buying a house checklist

Buying A House Checklist: The 8 Steps To Find Your House

“Do I need a Home buying checklist?” – Definitely! 

Whether it’s your first time or your Nth time buying a house, it’s important to be clear on your needs so you’ll get exactly what you’re looking for. Or at least the closest thing to your dream home.  

Every aspiring buyer starts their journey with this important question:

“What do I want in a home?”

Your answer to that question would be the core of your home search efforts in the next few weeks or months. And it’s one question your broker would definitely want you to answer so she can help you find your dream house. 

It’s okay if you haven’t thought about it yet–we’re here to help! In this guide, we discuss various important aspects to consider when buying a home. You can use this as your very own buying a house checklist or perhaps as an inspiration to create a more specific one. 

Table of Contents: Buying a House Checklist

  1. Is the home within your budget?
  2. Location
  3. Accessibility (proximity to what’s important to you)
  4. Transportation
  5. Neighborhood
  6. Environment (green spaces)
  7. Look beyond the paint job 
    1. Heating/cooling systems (these are expensive to replace); insulation
    2. Roof
    3. Plumbing 
    4. Check for mold infestation (this may be costly to treat and it’s a threat to your health)
    5. Smells
  8. Identify your non-negotiables and deal-breakers

1. Is the home within your budget? 

Budget is subjective – whether you can afford a $1,000,000 NYC apartment or $300,000 is your limit, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is you identify your budget first and work your way around it. 

There’s a lot of things to consider when it comes to your budget, but here are a few things you may want to get started on when planning to buy a home:

    • Credit score. Make sure you have a good credit score so you can get great deals (According to Nerdwallet, a good credit score is 690 above for FICO or VantageScore)
    • Mortgage calculator. Use online mortgage calculators to determine how much you can actually afford. Here’s an article on how to use a mortgage calculator like a pro.
    • Income. You must have a steady flow of income–not only because you’ll need the income for the monthly repayments, but also because you’ll need to provide proof of regular income when you apply for a loan.
  • Down payment. Most homes (especially in NYC) require a 20% down payment. Unless you want to pay PMI (private mortgage insurance) or an additional fee on top of your mortgage and interest as security for your lender, set aside a substantial amount for your future down payment. 

2. Location, location, location.

Location is #2 on our buying a house checklist because it’s as important as the budget. And for some people, this may be number one on their list of things to consider in a home. 

Often, the location dictates your budget–if you want to live in the heart of the city (Manhattan, for instance), you have to be prepared for the costs. According to the New York Times, the median apartment price in Manhattan is around $1M. Of course, properties upstate or at the outskirts are relatively cheaper and may offer plenty of space to boot. 

3. Accessibility

How far is would your dream home be from work? Ideally, you may want to look for a home that’s near to where you (or your partner/spouse) works–or at least at a manageable distance away from your job/s.

You may also need to consider whether the house is near to any of the following:

    1. Grocery/market/local deli
    2. Mall (or local shops with the things you need)
    3. Your school (in case you’re studying)
    4. School for the kids (in case you have kids)
    5. Place of worship (church, temple, etc.)

This is just a very short list of the things to consider–just think about the things you find important in a community and write them down!

4. Transportation

Do you need a car to get from point A to point B? Or is there easy access to public transportation in that area? Depending on where you’d want to live, you may need to know where the nearest trains or buses are, especially if you’re someone who prefers commuting over driving your own car.

5. Neighborhood

Do your homework–double check if you’re really getting a good deal on a property. Check the neighborhood–beware of neighborhoods that are notorious for being easily flooded, prone to wildfires, or those with a high crime rate. 

You can do a quick online search on this or you can ask around and see what others are saying about the neighborhood you’re planning to live in. 

6. Green spaces

Whether you have pets or you have kids (or you don’t), it’s also great to know whether there are any green spaces near a property. Check if there’s a park where you can jog or stroll or where kids (or pets) can run around. 

You can also check if there are landscapes or trees around the neighborhood–not just because you’d want a place with less pollution, but also because these green spaces may affect the desirability of the place for you (or future buyers).

7. Look beyond the paint job

While it’s easy to judge a house by its paint job, don’t. There are other more important things to consider when looking for a home and checking these things can help you save thousands of dollars in repairs. 

Things to add in your buying a house checklist:

    • A house with a good heating and cooling system. Check if a house’s heating or cooling system is updated. If a house is too old, there’s a possibility thermostat wouldn’t be energy efficient and may eat away at your electricity bill. On the other hand, a replacement job would be as expensive. Make sure the home you’re buying has an updated thermostat system so you can cut costs on utility bills, future repairs, or replacement. 
    • Look for signs of decay. Keep your eyes on the structural stuff. Look for cracks, holes or signs of decay. While a property may be cheap, the repairs may offset your savings in the future. 
    • Good plumbing. A house’s pipe network is also something worth looking at. Are the showers and faucets functional? Are there leaks? How’s the water pressure? It’s good to look for a house with a good pipe network so you won’t have to worry about repairs when you decide to buy.
    • No mold infestation. Unsightly and foul-smelling, molds are also a huge health hazard to you and your family. Not to mention getting rid of molds in a house is expensive (and often stressful). Molds are a red flag and also signal other problems like poor ventilation, leaks, and poor structural integrity.
    • No sign of pests (termites). Besides molds, termites are also a big deal-breaker. Termites can literally eat away at your house, so make sure the house you’re looking at doesn’t have a termite problem.
    • Insulation. Check if a house is well insulated. A well-insulated house (ducts, pipes, windows, and walls) is a good investment since it can help you cut energy costs in the future.  

8. Identify and add your non-negotiables in your buying a house checklist

Besides all these things we’ve mentioned, you can also create a list of non-negotiables and deal breakers. And we’re not talking about cupboards or countertops here, but things like the number of bedrooms, bathrooms or a backyard. 

Every person is different, so your list of non-negotiables will vary depending on your needs and depending on what you think is ideal for your lifestyle. 

We hope our buying a house checklist has helped you think about the things to look for in a home! If you have questions or if there’s something you’d like to share, feel free to post a comment below!

Related articles:

5 Important Things to Consider When Going to Open Houses

5 FSBO Tips for the First Time Home Buyer

How To Buy An Apartment in NYC: 12 Simple Steps

First Time Home Buying Made Easy

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