Remember Stephen Covey’s maxim: Begin with the end in mind. You may intend to stay there for two years, five years, or 20, but odds are you’ll move and sell eventually. So what? It’s a cliché, but it’s always about location, location, location.
- Schools, schools, schools. Even if you don’t have children or your children are too young or too old, consider the school district. The more desirable the district, the better you’ll be able to sell your house. Our first house we bought in Oklahoma was before we had kids, and we only intended to be there about five years. Turned out that we were there for only two years. Eighteen years later (and 16 years of renting it out), the neighborhood had declined but the school was still considered one of the best in the area. It was what enabled us to sell in a very tough market.
- Exterior, exterior, exterior. Brick outside requires next to no maintenance. Same with some types of siding. A painted house is going to cost you some serious painting bucks about every five years. Our first house was primarily brick but had a good bit of wood trim and a covered wood porch. I was thankful for the brick but cursed the wood as I re-stained it once myself and later paid a couple thousand for someone else to do it.
- Heating, heating, heating. Is it electric, gas, geothermal, or something else. If you’re buying in Florida, it may not be that important. If you’re where it snows, give it some serious consideration. This can be overlooked when buying in the summer. Also, check the quality and quantity of insulation. It makes a big difference. Our second house we bought in the Atlanta area, we didn’t pay that much attention to insulation. We ended up adding some to make up for some shortfalls.
- Parking, parking, parking. Most families these days have more than one vehicle. My aunt now lives with us and my oldest has turned 16, so we’re now looking at parking for four cars. If you like to entertain, where are people going to park? Fortunately, we have room to expand, but many homes don’t. We didn’t think about it beforehand.
- Distance, distance, distance. How far to the nearest grocery store? You don’t want to be buying your last-minute milk or bread at convenience stores if you can help it. How far to schools? We have four kids in three different schools. It’s painful. How far to the hospital? Accidents happen and it’s nice to be closer than farther away. How far to the fire hydrant? Seriously, it can make a big difference in your homeowner’s insurance. Ask your insurance company because they won’t volunteer the information.
While these may not be the five most important (I don’t see how anyone can say what are the most important), they all have significant impacts to your resale value and the ongoing costs of home ownership. Good luck!