When I meet with buyers for the first time, one of the first questions I ask is how long they plan to stay in this house. This has a fairly large impact on what you should be setting your sights on. If you plan to stay in the house less than 5 years, then you need to take potential resale value into consideration along with all the other factors. Most people already have certain cities or areas they are interested in, but if you have no preferences, ask your Realtor for suggestions. Do you need to think about schools? What about safety ratings? Is being close to shopping and entertainment a must? Do you want to be close to work? Location is one of the main factors for most people when deciding to buy a house.
After figuring out where, then comes the what. Are you looking for a fixer upper that you can make your own, or would you prefer something move in ready that you make customize over time? Are you looking for a first home or a step up home? Are you looking for something in the high end luxury market or looking to downsize? I always ask my clients to compose a “wants and needs” list. This helps me get a better idea of how to structure my search. Do you really need that large stone fireplace or would it just be a nice thing to have on cold winter nights? Think about what type of house you are interested in. Do you like colonials or split levels? What about a ranch? How big of a house are you looking for? If you buy too much house, you will have unused space and higher utility bills. If you buy too little house, you may quickly outgrow it. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? Are you planning on expanding your family? If so, then that third bathroom might become a need instead of a want. Don’t forget the garage. Do you want attached or detached? Do you need storage above the garage or perhaps a workshop area? Think about the house from basement to the roof and decide what features you need and what features would be nice to have, but won’t necessarily stop you from purchasing if they aren’t included.
If you have a pretty clear picture of what you are looking for, then finding the house for you becomes a bit easier. If on the other hand you have no idea what you are looking for, then you might need to skip to the next step and just start viewing houses so you can get an idea of what you can afford.