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6 house-hunting tips: your checklist for finding the perfect home

Your ideal home is just around the corner, and these six tips will help you find it.

If you’ve ever house hunted, you’re likely familiar with perfectly imperfect homes. They’re either just out of your price range, or simply gorgeous but don’t meet all of your needs. They say you can’t have it all, but with these six house-hunting tips, maybe you can.

1. Know your budget

When buying a home, you have to live with your choice, literally. This is especially true financially—so think budget first. Look around to see what type of houses and communities fall within your budget.

If you have your heart set on a more expensive neighborhood, consider making a compromise. For example, you can always consider a lower-priced home that you can make improvements to over time.

Read more on how to adjust your budget.

2. Make a list of necessities

Though you may want to walk through the 3,000-square foot house with a sun porch, butler's pantry and two-story great room, concessions might be in order. So make a list of your must-haves—like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms—and look only at homes that address those priorities and are within your budget.

3. Consider your lifestyle

Which do you prefer: a clear view of the stars or a city skyline? Whatever your answer, think about how your lifestyle might evolve over the next few years to help you decide on the type of home you need. And when looking at inner-city properties, don't forget about some of the details that could come into play, like parking availability, outdoor spaces and unit size.

4. Be mindful of the home's age

If you choose to buy an existing home, consider the age of the infrastructure and what you might need to replace while you own it.

For example, the HVAC is often replaced after 15 years, and the roof after 20 years. These expenses can easily reach into the thousands, so if you do purchase an older home, factor in those potential costs at the start of the homebuying process.

5. Think long term

Whether you're planning to grow your family or your home’s resale value, think about how long you'll actually want to live in the property and what your long-term plans are for the home.

For example, do you see your family living in the home from your kids' preschool years to high school graduation? If so, how might you update the home?

Look for ways you could potentially remodel a property to either increase the home's value or add extra space as your family grows. Both can factor into determining which house can grow with you as your life changes.

6. Have an open mind

The perfect home doesn't always start out that way. Sometimes, it starts out as something requiring work, but with the framework needed for turning it into what you want. It's then that it becomes uniquely yours, and your homeownership dreams become reality.

Follow these house-hunting tips to make sure you're focused on finding the exact home you need, at the price you can afford.

Keep it up. You're getting smarter about home buying.

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