the location, condition and resale value of your home are going to have a tremendous impact on your day-to-day life and the future of your finances, so you don’t want to gloss over any details!

Of course, balancing the needs and tastes of different family members when selecting your new home is no easy feat.

Here are 5 tips for discerning your “needs” from your “wants” and finding a suitable location for your dream home.

First-Time Home Buyer’s Guide: 5 Tips to Determine What You Want in a Home

  1. Consider Your Family’s Needs

Is having a backyard a deal breaker for you and your kids, or would you take less land just to be closer to a local park?

Do you work from home and need space for your home office? Are you leaving a big city and dying for some more privacy?

Every individual in your family will have their own particular dreams and desires. Our suggestion? Sit down and make a list of the possible features a typical home in your neighborhood could have – not just the things you want. Then rate them on a scale of 0-5; 0 being “Unnecessary” and 5 being “I cannot live without this!”

Tally up the scores and see what your ultimate dream home attributes are! This will give a much clearer picture not only to you, but for your real estate agent as well.

And if you find that the homes in your price range are missing some of these features, you can always get an estimate for a particular renovation or addition, or even decide you want to save for longer to increase your options.

2.  Think About Your Commuting Time

If you’ve ever been responsible for shoveling the snow out of a driveway, you might dream of living in another state with temperate weather year-round. But as it turns out, weather is shown to have very little overall impact on happiness levels.

One thing that does affect happiness might surprise you: your commute time!

Many people are tempted to purchase that house in the suburbs and support it with the money from their downtown city job. But if you’re spending more time sitting in traffic than you are enjoying the view from your porch, this might not be the best decision.

Our recommendation? Try to find a home that minimizes your commute time while meeting your other requirements as much as possible. If you’re a dual-income household, that might mean finding the mid-point between you and your spouse’s workplaces.

Keep in mind that this factor doesn’t only apply to your job. The distance of nearby schools, grocery stores and other amenities can affect not only how long you spend sitting in traffic, but your travel expenses as well. For example, if your child’s school is 20 miles in the opposite direction of your workplace and there’s no bussing available, it won’t matter that your home is close to the office.

So think about the places you will need to travel to regularly: schools, daycares, gyms, shops, the office, and keep these distances in mind when you begin your search.

3. What About Schools?

Speaking of schools – do you have or are planning to have children while in this new home?

Finding the right daycare and school(s) for your family will top the “to-do” list for many parents searching for home base. While it is actually illegal for agents to steer you away from properties based on the quality of a given school, there are many real-estate search websites like that allow parents to search homes by school district.

The standard of measurement used for many years by parents and educators has been the school’s performance on common core academic test scores. But increasingly, researchers are saying that standardized tests may not necessarily indicate the quality of education your child might receive.

The best way to find the right school for your child(ren) is to put in the work and visit the school yourself.

Knowing your child’s interests and learning style can assist you in your search. Check out different options – if the local public school isn’t to your liking, check to see if your child would be eligible to attend a local charter, magnet or private school.

4. Consider the Resale and Rental Value

Not only do you want to find a neighborhood that you’ll love, you also want to invest your hard-earned money wisely and choose a property you’re confident will build equity.

Nearby development can be a good sign your neighborhood is on the rise, whereas an abundance of “for sale” signs and lower prices could be an indicator that it’s time to look elsewhere.

You may also want to consider buying a property with a second apartment you can rent or even temporarily list on AirBnB. A rental income can provide a nice boost to your finances, but always keep in mind that if a tenant stops paying, you’ll still be on the hook for your mortgage payments.

Talk to your agent about this option and research how much a rental apartment in your neighborhood might list for.

5. Assess The Overall Condition

Once you get a sense of your budget, determine whether you’re going to buy a new property, a fixer-upper, or something in-between.

Many homebuyers are willing to settle for a “fixer-upper,” but it’s important to think about not only the money you’re willing to invest, but the amount of time and potential inconvenience renovations can cost. A major home-improvement project can tremendously increase the value and beauty of your new home, but between comparing different contractors and vacating different rooms in your house, it can also be incredibly draining.

Don’t overestimate how much work you and your family are willing to put in.

If you are planning to do a lot of work, be sure to tap into the contacts of your real-estate agent for quality local referrals.


Finding the right home can feel like an impossible balancing act, but sitting down and doing the hard thinking can lead to tremendous benefits. Don’t stress out if you’re not sure where to begin or you’re not “sold” on the properties you’re seeing right away.

Take your time to reflect on your family’s top priorities before you pull the trigger. Sit down and write out your thoughts. Walk with your family through the neighborhood. Talk to a few contractors. The more research you put in while you shop, the more confident you’ll feel when you finally make your decision.

And in the meantime, you can save some extra funds for your down payment!


In this First Time Home Buyer’s Guide series, we will dig deeper into each of these sections and give you the lowdown on what to expect and do each step of the way.

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