House Hunting

When you know what you want in a new home, it's time for the challenge of finding it! Your agent, armed with a list of the features that are important to you, will spend a lot of advance time preparing to show you homes that fulfill these wishes even before you get in the car to go looking. Maybe you'll find it the first day out; or perhaps you'll be seeing a lot of places that are almost – but not quite – what you had in mind for several weeks. Early phases of your home search will give you a good idea about what you will have to pay to get what you want.

"Location, Location, Location" is the old cliché that describes the most significant factor in property value. The cost of the land itself usually determines what will be built on it. That's also why you'll be cautioned not to fall in love with the biggest, most elaborate house in a community – the "cost-per-square-foot" of the house should be proportionate to the value of the land itself.

House-Hunting Hint: Take along a notepad and a digital camera! Photos and notes will help you document special features about each of the properties you visit. These will make it easier for you to remember which is which, and aid in your final decision about which home to buy.

Keep an eye open for quality, not just "cosmetic" finishes, price and size. A well-built home in a good neighborhood will be more valuable than one that is shoddily constructed, and in the long term it will cost less to maintain than one that was cheap to begin with. You can always add improvements and luxuries later. Pay particular attention to the bathrooms and kitchen in any of the homes you look at – modifications to these rooms is generally very costly, while reconfiguration of other spaces is much less expensive.

You will probably find informational brochures or "spec" sheets in each of the homes you visit, with such items as lot size, heated square footage, utility and tax costs, community amenities, etc. There may even be scale drawing of the floor plans. You may also request copies of the state-mandated Residential Property Condition Disclosure Statement filled out by the owners of residential resale property; this is a 4-page "yes-no" questionnaire about physical and mechanical features of the property.

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