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Whether you are a first-time buyer or have bought a number of homes over the years and are about to make another move, as you begin the process of getting serious about your home purchase, you should start by "visualizing" the home you intend to buy. You should put on paper every single feature that you want in your next residence. Maybe you want an extra-large kitchen with an attached family room. Perhaps you prefer a large condo that is located in the heart of the city. Think hard, because although you may not be able to find or afford all you desire, compiling such a list will help both you and your agent know what residence will best meet your needs. Once you have your list, the next step is to narrow your focus down to the items you can and can´t live without. If you are buying your first home, odds are fairly high that you won´t stay there for very long. You should be as realistic as possible, knowing that you may need to sacrifice something big (such as size or location). The important part is determining what items you can´t live without. These items may include a garage, an easy commute or a large yard
In this process, there are many questions that you will need to ask yourself. Although your first home - or any home that you purchase -- may not be exactly what you want, you deserve to find the home that best suits you at a price you can afford. When making your "wish list" of what you want in your next home, consider these questions.
What are my needs and/or my family´s needs? If you have school-aged children, you obviously will have to look at the quality of schools in a particular neighborhood. You also want to make sure that you have enough bedrooms, and you may also need room for guests. How essential is a home office, a yard or a basement? What are your options for expanding the home if you decide to do so in the future?
Where do I want to buy? Location is often the key for most homebuyers. It can affect school choices, resale values, convenience and peace of mind. You may have a perfect location in mind, but if you don´t, there are some things to consider. How far are you from schools and work? Would you spend too much time driving to work or driving your children to functions? Is the neighborhood quiet and family oriented, or urban and convenient? Do you prefer the suburbs or a more cosmopolitan setting? You need to decide what will best fit the lifestyle that you and your family prefer. Are there nearby recreational activities that are appealing and convenient? If you have medical issues, you may have to factor those into your decision as well.
How much maintenance can I handle? If you do not like to do home repairs and improvements (and especially if you would have to hire someone to do even basic maintenance), you may want to consider a new home or a condo or townhouse. Buying a home that is a "fixer-upper" will involve a lot of work - and really, any home takes some work to keep it in good running order. If you are not particularly handy, you may want a home that is as low maintenance as possible.
How long do I intend to stay in this home? The longer you intend to stay, the more important your home´s appreciating in price will be. Although the home you may be inclined to buy may not have the size you would like at the time you purchase it, if it has enough room for adding on at a later date, it may still be a good candidate for your residence. Also, if you are looking for a longterm home, you may be best off spending your money on a home that needs some upgrading or expansion but is located in the best neighborhood you can afford. The likelihood is that you will have more time and money over the years to make it the home you ultimately desire. Conversely, if you anticipate that you are just going to use this purchase as a home for a limited amount of time, all you may need is a clean, move-in-ready environment
Does my job allow for stability? Even if you hope to find a home that you want to stay in for the long term, you must consider whether your job could affect this decision. Based on the nature of your employment, you may face the reality that you will have to move within the next few years to another city or state. You must take that into consideration as you make your decision.
Types of Homes
Homes come in all shapes and sizes. There are Cape Cods, Victorians, Georgians, old and charming, contemporary and sleek, condos, cooperatives and townhouses. Deciding which home is best for you can certainly be challenging. Aside from style, several other questions may help you narrow your search to the homes that will best fit your family, your lifestyle and your budget.
First, do you need a single-story or multi-story home? Both have their advantages. With a single-story home, you generally have a more open floor plan, and for some people, not having to walk up and down the stairs is important. The big bonus of a multilevel home is that you generally get more square footage for a little less money, because it takes less land to build up rather than out. Should you buy a new(er) home or an older one? Again, there are pros and cons for both types of homes. Look at some of the differences between newer and older homes to see which will best meet your needs. (Remember, these are simply examples of what you may find-there will be older homes with these items and newer homes without them.)
Modern amenities (some withwarranties)
Larger room sizes and higher ceilings
More counter space in the kitchen and more cabinets
Sometimes lower-quality building materials and workmanship
More closet space, often with large walk-in closets
No owner-added upgrades such as draperies, extra shelving etc.
Building character (molding, paneled doors, hardwood floors)
Can be less expensive
Less storage space
Larger lot sizes
May need more upkeep and maintenance
More privacy Owner-added extras such as window treatment, built in book cases, and so forth
Will eventually need updated kitchens, bathrooms, plumbing and air/heat (if not already updated)
Older, more established neighborhoods
Condos and Townhouses
For many people (especially first-time buyers), a condo, cooperative or townhouse can be a great first home. In fact, in Loudoun and Fairfax Counties, because of the price of real estate, these types of residences may very well be the only practical option for a first-time buyer - and they can be the hottest sector of the real estate market. They are usually less expensive than single-family homes, they may be located in more convenient urban areas, and they are generally relatively low maintenance. Many townhouses have a garage. They allow you to spend less on your purchase and to build up equity while living in a residence that still gives you the feel of a single-family home. There are, of course, some pros and cons to buying a condo or townhouse versus a detached home. But for many people, buying a condo or townhouse has been an excellent launching pad to both building credit and building equity toward a down payment for a single-family home.
Condos, Cooperatives and Townhouses
Less expensive per square foot More modern (most condos in Northern Virginia have been built in recent years)
Shared walls with neighbors
May lack a garage or sufficient storage
May have amenities (pools, spas, gyms, tennis courts) Owner is responsible for condo association dues earmarked for overall maintenance and improvement of the facilities; fees can range from $160 to $400 per month
Less privacy (and more neighbors) than in a single family home
Generally have secured/gated buildings
Easy transition from renting
Can make changes to the interior of the unit
Condo association takes care none of grounds maintenance and is usually responsible for repairs to roofs, decks, common halls, and the plumbing and electrical into the unit (interior plumbing and electrical issues are the owners´ responsibility)
The Interior of Your "Visualized" Home
Your wish list will have many items that you want to see in the interior of the ideal home for you and your family. A home´s interior can be changed, but it can be expensive. If the inside of the home doesn´t really meet your needs, you need to calculate the time and aggravation that remodeling can cost you before making any final decisions on buying the home. Below are some things to look at when looking at the interior of a potential home.
How many bedrooms? Do you have (or plan on having) children-or more children? Do you have frequent guests? Do you need a home office?
How many bathrooms? You usually need more than one bathroom if more than two people permanently live in a home. Older homes may only have one bathroom. If this is the case, be sure you understand what it would take (or if it is possible) to put in another bath. Homes with one bathroom are hard to resell.
Is the kitchen size adequate for your needs? How much room is there for a table? Are the appliances up to date? Is there enough counter and cabinet space? Kitchens are the most expensive rooms to remodel. Think carefully before buying a home in which you may need to upgrade everything in the kitchen. Will you be able to live without a kitchen during a lengthy remodeling?
Is there enough storage space? Check the garage, attic, basement and closets to see if there is enough room for all of your possessions. (This may not be a major issue: it may simply be time to go through your stuff and purge!
How new are the windows, roof, plumbing and electrical? The newer these items are, the better. All of these usually need to be replaced at one point or another, and they can be very costly. Do you want to be the one footing the bill? Old windows can provide very poor insulation and create extremely high energy bills; plumbing problems can seem like a never-ending nightmare. A good inspector can give you a better idea about these systems, but they should never be overlooked when making your final decision.
Finally, are there extra items that you can´t live without? Some people might be sold on a house simply because of a pool, spa, fireplace, hardwood floors, moldings or electronic systems.
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Prudential PenFed's TeamWorks 11864 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 101 • Reston, Virginia 20191 703.909.6333 e-mailtheTeam@eLoudounHomes.com
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