As a military family, we move a lot. On average, we can expect to move every three years. This means that every three years we have to search for a new home. Here are some things I’ve learned about what to consider during these transitions.
Before beginning your search you must establish your budget. If you are renting, don’t forget to factor in utilities. If you are purchasing your home, in addition to your utility costs you’ll need to calculate property tax, homeowners insurance, and HOA fees. Also, take into consideration future costs (e.g. Is your rent locked in for just one year? How much will it increase if you renew a year from now?) so that you don’t end up struggling to pay your bills down the road if costs increase but your income doesn’t.
I know real estate agents say this is the first and only consideration. I think there are many others, but this one is certainly important. While being in a good school district is one consideration, don’t forget to look at crime rates, convenience, sidewalks and lighting, HOA regulations, and neighborhood amenities (e.g. a community pool or playground) when narrowing down your choices. We have a pit bull so we have to make sure the neighborhood where we live will allow us to have her. Recently, we discovered that my husband’s truck violates our HOA bylaws since it weighs over 7000 pounds. Had we asked for the bylaws from our landlord before signing the lease, we probably would have chosen a house in a different neighborhood. Also, we like to check out potential neighborhoods in advance to see how many kids live in the area and to watch the interaction between neighbors because those things are important to us.
Take time to figure out what features you are absolutely unwilling to sacrifice and which ones you could live without. Even if you don’t expect to live in a home long, since you don’t know what the future holds be sure you don’t get stuck in a home with a kitchen that is so small that you curse silently to yourself each time you are in it for the next several years. My husband likes to tinker with cars so a two-car garage is a necessity for us. With four kids to feed who also like to hang out in the kitchen with me while I’m making meals, a large kitchen is also a necessity. Also, we have an active family and equally active dog so a large backyard is mandatory. I’m willing to forego overall square footage to make sure we can afford a house with these three features. Decide ahead of time which features you MUST have so you can weed out houses early in your search.
Use Multiple Resources
Don’t feel pressured to rely on just one source for finding a home. For example, if you are looking for a home in Louisville, Kentucky you might begin your search by looking for a house at LeveinTeam.com (a local real estate agency). While the real estate agent lines up homes for you to view, you can continue to search newspaper listings, website listings, and For Sale or For Rent signs in front of houses in neighborhoods you are interested in living in. Unlike sellers who are obligated to work with a single real estate agency, as a buyer you can use multiple resources.
Even if you find the perfect home, its availability may not fit your personal timeline. Perhaps the house you want to rent isn’t available until two months after your scheduled move. Or maybe the sellers are pressuring you to close on their house two months before you intend to take possession. Depending on your circumstances and budget, these might be deal breakers. In instances where I have faced these problems, I have negotiated with the landlord or seller to minimize the inconvenience. In one case, we had to turn down the house because we couldn’t afford to pay rent for two houses for the length of time that would have been required.
You might have other things that you consider important when choosing a new home. These are just the key considerations that I have consistently had to confront with each of our moves. I’d love to hear your own experiences with moving and house hunting. Please share your stories in the comments.