Updated April 4, 2021 . AmFam Team
Congratulations — you’re ready to start shopping for your dream home! But where to start when house hunting? First things first: Imagine your dream home. Is it a picturesque white farmhouse nestled among rolling hills, a historic Victorian at the end of a winding drive or a modern townhouse in a bustling city center?
Whatever home you’re dreaming of, you can use this article — and free downloadable worksheet — to help you capture that dream on paper so you can share it with your family, friends and realtor.
Let’s get started!
Before getting lost in thought about that dream home, remember to establish a budget early in your home-buying process. After you’ve figured out how much you can afford, it’s time to decide how much you want to spend. That number may be much lower than you could get pre-approved for, depending on what other dreams you’ve been saving up for. Would you be willing to spend slightly more for a perfect home? Now’s the time to decide. And remember, there are things like closing costs and the cost of moving to consider when making your total budget.
Next, think about what types of homes you’re interested in living in:
Your dream home should have all the things you want and more! But sometimes that’s not always realistic. Prioritizing your needs before your house hunt can help guide your search so you still get what you want while staying realistic about expectations.
Put together a list of things you wouldn’t consider buying a home without (minimum requirements) and things that would be nice to have, but you can live without (preferred requirements).
For example, do you need three bedrooms for your growing family? How many bathrooms can you not live without? You may desire that three-car garage for your boat or other hobbies, but could you manage with a two-car garage? All things to consider when looking for your home.
Now it’s time to identify the ideal size of your home. How much space do you need? Remember, this only includes the square footage of the actual home, not the acreage. Though that’s something to think about, too!
Do some research and contemplate how much minimum square footage you’d prefer as well as the maximum amount of square footage (remember, more square feet means more spaces to clean and organize!). One helpful tip? Ask friends or family that have homes how big their house is and try to imagine if their house is a size your family could live in comfortably or not.
If you’ve ever looked for a house in the past or have talked with other homeowners, you know that the condition of the home is one of the most important decisions to factor in when buying a home! Are you a DIY-er and love a good fixer upper? Or are you focused on other dreams and want a home that’s move-in ready? Maybe you’re okay with some minor fixes but not a complete renovation. Whatever the case — be realistic about what kind of condition you want your new home to be in.
They say the three most important things to think about when buying a home are location, location, location! Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but the truth is there are many things you can change after you purchase a home — but location is not one of them. So make sure you’re doing your due diligence to find a neighborhood or area that you really love. Plus, sticking to your preferred location can help narrow down you home search!
When you’re looking for just the right neighborhood, be sure to think about whether it’s nearby things you want to be close to. How important is proximity to work, shopping and schools? Is there a park nearby? How close is it to the grocery store? If having easy access to these types of places is important, make sure your realtor knows.
Are you keen on a specific school district? Maybe you’d like a specific school size for your little scholars. In that case, make sure to check if your home is in your preferred district. Things like this will help narrow down your location.
When you envisioned your dream home, was it brand new or older? You might prefer some historic charm or you may not want to deal with older home maintenance. Whatever the case, this is something you’ll want to consider, especially if you have a realtor who is helping you find homes to tour.
Again, think back to when your dream home popped into your head. What style was it? There are many popular house styles out there that it can be overwhelming to narrow down your list! But the good news is with so many options it’s hard to go wrong. Here’s a list of popular home styles to choose from:
Do you have a strong preference? Mark it down!
Now that you’ve got a good idea of exterior elements of your home search, it’s time to cross the threshold and jump inside! Start thinking about the interior elements of the home and what you really want versus what you can live without. Can you live with crown molding? Do you want hardwood floors or carpeted? How about a finished basement? Maybe you want an open floor plan and an updated kitchen.
And keep in mind — just because a home doesn’t have some of the things you want right away doesn’t mean you can’t add them later on (or remove them)!
But if you choose to go outside of a single-family home with places like condos or co-ops, you’ll also want to consider if you’re okay with more restrictions on what you can and cannot change inside your home. You’ll also decide if you’re okay with belonging to a Homeowners Association (HOA) or not.
Let’s take a step outside again. Are you stepping out onto a patio or deck? Are you dreaming of lounging by a pool? Do you want to start a home garden, or have a backyard where kids (or dogs) can romp around in safely? Here’s where you’ll consider things like the size of your lot, landscaping, patio versus deck, fencing and so on.
Your last decision (but definitely not least) is about the community features your potential home has to offer.
What size community is your dream home located in? Do you want to pass by farms, fields or forest on your drive home in a rural or country setting? Or perhaps you enjoy a bustling city with lots of restaurants and entertainment. If you’ve always envisioned a white picket fence in a suburb — here’s where you’ll decide.
Ready to find the home of your dreams? Download our home-buying worksheet and get started!
We wish you the best of luck as you search for your dream home! Don’t forget — if you need any help, we’ve got many more home-buying resources to help you along the way. And, once you’ve found a home to call yours, make sure it has the best protection it needs with a customized homeowners insurance policy from American Family Insurance.
You’ve put a lot of work into saving for and finding your dream home — we’ll work hard to protect it.
Get a free homeowners insurance quote today.