Have you really thought long and hard about what kind of home you need? Sometimes buyers focus on one element of their dream house and forget that change is inevitable. Because we never know what to expect it's good to stay flexible and plan, as much as possible, for contingencies.
Location, Location, Location!
I'm sure you've heard this expression before! It is the most important piece of criteria for buyers when searching for a new home. It's also the most permanent characteristic of a property - meaning you can't move land and a home to another location. (Excluding mobile homes). Therefore, it's extremely important to figure out where you want to live first, then determine the other features that fit your needs. Make sure to take into account your commute to work, schools, shopping and other conveniences. Plus this "where" part if the equation can help determine how much you can afford, which is another major factor in the home-buying process.
House Vs. Condo
Another important factor is determining what type of home you want to live in and furthermore, what kind of financing is available for that type of home. A single-family house gives you more freedom and privacy, but you might not have to worry about mowing the grass of replacing a roof if you live in a condo complex. Then there is the option of a multi-family building. You could owner-occupy one of the units and rent out the rest. This could be a great way to live cheaply, but financing can be trickier for these types of properties. Definitely visit a mortgage lender or bank to see what your financing options are for any type of property. Plus it's very important to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start looking at houses - it shows sellers that your a motivated, credible buyer giving you an advantage over other buyers that aren't pre-approved.
How Many Bedrooms?
It's also important to determine how many bedrooms and bathrooms you'll need. For instance, right now you might have children in high school and need a house with lots of bedrooms. In a few years you might find yourself with an empty nest and suddenly realize that you'd rather spend your time traveling than gardening. If that's the case, think about the home you buy in terms of resale and consider financing options that make sense for your scenario. Keep in mind that the number of bedrooms in a home can notably affect its resale value. Or you might be just starting out and think that a one-bedroom condo is all you need. A more flexible plan might be to consider two-bedroom condos or small houses; you can rent a room to a roommate now and have room to grow if you start a family.
Other Important Features
Do you need a garage? Would you prefer a basement? How about acreage - is that important to you and your family? So as you sit down to discuss what kind of house you want and what features are important, think about your needs now and then think about what your needs might be in a few years. The answers might surprise you and they may come in handy in discussions with your real estate agent.