Looking at homes for sale often elicits mixed feelings. On the one hand, it's exciting to walk through houses, picturing yourself living in various homes. On the other hand, choosing the place where you will spend the next several years (or, in some cases, several decades) is a daunting task.
Your real estate agent will be able to help you narrow down your choices in a busy market, but the ultimate decision rests with you. Here are some things to consider as you go through houses that are beyond the basics, such as location, number of bedrooms and whether your furniture will fit in the living room.
If you view the home at night, it can be difficult to determine how much natural light each room will receive. Any home that is on your short list of definite possibilities should be viewed at least twice, preferably at two different times of the day. One of these times should be during daylight hours. You want to see how much light your living room, kitchen and bedroom will get.
Since you will likely only be viewing the home during one season, consider what will change. During the winter, light levels are often lower and softer. During the summer, leaves on trees may block some light from entering your home. If natural light is important to you, you're not going to want to consider a home where the kitchen has only one small, north-facing window or where the living room gets little light because a screened porch shades the windows from the outdoor light.
This is mainly a concern if you are looking at old homes. While newer houses typically have a lot of electrical outlets, it's common to see fewer than you may need in older homes. When this characteristic is combined with an old electrical panel, adding additional outlets or otherwise upgrading the electricity can require rather extensive (and expensive!) work courtesy of your electrician. Take a look at the artificial lighting situation, too; if you have ceiling fixtures in the home, you'll need fewer outlets than if lamps will be necessary.
Are you a gardener? If so, you probably already know that a home that faces north will provide the best backyard sun exposure for growing vegetables all summer long. Conversely, a home facing south will allow you plenty of bright sunlight for planting flowers outside your front entry. If you are in an unfamiliar neighborhood and aren't sure which way is north, don't be embarrassed about asking your realtor. He or she should be well-versed with the different areas and can tell you which way you're facing, even at high noon when the sun doesn't clue you in.
Access to Bedrooms or Laundry Room in the Future
If you are buying a home while in your 20s or 30s, you might be focusing on buying the home that will work for you as you have children. In addition, keep in mind that in several decades, you might not be as fit and spry as you are right now. Since you might decide to stay in the house over the long haul, it's wise to consider how you might be able to make the house work if you or your partner become unable to climb stairs.
If you have no options for having a bedroom on the main floor if your home, or if the laundry room is located down steep basement stairs, this could prove problematic in the future. This isn't necessarily a reason not to buy the home of your dreams, of course; you can always modify the house later.
Most of these issues will not make or break your decision on their own, but when combined with other features of the homes in question, one or more of them might cause you to favor one home over others you're considering. Talk about these issues with your real estate agent, as he or she will likely have insight on other considerations that you might not have thought of.