9 Questions To Ask Yourself When House Hunting

House hunting, my favorite type of hunting to do year round. It’s certainly not for everyone though, and often buyers fall into one of two groups. The first group absolutely loves touring different properties, and might even tag along on a day of house hunting for someone in their inner circle, simply because of the fun they have seeing different housing and design work. The other group absolutely hates the idea of spending a day off from work running around town touring house after house. For many people, house hunting is a stressful activity that comes along with pressure to contemplate decisions they might not feel ready to make.

No matter which group buyers fall into, at one point or another they are likely to find themselves distracted from the big picture and hyper focused on a detail or two. This not only makes the decision process harder, but often leads to a lot of back and forth decisions that only create more work for themselves. To make this all a whole lot easier, we at DGR decided to make a list of the 10 things to always keep in mind every time you go to tour a potential home. This list is in no particular order, but if you keep these things in mind as you’re grading the property in your head, you should be able to confidently walk out the door with a thumbs up or thumbs down. 

1. Does My Stuff Fit Here?

Often it is so easy to walk into a home or see pictures and fall in love so fast that your brain wants to completely forget about anything that might prevent you from living the life you’re currently imagining as you explore each room. It’s crucial to keep in mind the property you already own, your personal property. Before you start looking for your next home, you should really consider what you currently have that absolutely MUST come with you when you move. 

For this reason it is good practice to measure those ‘must have’ items, and bring a measuring tape with you to each property to make sure that your must have items will all fit. If you find that what you’ll need to bring won’t work in the space, then that’s an easy and quick way to cross an option off the board. Even if you know for sure everything will fit where it needs to go, having the measurements will help envision the space when it will be filled. 

2. Do I feel Safe Here? 

This seems like the most obvious question to ask yourself, but you would be surprised what people are willing to overlook when they fall in love with a home, the price of a home, or are simply ignorant to their surroundings. 

We would recommend arriving to each property with enough time to scope out the surrounding area before you tour the home. If you can, you should also explore the area at night time, as many areas have a totally different vibe to them if you’re there during the day or at night. 

If the answer to this question is “No”, then you can probably cross this place off your list. Or ask yourself the follow up question, what can I do to make this place feel safer? A security camera or alarm system are common tools that can help ease your mind and amp up the level of safety in your home. If the answer is still no, don’t force it, another great property in your budget will come up that you will feel more comfortable in.

3. How Will This Impact My Job?

Again, this is another no brainer that most people keep in their heads, until of course they find what they think is the perfect place. In the moment it can be easy to convince yourself to sacrifice whatever you need to in order to make the place work, including making other areas of your life more difficult to get that ideal home life.

The most common example of this is a buyer stretching themselves out of their comfort radius and falling in love with a property further away from work than they intended. If you’re looking at a place that is more than a few miles away from where you currently live, you should look up the fastest route to work and how long that will take. You could even take this a step further later on and drive to or from work during the time that you would normally commute to truly get a feel for what your day to day travel will be like. 

This extends beyond just your daily commute however, as the modern workplace has extended into most of our households. Many of us find ourselves with jobs working from home, or at least doing some of our work at home on an occasional basis. Because of this, more buyers have to keep in mind the need for a proper work space inside their home. They must also consider other location needs that go along with working such as quality phone service, and fast internet speeds.  

The final work consideration could be its own question. Can I afford this place? The reason this isn’t a part of the official list is because you should NEVER EVER EVER EVER even bother looking at or touring a listing that you ultimately cannot afford. 

That being said, a lot of people prioritize their home above other big ticket purchases and will buy at the highest end of their budget. Sure you can afford the property, but think just a year or two into the future and consider what the toll of the mortgage payments has on your lifestyle. Is everything going to stay the same, or will you find yourself with a heavily changed lifestyle, needing a different job due to the amount of your income going towards the property? 

4. Where Is My Joy?

Life is too short to let joy slip away from you. Life is also about compromising, and that becomes the tricky game whenever we uproot our lives and move. Though you may have to make sacrifices, it is always important to have access to some of the things that bring you joy.

Whether you’re scrolling around on the Zillow map, or physically touring a property, you should know what joys are most important to you, and figure out where they all are relative to the listing location. 

This commonly ranges from things like seeing family and friends, the gym, your favorite hair dresser, kids activities, or even just simply needing to be within walking distance to a cup of coffee. Everyone has a wide range of Joys, and being in proximity to most of them should help ensure that you will be happy with your new home in the long term.

5. What Does This Require That My Current Place Doesn’t?

This one is so important that if I put this list in order it would be at the top of the list, but I didn’t so it’s number 5. When touring a potential home, you should keep an eye out for things that will be required of you as the homeowner that you currently don’t experience at your current residence. 

This category has a wide range of different tasks and services that could apply. These differences might require occasional labor from you, or tools that you don’t have, or even just having to pay for new a regular service that you aren’t use to having to budget for. 

You might be going from an apartment to a house with a huge lawn. Now suddenly you not only need to buy a lawnmower, you also have to find a window in your schedule to insert doing regular yard work. Or maybe you’re use to watering your lawn and plants with a sprinkler system, or a classic hose and sprayer. Now you’re at a property that is on a well system and you now have to learn how to properly open the well port to flood and irrigate the property, without flooding your neighbors of course. 

I could go on and on with examples of this as there’s almost a 100% guarantee that there WILL be something new for you to figure out with each and every property. We recommend keeping a list of any regular chores, maintenance, and any other new expenses that each listing brings. This gives you a better financial picture of life at each place and will make the decision making process much easier. 

6. How Close Am I To A School?

This question extends beyond the buyers who have kids or are planning on having kids, and it is important for all buyers to know about schools in the area and their proximity to the listing. 

You might not have any kids, and don’t want to be near the noise and traffic living by a school can cause. If you do have kids or are planning on it, having a good school near your home might be absolutely crucial to you and your families lifestyle. We all want a quality education for our children, and having a great school nearby can make juggling the hectic schedules of a family easier.  

Whether you have kids or not you should keep in mind that having a school or two in the area will help keep and raise home values over time. Purchasing a home near a good school should ensure that your home will only increase in value over time, and keep the surrounding area a hot place for buyers to want to be. 

7. How Long Can I See Myself Staying Put?

Depending on your career, or lifestyle, this can be one of the hardest questions to answer. Some people move around frequently, while others will nest in one particular spot for most of their life. This question is important though to avoid headaches in the future. A property could be absolutely ideal for you right now, but not thinking ahead can lead to you out growing the space you once felt was perfect.  

The market can also be a bit of a roller coaster at times. If you’re buying on the high end of a housing boom, you could risk taking a loss if you have to sell in a couple years during a dip in the market. Also keep in mind with this that for tax purposes on the resale, you’ll want to stay in each place you own for at least 24 months. 

8. What Do I Think About The Future Of The Neighborhood?

This one is obviously tricky unless you’re a psychic, as the trends of neighborhoods and markets are affected by a number of variables. But there are things you can look out for that are signs for an area to keep thriving. 

Look around the area and keep an eye out for families, schools, entertainment, parks, and food options. The more of this you see, or the more construction of these things coming to the area, are great signs that this is an area worth investing in long term. 

You will want to avoid the areas that don’t have as bright of a future as it will most certainly have an effect on your home’s value and resale potential. The bad signs in neighborhoods are rundown properties that are falling apart, or the yards look untouched. There’s far too many empty abandoned commercial properties in the area, and you don’t see any families. Though you might find something extremely affordable in an area like this, it can work against you when it comes time for you to move on. We recommend doing a lot of research in an area you’re unsure of, and even make contact with locals to get their opinions. 

Predicting the future of an area is especially important If you’re interested in investment properties. The best property flippers or long term investors have the ability to see a rough area people tend to avoid and buy in when it’s super low to be in on the ground floor of a rebirth to the neighborhood.

9. Can I Afford The Necessary Work?

This is the one question on here that might not apply to everyone house hunting, as a homeowner creating a new build shouldn’t have any work they will have to do to the home for quite some time. However, any home on the resale market will most likely have some work that you will want to do to it. This might even be as simple as just giving the place a fresh coat of paint or new carpet. 

Your budget isn’t just to be able to buy the house, your budget also covers any work you have to do, so don’t get sucked into the trap of thinking a home fits your budget because of the listing price if it requires a lot of work to be done.

Whether you do these projects yourself or hire it out to contractors, there will be costs you will have to factor into your budget if you’re looking to get these projects done immediately. Most homeowners are eager to, or must, move in fairly quickly, and therefore the majority of the work to the home gets done throughout the time of living there. So instead of stressing about doing everything at once, price out what you must take care of before you can live there and figure out everything else one by one down the road.

These questions will help guide your decision making, but don’t feel like you have to make a decision based off your answers. After all, in real estate and in life in general we often must make compromises. No matter how perfect a property might seem, you can and will find details about it that you wish you could change. It’s here that we must figure out what is truly important to us, and what we can live with, or without. We hope this list of things to keep in mind help make the house hunting process easier.