Buying a home is the largest investment that you’ll likely ever make, so you’ll probably want to stay there as long as possible, if not forever! That’s why you’ll want to figure out exactly what you want before you set off on your home-buying journey.
When searching for a place that you can call home “forever,” it’s crucial to know where you stand in a few different areas. Of course, flexibility plays a role, but you also have a right to be selective. The considerations when purchasing a forever home go well beyond those of shopping for a starter—or even selecting a second home.
Still, if you’re ready to think long-term, you’ve come to the right place! It’s wise to consider aging in place, even if you’re a first-time homebuyer. Who knows? Your first home just might be yours forever!
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Before jumping into the homebuying pool, ask yourself whether you’re ready for a forever home, or whether a starter home is a better option for you.
A starter home is often a smaller investment and is intended to be resold in the future. This is an excellent option for anyone who’s looking to build more credit at a smaller cost while investing in a property rather than spending money on an apartment that will provide no financial return.
Once you resell your starter home, you usually get back what you put in, and in some cases, you can resell it at a higher price than what you originally paid. At the very least, your financial return can serve as a down payment and cover the closing costs for your next home.
A forever home is a place in which you can imagine living forever. And trust us, imagination might really have to come into play here. So, when searching for a home, try to envision what parts of the home are changeable and what parts are not.
For example, finishing the basement, adding a pool, or repainting the walls are all things that you can change. But possessing a larger yard or reorganizing the layout of the house might not be feasible modifications.
So, just make sure that you know exactly what you want, what you’re OK with forgoing, and which things you know you can’t change about the home.
Remember, you’re buying a house and turning it into a home. It’s your family, friends, and memories that will turn those walls into a loving space where you’ll feel safe and secure.
Now, let’s look at all the factors that you’ll want to consider.
Remember, buying a forever home means understanding what you can and can’t change, and the location is one of the latter. The local neighborhood and setting are major considerations.
Here are some things that you’ll want to think about in regards to the location:
- Do you want to live on a private road with minimal neighbors or in a location surrounded by neighbors?
- Is the speed limit on the street safe for your children to grow up near?
- Does the noise from high-traffic areas, like a nearby freeway or interstate, bother or soothe you?
The location also matters when you’re considering commuting to work, shopping for food, and how close (or far) you want to be from extended family members.
Weather plays into location, too! Does living in an area with four seasons sound good, or do you prefer year-round warm weather?
If you have children or plan to start a family in the future, school districts matter a lot. There are decent schools, and there are excellent schools. Informing yourself about which public school systems have high ratings will make a huge difference in your child’s education and to the future value of your home should you ever decide to sell it.
Even if you want your child to attend a private or religious school, commuting distance is a consideration. Keep in mind that some larger towns or cities have several elementary schools, and some might have better ratings than others.
If you have your heart set on homeschooling, the school district won’t matter as much right now, but it might later on. Also, think about whether living close to a school is something that you’ll still appreciate in 30 years after your kids have left the nest.
If the amount of land or the size of the yard is important to you, keep in mind that this has little potential to change. While cutting down trees to open up more space in a yard is an option, adding acreage usually isn’t. So, before you settle on a home, make sure that you like the size of your lot.
All yards require work and maintenance, but some need more than others. Yard work in your 20s or 30s feels quite different than yard work during retirement. Also, keep in mind that steep hills are more challenging to maintain than flat ground.
As far as curb appeal goes, don’t let that keep you from purchasing a home. It might actually keep the price of a house lower when you buy. You can always invest in some new siding or a new roof after you move in.
You can also add plants and other decorative features in addition to upgrading the landscape as you see fit.
There are many architectural styles of homes, including colonials, ranches, Victorians, and capes, just to name a few. They each have their own key characteristics and appeal, and understanding the differences can help you out.
For example, two-story homes often become problematic for older folks due to the difficulties they’ll face climbing or descending the stairs. The risk of a fall or injury is too great, and many decide to sell their homes because of it.
However, there are a few solutions to this if you feel that it might become an issue one day.
Say that you find the perfect Victorian-style home, with gorgeous gable roofs and small towers. A first-floor bedroom might solve the problem of aging in place without you having to worry about using the stairs.
Otherwise, single-story homes, like ranches, offer layouts without stairs, so you won’t have to worry about them at all.
Consider where the bedrooms are and how close (or far) you want your children’s rooms to be from yours.
You can also think further into the future. If stairs become an issue, will you have a room (like the current playroom or office) on the main floor that you can turn into a master bedroom?
The layout of the living and family rooms, kitchen, and dining areas typically offer less flexibility for a change of location.
Open floor plans are popular due to their large, “open” appearance, but they’re also generally easier to navigate as well. With fewer twists, turns, and hallways, you’ll have an easier time maneuvering and more space to rearrange furniture over time.
These are all important factors to consider, especially if someone needs a wheelchair, walker, or cane someday.
If kids are part of your future plans, ensuring that your home is the right size is important. Adding an extension can be an excellent investment, as it adds value and provides additional space for your family over time.
If you find a home that you love, but it’s smaller than you’d like, be sure to look into the viability of extending it in the future.
Legal permits are necessary for these types of projects. Also, keep in mind that septic systems are built for the number of rooms in a home. This means that your leach field might need to be replaced with a larger one if you add on.
While these renovations are all costly, remember that this purchase is a lifelong investment.
When initially purchasing a home, consider how much work is needed as well as the cost of making those changes. For example, do the walls need fresh paint? Does the entire kitchen need immediate attention, including new cabinetry, appliances, and counters? How much work are you willing to invest initially versus over time?
You’re buying a house but turning it into a home. Your vision of what that looks like will change over time. You might add something, like a pool, when the kids are young, but then have it removed after they’ve left the nest.
You’ll likely renovate floors, paint walls, and purchase new furniture over time. You can always make it just right for you and your family.
The home’s structural integrity is the ability to maintain its structure over time without it crumbling, breaking, or even collapsing. All homes need repairs over time, of course, but if there are fundamental structural flaws to the home, you should look elsewhere.
When it comes to older homes, you should inspect aging foundations, make sure that any additions were done correctly and properly joined to the home, and so on.
With newer homes that were built with the most current building codes, all of those things should be inspected, too—but there’s a much higher chance that they were done correctly and that the home isn’t a patchwork of jobs done by previous owners. Still, new doesn’t always mean better by default, and sloppy work or cut corners can introduce these problems to a new building.
Old or new, though, all homes must be assessed for structural integrity and other conditions before you purchase to ensure that you’re not inheriting a pile of problems from the previous owner. This is why a good home inspection is so important!
Buying a home can always be a bit of a roller-coaster, but especially if you’re looking for a forever home. There’s just a lot more to consider. While it’s impossible to know exactly what the future holds, considering the aspects listed above will at least help you avoid some problems later on.
Also, in this age of investment properties, you’ll want to make sure that any home you’re interested in hasn’t been flipped too quickly.