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7 Things You Should Know Before Buying A House

So you’re ready to buy a house. It’s one of the most adult things you can do in life: you’ve got your credit all in order, you’ve saved up a down payment, you’re looking at yards and kitchens and second bathrooms. This takes planning and a willingness to put down roots. This is huge and exciting and intimidating all at the same time. But while you’re fantasizing about where you’re going to put that new couch and what color to paint the master bedroom, don’t forget some of the less obvious items on your checklist. Let’s take a look at 7 things you ought to know before you sign on the dotted line.

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1. So, how’s that foundation?

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Sure, the kitchen is stunning and you’re already planning the very elegant dinner parties you’re going to be having ASAP, but what’s that kitchen sitting on? The walls may be gorgeous but make sure that it’s what is underneath is solid as a rock. A bad foundation leads to cracks in the walls and ceiling and uneven floors that make doors stick, among other things. Furthermore, you’ll want to inquire about the framing of the house itself. Was a structural steel framing, or traditional wood framing?

These aren’t necessarily deal breakers – especially if you’ve found a home that you really love – but take into account future problems to include them in your home ownership budget.

2. Size Matters.

A big house is the dream of many would-be homeowners. Who wouldn’t love to have room to have a library, an at-home bar, or even just a really grown-up guest room? No matter how good your general contractor is, that room can get expensive – because you’re going to be heating and cooling all that space. How energy efficient is the house? Are the heating and cooling systems going to be adequate for the space? Upgrading these features in the future could be costly. It’s not the sexiest thing to check out when buying a home, but it’s something that could potentially break the bank in the future if you don’t do your homework in the present.
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A big house is the dream of many would-be homeowners. Who wouldn’t love to have room to have a library, an at-home bar, or even just a really grown-up guest room? No matter how good your general contractor is, that room can get expensive – because you’re going to be heating and cooling all that space.

How energy efficient is the house? Are the heating and cooling systems going to be adequate for the space? Upgrading these features in the future could be costly. It’s not the sexiest thing to check out when buying a home, but it’s something that could potentially break the bank in the future if you don’t do your homework in the present.

3. Local Features Make All The Difference

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Are you looking to be near a great neighborhood bar where you can hang out with friends? Or are you more of a nature lover who is looking for a chance to get to the great outdoors whenever possible? Don’t just look at a house, look at a neighborhood. Make sure that the location is going to suit you long-term because…

4. You’re going to be there a while.

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Generally speaking, you’ll be in a house for five years before you gain equity. And what is equity? It’s the amount of your home you really own, so to speak. For the first five years or so, you’ll be mainly paying down interest on your loan, which means you aren’t paying toward your principal balance so much. Once the principal balance starts to go down, you start to gain equity. This means you’re going to want to invest not only money but time in home ownership to make sure you come ahead financially, so make sure this is a place you’ll want to be in five years. If you’ve got plans to move for work or maybe you have your eye set on graduate school in another location, plan accordingly so your finances don’t take an unexpected hit.

5. Be prepared in case something breaks. And something will.

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As a homeowner, I can say that I have definitely wished for a landlord to call when my hot water heater went out without warning. And then there was the issue of the leaky roof. But when you own the home, it’s all on you, so be prepared to have some funds set aside for those emergencies. Houses age, things need to be replaced, and naturally it’s going to be at the most inconvenient time when it happens, so have reliable contractors and repair folks that you can trust to call on when disaster strikes. Keeping a little cash on hand for the unexpected but necessary custom home remodeling project can save you a lot of stress in the long run.

6. Learn to get handy.

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Nothing will make you panic like a suddenly-spouting kitchen faucet, but learning to dive in and keep a cool head while repairing it yourself will absolutely make you feel like Wonder Woman. Gather some good resources, make friends with the folks at your local home improvement store, and learn to make minor repairs yourself, because calling a plumber isn’t cheap and you’re going to feel awesome when you conquer the geyser on your own.

Of course, there is always a time to call in the pros, say in the case of electrical issues or intensive plumbing problems, but you’ll surprise yourself with your resourcefulness when it comes down to it. And self-reliance feels awesome, folks.

7. Look past paint color.

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And outdated features and superficial things, because these are things you can customize later. So the house is perfect but the bathrooms are vintage but not in the way you’d like? Or maybe the kitchen’s back-splash and layout could use some work? Look at your budget, talk to a contractor, and see what updates would cost.

Maybe retailing would make this the spa bathroom of your dreams, or replacing old, dim bulbs in the vanity with specialty lighting. If the costs of a small remodeling job would be reasonable and you’re getting a good deal on the house, it could be worth the investment to make those changes when you’re ready.

A simple paint job can transform a room and updating a kitchen can change it from less than ideal to the dinner party heaven you’ve dreamed of. Just remember to include this amount in your mental budget of total costs of the home, along with the time commitment you’ll be making since there is a good chance you’ll experience some inconvenience while the changes are being made. Some updates can even add value to your home, increasing your equity and putting you ahead financially.

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