HomeFinders Kit Part 2

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In part 1 found here we were looking at the physical efforts that go into setting up the tools for your home search. In Part 2 we'll be looking at what to look for with each property.

To find a house that's right for your household you'll need to keep the bigger picture in focus during a time when the changes in your life are many. Use this checklist to help you balance the emotional side of house hunting - finding a space that brings harmony and comfort to your household - with the basics of rooms and spaces. There is a method of analyzing a home using what some call "The Ben Franklin Approach" where  you draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper and write on one side features you like about the property (using the list of criteria to follow) vs. features you don't like about the property. You should also do this with the home you currently reside in to see what's important to you and what is less so. Couples should each do this then compare notes, often times what is a deal breaker for one may not be for the other. Having these discussions prior to looking at properties can make the whole process alot less stressful when negotiating a purchase or when a hot property is found. You'll feel less pressured having already discussed these issues and can better focus on the negotiations rather than suddenly have suitability questions.

1. What Locations Fit Our Household
Choosing a location that's right for your household will have positive impact on your life. And buying is the best time to think about selling - choosing a good location is like stacking the deck for a profitable sale down the road. Rank each element of a location (1 being not important and 5 being very important) then evaluate how different areas support your household's needs.

a. Will the number of school age children in your household change in the next 5 years?
b. Do you have special program or curriculum needs?
c. Are you concerned with athletics, drama, or other programs?
d. Check student-teacher ratios, test rankings, and graduation rates
e. Your buyer's agent can assist you in finding the right professionals to consult for this information

Hobbies, Cultural, and Social Activities
a. What activities are important to your household?
b. Is convenient access to public transportation or an airport necessary?
c. How far do you want to be from shopping or other activities?

a. How long do you plan to live in this house?
b. What community services are provided? Street maintenance, waste removal, recycling?
c. What are the selling trends of homes in the neighborhood over the past year?
d. Check out city hall and ask about any proposed zoning changes or construction plans. What are the crime statistics?
e. Visit retail shops. Are they flourishing?
f. Stop and talk to residents about the community

When searching apply each of these criteria to your prospective home and compare it to your present home and what you anticipate needing in the next 5 years.

2. What type of House Will Make A Home?
House hunting is more than finding a space. It's finding a favorite place; one that captures the spirit of your household. Start with the basic needs and then add the type of spaces that will make coming home a solace and comfort every time you open the door. After you've made a wish list, rank each possibility to arrive at a list of "Musts" and a list of "Nice to Haves".

a. Single Family
b. Traditional/Colonial
c. Antique
e. Townhouse
f. Contemporary
g. New Construction
h. Condo
i. Newer built
j. Ranch
k. Split level
l. Bungalow
m. Multi-family

a. Move in ready
b. In need of repair
c. In need of decorating

a. Number needed
b. Features desired

a. Number needed
b. Features desired

a. Features Desired

Leisure Spaces
b. Family room/great room
c. Media room
d. Den/Study
e. Exercise
f. Home Office
g. Other

Outdoor Activities and Recreation
a. Yard
b. Play space
c. Gardening
d. Entertaining
e. Other

Other Spaces
a. Garage
b. Basement
c. Hobby Space
d. Storage
e. Other

3. Estimating Your Price Range
Further focus your search by calculating a price range based on a mortgage that will get you the most house and most out of life. Consider lifestyle needs such as vacations, savings and hobbies when arriving at a desired monthly mortgage payment. Remember, preapproval will make you a more desirable buyer and save you time when you find the right house. Sit down with a trusted mortgage professional to go over mortgage guidelines, special programs you may be entitled or eligible for so that you own the house and so the house doesn't own you. Just because you're approved for a mortgage amount doesn't mean you SHOULD spend it all.

4. House Hunter Notes
Make notes as you tour and compare each house to your HomeFinders kit. Rank (1 to 5) each room, area and feature and then add up the points to help you maintain your objectivity when you may have just lost your heart. Listing sheets are great papers to turn over and keep this scoring, also helps later when comparing one house to the next.

a. First Impression (1-5)

b. Location (1-5)
1. Convenience to work
2. Schools/Day Care
3. Transportation
4. Shopping, churches, recreation
b. Neighborhood Notes (1-5)
1. Appearance of homes
2. House value relative to location
3. Age, mix of residents/children
4. Traffic
5. Zoning
6. Retail
7. Crime Statistics
8. Other

c. Interior (1-5)
1. Bedrooms
2. Bathrooms
3. Kitchen
a. Features
4. Dining
a. Features
5. Living Room
6. Family room / Great room
7. Leisure spaces
8. Basement

d. Floor plan notes

e. Plumbing/heating/electrical/ Air Conditioning

f. Items included/excluded

g. Other

h. Exterior (1-5)
1. Curb appeal
2. Roof
3. Foundation
4. Yard
5. Driveway/sidewalks/walkways
6. Garage
7. General Condition
8. Other

i. Environment
1. Water (Public or Private)
2. Waste Disposal (Public sewer or Private Sewerage) - Don't always assume a home is on public sewer!!
3. Recycling

Notes/Sketches (take digital photos of items you like and items you don't like) *most digital cameras today will time/date stamp each picture, just write down on the listing sheet the time/date of your viewing and it'll make for easy sorting later.

Well now you have a good grasp on your HomeFinders toolkit - I'm always interested in hearing what you might also add to this list to help others. It's especially interesting because different parts of the state/country and even the town can have different criteria & special items to look for. Your buyers agent can be a wealth of knowledge in assisting you to ask the important questions you might have missed from this general list.

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