The median age of first-time buyers is 34. This is true even though many working adults come to the conclusion that the monthly cash outflow for owning their residence would be nearly the same as what they pay in rent.
For some, it’s the tax breaks that finally prove decisive; for others (especially when home loan interest rates are as low as they are now), it’s the advantage of retaining the principal portion of their monthly mortgage payment. Regardless of when a first-time home buyer concludes that homeownership is an achievable way to establish financial stability, making the right choice for their first residence involves more than dollars and cents.
Failing to recognize the importance of the personal preferences that make a home truly livable can soon become more than a regrettable oversight. It may even result in an early exit—one that reverses a lot of the financial benefit that originally inspired the purchase. Veteran homeowners can look past even an excitingly positive first impression to a host of factors to be considered before an offer is made:
• Size. Minimum square footage is the obvious starting point, including the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, guest or office rooms, garage storage space, etc. Less obvious is recognizing that there is a maximum, too—a mistake veteran homeowners make less often. Especially in a first home, the experience of managing a property teaches the practical drawbacks for a residence that’s larger than needed.
• Land. Especially if outdoor living is a priority, yard size and privacy attributes should square with the maintenance requirements they create.
• Style. The number of stories (and stairs), volume of natural light, and architectural appeal can be important, whereas color and décor elements are more alterable.
• Geography. How important is the view: sunrises, sunsets, adjacent vistas? Other factors are noise, walkability, commute distances, and access to public transportation.
• Neighborhood. Security is fundamental—as is the sustained quality of the neighborhood and surroundings. Also important is the school district rating and character of neighborhood activities.
House-hunters are often urged to “find your dream home”—but that’s a tall order for a first home. It’s probably wiser to seek a home that meets today’s requirements and sets the stage for a future home.