Buying a home is an exciting time, especially perhaps for first time homeowners. When many people begin their journey to buying a home, they start off feeling they know exactly what kind of house to buy, but they also likely quickly realize that isn't the case. It is common to find after visiting various homes on the market, the original criteria changes. What happens is people suddenly notice things they may or may not have thought of before, or they find what they envisioned in their new home isn't the reality of homes currently up for sale.

There are many considerations and questions you should ask yourself as you evaluate the options you have when purchasing a home.

Identify Important Attributes

When considering options, it is important to make a list of what characteristics you are looking for in your new home. It makes it easier if you break it into three columns, I recommend labeling them "must haves", "would like" and "not acceptable". When you itemize things, you can better identify features found in each house you look at to see if it meets both your needs and wants.

If a home doesn't have the "must haves", you can immediately cross the home off the list; this reduces the confusion and time involved in looking at homes. Believe it or not, after awhile the various homes can begin to "blend" together and it can be hard to distinguish which home had certain features. A list can help you easily decipher the attributes each house and determine whether or not it should remain in your list of homes to consider buying.

House and Property

The size of a house is probably one of the most important options to consider. First, you'll need to determine how much space you need (including number of bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, etc). Secondly, the size of the home will likely affect its cost. Other questions to ask yourself include:

  • Do the sizes of the individual rooms matter?
  • Do you want a multi-level home or a single level home?
  • Do you want a bathroom with the master bedroom?
  • Do you need to avoid stairs or do you prefer to have bedrooms tucked away upstairs away from the rest of the house?

Property is another important attribute. The property that comes with a house can be quite diverse in both size and character. Questions to consider are:

  • Do you have kids or pets and want a spacious yard or do you prefer low maintenance/hassle free space?
  • Do you need a fence around the yard and/or is the yard set up to add one?
  • Are there Homeowners Association rules that might prevent you from making any modifications to your home and property?

If you have school-aged children, this will likely play an important role in decision making. You'll likely want to do research into the school districts in areas you are doing your house-hunting to make sure the schools make the proverbial grade.


Location is another key factor. Is convenience, public transportation and other features found in populated areas important to you? Or do you want a home in a quieter location where you  may need to travel a bit to get to shopping, work, etc.? If your job requires commuting, living in a location where traffic is heavy may also play a role into your decision making process.

Traffic in Northern Virginia
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

Repairs and Maintenance

Do you want to do a lot of work? Many houses have not been updated and if you're handy with a toolbox, this probably won't bother you and you could get a break for a fixer-upper. However, if you are looking for a move-in condition house, whether or not the house needs updates or remodeling will be an important factor.

Necessities the house needs is an important thing to think about. Have the main big-ticket items been upgraded in recent years? Roof, furnace, electric, plumbing and even kitchen appliances can all add up to become costly expenses and may be the reason a house has been priced lower, but the updates may increase the both the cost of the house and how much effort you'll have to take after purchase.

Kitchen with an outdated stove/oven
Credit: Leigh Goessl


How much you can afford to put down as a down payment is vital in the decision making process as this will impact your mortgage insurance and what your monthly payments will be. It is also a good idea to shop around and see what rates you can find that you qualify for. Doing your homework will also impact what kind of house you can afford.

Taxes are a given no matter where you ultimately decide to move, but you will probably want to get an idea of the tax rates in the areas you are considering moving to; some areas are much more expensive than others. Another cost factor to calculate is whether or not any home owner association (HOA) fees are applicable. Depending on the neighborhood or development, these fees may or may not be associated with your new home. If HOA applies, you'll want to see what benefits come with being a part of the association.

House hunting is a great experience and chances are you'll learn quite a bit along the journey. As you look at each home, you'll probably discover different things you hadn't thought of before and, as a result, be able to use this information to evaluate other homes you look at. Many people seeking to buy a home look at dozens of houses before ultimately choosing which property they want to buy.