When you go shopping for homes in the fall, you have some advantages. Buyer traffic has slowed with the start of schools. Sellers who’ve had their homes on the long hot summer market are weary of trying to sell their homes and more willing to drop prices. Your REALTOR® has more time for you, and is telling you about good deals in better neighborhoods.
But wait. The holidays aren’t a deadline. It’s far better to choose a home that meets your needs no matter what time of year it is.
1. Get preapproved. Your lender will give you a price limit that you can comfortably afford based on your income and debts. These are time-tested formulas that allow some wiggle room in your finances so you won’t be house-rich but cash-poor.
2. Shop for the right size, not the biggest. Buying the biggest home you can isn’t the best idea. Think about the operating costs of heating, cooling and maintaining all that space. This is money wasted that could be spent on other things you may need such as a new car or furniture.
3. Think about your activities. Think about how you actually use a home. A home with a huge impressive kitchen is a poor investment if you don’t cook much, except at Thanksgiving. Do you have the space you need for your home office or art studio? Are there enough bathrooms for the morning rush?
4. Consider the commute. Newer homes offer the most amenities, but they tend to be far from city centers. How long would you spend commuting to your job every day to live in a particular community? Those are hours spent in traffic that you could be spending with loved ones.
5. Look at the bones of the home. Appliances, wall colors, and flooring can easily be updated, but the basic floorplan has to flow well for the way you live. Look at the traffic flow. Is it easy to let the dog outside and clean muddy paws when he comes back in? Where do the kids put their backpacks when they come home from school?
6. Be willing to update. Many homes are affordable because they’re older and need work. Many times, cosmetic updates can turn a so-so home into a treasure. If you set aside your holiday deadline, you can start work on your new home while more contractors are available and possibly less expensive than in the busy summer months.
7. Be sure to get year-round amenities. Remember what you enjoy doing in the fall, winter, spring and summer. The home you want to buy now should make you happy for the fall, but what about warm weather? Will you be able to garden, swim, or entertain outdoors? The best time to buy a home with a pool is in the fall and winter.
When you’re comparing homes think about your wish list and which home comes closest to meeting your price, number of bedrooms, condition, space, features and the amenities of the neighborhood. Once you move in, you’ll know you fell for the right choice.