In order to find a house that is right for you, you have to first think carefully about what you actually need and want. Many people limit their thinking to the home itself, and so have a mental (or even written) list of all the features they want. But what you need in a house is not limited to the structure itself, nor even that and the neighborhood. Sure, you want a nice place, but you also need something that helps you with your important goals in life.
The best example of this is the question of cost – and this doesnt just refer to affordability. Of course you have to be able to afford the house, but if you have other things you want – such as college for the kids or yourself, travel, or to start a business – you may want to keep your costs far below what you can actually afford. Doing so means that youll have the income to handle those other goals as well.
Low cost does not mean just a low price, either. Youll want to find a house that has total monthly expenses that fit your plans. This means you have to compare homes based on mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, repair costs (older ones have more generally), utility costs and any other expenses. You might even look at the cost difference of the commute to work from each home considered.
Then there is the question of how you actually use a home. This gets beyond the question of what you imagine you want in your “dream house.” We often imagine that we want things which really dont suit us. A large yard, for example, can look nice, but do you really enjoy doing all the work necessary to maintain it? A swimming pool may be great on a hot day, but will it end up costing you $100 per swim because you only have time to use it once weekly in season? Dont guess too much about how you will live in a home. Look carefully at your current habits and find a house that suit those.
Consider the town or city too, if that is possible. Some people will have to stay where they are because of work, but if not, look at the alternatives. Affordability is a function not just of your income nor of the monthly costs. It is the relationship between the two that matters. If you can find a better job in a city you prefer to live in, you can afford a higher-priced home. If the homes in a town will cost 40% less to own monthly, you can afford a cut in pay to live there.
Finally, find a house that meets all the other needs you may have. Good schools may be important if you have children. Walking-distance stores or public transportation may matter if you and your spouse have just one car – or none. Next-door neighbors may matter more than the neighborhood in general (are there barking dogs on both sides?). Start with the things discussed here and make a list, adding anything else that matters to you. Find a house that balances all of these things.