In your lifetime, you’ll make thousands of purchases. Most will be small and cheap. Others will be big and expensive. But of all the purchases you make, few will ever come close to matching the importance of buying a house. Whether you purchase one house and live in it for 60 years, or you buy a new home every decade, there are huge emotional and psychological ramifications that stem from buying a primary residence. And whether you realize it or not, your kids are significantly affected by these decisions.
The Importance of the Family Home
As human beings, we are indelibly marked by the environments and territories in which we reside. The physical spaces that we call home have just as much impact on us as the relationships and experiences we form.
Despite the fact that people come and go from our lives, physical places endure. Homes and neighborhoods allow memories to power on. In a world that’s constantly deteriorating, they provide a sense of happiness, meaning, and stability.
There’s ample evidence to suggest that the environment in which people live is closely correlated to their overall well-being. A home provides security, control, comfort, identity, privacy, and dozens of other practical and emotional benefits. But most of all, it’s a place of centering. No matter what happens in life, you start your day at home in the morning and you end it at home in the evening.
For children, there’s a lot that goes into having a stable home. And while much of it involves parenting styles, love, and support, the physical structure matters, too. Thus, when buying a house, keep your kids in mind. Very few financial investments will ever have as great of an impact on your kids as your house. Make sure you get it right!
6 Tips for Buying the Right House
Now is a great time to search for a new family home. Here are some extremely simple, yet powerful tips to help you find the right one:
1. Clarify Your House Shopping Budget
It’s a good idea to figure out your financials prior to beginning the home search process. This means coming up with a realistic figure that fits into your family’s budget.
Every individual is going to have a unique personal finance philosophy, but it’s helpful to use a simple rule of thumb to zero in on the right home purchase. One rule says you should never spend more than 25 percent of your monthly take-home pay on a mortgage. Thus, if your take home pay is $5,000, your maximum mortgage payment should be $1,250.
To find out how much you qualify for, get pre-approved by a couple of lenders. This will give you an idea of how much you have to spend, but don’t let it stretch your budget. Your lender will almost certainly approve you for more than 25 percent of your take-home pay. This doesn’t mean you have to max out your budget.
2. Separate “Wants” From “Needs”
There’s a big difference between wants and needs. If you don’t take the time to separate them, your search for a home will be frustrating and overwhelming.
A need is something that makes or breaks a home purchase. This may include the number of bedrooms, a specific location, and specific features (like a two-car garage or a backyard for pets). A want is anything else – like quartz countertops, brick siding, or a fireplace in the living room. Any home you purchase should satisfy all of your needs and (hopefully) a few of the wants.
3. Think Practically
It’s easy to get so caught up in the look and design of a house that you forget about all those little practical details that impact your daily happiness and efficiency. For example:
· An open floor plan is great when you have young children, as it allows you to keep an eye on kids while you prepare meals, clean the house, etc.
· Lots of storage space is ideal for keeping the house clean and free of messes.
· Does anyone in your family have mobility issues? A one-level house will be much easier to navigate.
· How is the backyard? Is it safe and private?
In terms of being satisfied with a home purchase, it’s often the little details that matter most. Spend some time thinking about issues like these so there are no sudden surprises.
4. Account for the Neighborhood
A great neighborhood can turn an average house into the perfect home to raise a family. Look for signs of other families and search for neighborhoods that are walkable and kid-friendly. Sidewalks, swimming pools, and playgrounds are all nice bonuses!
It’s also a good idea to do some research on school zoning to find out which neighborhoods are zoned for which schools. There are plenty of dedicated websites and online tools that can help you do your due diligence on school quality and ratings.
5. Buy With Room to Grow
Naturally, most people buy a home with their current needs in mind. And while you definitely want to purchase a home that makes you happy today, you also have to consider tomorrow. Realistically, consider what the next five years have in store for your family.
If you have kids – or if you’re planning to have kids soon – you’ll have a growing need for space. You may also want to consider a walkable neighborhood with other families nearby. If you’re on the opposite end of this spectrum – with older kids who will soon be moving out – you don’t necessarily need to purchase a massive house. You might be able to get away with a smaller house that will be easier to maintain when the children are gone.
6. Ask for Input
Ultimately, the parents control the purse strings. However, if your kids are old enough to have opinions, they should be taken into account. Don’t neglect what they have to say. Kids who are excited about a new house will have a much more positive experience.
Enjoy the Process
Don’t let the search for your next house stress you out. Buying a house should be an enjoyable process that’s centered on the hope of new beginnings. Take your time and have fun with the search. If you get overwhelmed, take a step back and remember your priorities. You don’t need the perfect house – you just need one that allows your family to be safe, happy, and healthy.