out your "ideal life" can help you clarify needs and wants that you might overlook as you wander through house after house. This clarity can save you a lot of time and heartache later on. As you start to create your home vision, consider the following questions:
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- How much house can I afford so I don't experience stress making the mortgage payments?
- Do I want to live in the country, in the suburbs, or in an urban area? Why?
- Is it important to me to have a yard or patio? Will I want to grow a garden or plant flowers?
- Do I want to be walking distance from a downtown? If so, why?
- Do I want to be near schools, museums, or theaters? Why?
- Do I want to be walking or driving distance away from friends and family? How will my life be impacted if I'm far away?
- Is living near a city or national park important to me?
- Do I want to spend the time and money on a fixer-upper, doing home improvements, or would I be happier in a newer home?
- Do I want to live in an area, or town, with an active recycling program?
- Do I want to be near a church, religious center, or community center?
Once you consider those questions, write out your ideal day in story format. Consider everything you'd see and do that would make you happy. You can also write out your wants and needs in a list format if that's more helpful.
As you can see, there's a lot to consider when creating your home vision! But by clarifying your wants and needs, you're making sure that you get as close to your ideal life as you can. That way, you don't end up buying a home you'll regret.
Heather Levin is a columnist for Money Crashers, one of the top personal finance blogs covering financial issues like retirement, saving money, coupons, and credit cards. Levin also writes about going green on The Greenest Dollar.