Whether you already have children or are expecting to have some in the future, buying the perfect house and choosing the right mortgage to fit your family’s present and future needs is important and probably difficult.
To help, we have laid out some steps to help you with the process so you can figure it all out and to think about some things that might not be important right now but could be later on as your family grows.
For example, you may need to think about schools, neighborhood amenities, closeness to shopping and restaurants, safety, day care and grandparent proximity, a backyard for the kids to play in, and a whole bunch of other things that might not have been on your list when you were childless.
“You first have to ask yourself before purchasing a house — is it your forever house, a house you’ll be in for just five years or that just-get-by house until you make more money,” says Mary Harmon Young, associate broker at Prudential Pritchett-Moore in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She was named recently as one of REALTOR® Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 real estate agents.
Harmon Young understands the special issues a young family faces with finding that perfect house because she and her husband now have two children of their own. Below are some points to consider with her expertise to help you find your next castle for your family, whatever size it might be.
Examine your true budget (now and in the future)
What a lender tells you that you can afford might not be the reality you live in. For instance, if there is a baby on the way, you need to remember that you will be spending a lot more money for diapers, formula and possibly daycare or a college fund.
“Preschool is $750 a month for a two-year-old here where I live,” Harmon Young states. While you may not need to prepare for these types of expenses, be prepared for the expenses that come with raising a family.
Before buying a home, keep note of all the expenses you might have each month. This will help you and your family enjoy your home and not worry about monthly payments.
Get a pre-approval
Getting pre-approved may sound like a big deal, but it’s easier than it sounds. By getting pre-approved, you’ll have a better idea of how much home you can afford. It doesn’t hurt to get pre-approved by multiple lenders at the same time, either.
Also keep in mind that a pre-approval isn’t a guarantee for a mortgage. But it does let sellers know you are serious, and you can compete with the other bidders.
Examine your benchmarks
Some people might advise you to not get emotional about a house. But Harmon Young thinks the opposite.
“If they like a house, I want them to emotionally envision their family there,” she explains. One woman walked into a house with a bay window, and delight came over her face. She could see her Christmas tree next to it and family gathered around.
Many homes have the same amenities, but if there is something special that you have always wanted, tell your real estate agent. That will help them set apart the homes that you’ll be excited to raise your family in.
Check the neighborhood out several times
If you find the perfect house keep in mind that it might not be in the perfect neighborhood.
“I tell homebuyers to drive by three times – during a weekday, during a weekend day and on a Friday night,” Harmon Young says.
Neighborhoods and those that live in them could change depending on the day of the week.Don’t be afraid to ask people already living in the neighborhood about the are. If they are mean or don’t want to answer then it could make your decision about the neighborhood easy.
Ensure children’s needs for years to come
Many new homes and remodels are being built without bathtubs, and that can be a problem for those with little kids or for future babies.“People are really into walk-in showers. But it’s tough bathing your baby in one,” she says.
Also, check for backyards, covered porches and screened-in rooms for children to play in. Is there a big island where the kids can sit around and help you make cookies or do their homework on? Is the pantry big enough to hold big boxes of cereal? Is there an extra closet to store all the board games, sleeping bags and hockey sticks when the kids get older? These are important to think about when looking at homes.
Realize extra expenses for owning vs. renting
If something breaks, you are the one responsible for fixing it or replacing it once you own a house. You also have property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utility bills and other bills including cable, internet and heating and cooling. Plus, when you buy a house, you’ll have to consider closing costs and possibly the downpayment.
Get help with down payment and closing costs
There are plenty of programs that help young families with the initial expense of buying a house. About 87% of U.S. homes are eligible for one or more homeownership programs, and the benefits could reduce costs by quite a lot. Also, sellers will sometimes cover some of the closing costs.
Research nearby schools, safety and surroundings
Even if your kids are tiny, they will eventually need to go to school. What are the public schools like there? Will there be bus service to school? Are there sidewalks so your kids can walk safely around the neighborhood?
Also consider other other nearby places. Is the future ballet studio for your daughter too far away? Will you have to drive 20 minutes just to get groceries and medicine? What do police say about the neighborhood – actually call them and ask them for data.