The mean price for a new home in the U.S. is $226,800. You want to make sure that you’re getting a good deal, and that it’s the house for you. 

And this is a tricky process. There are confusing mortgage terms and all the paperwork (so much paperwork). It can be exhausting trying to find a good house. 

But you can use these tips for house hunting to make the process easy, safe, and rewarding. Your dream home awaits. 

1. Get to Know the Neighborhood (and Neighbors)

When you buy a house, you’re not buying four walls and a roof. You’re buying the plot of land where you’ll spend the next several years (or even decades) of your life!

So you need to make sure the neighborhood you’re in matches the dreams you have for your family and your life. 

Where will you workout? Is there a nearby park or jogging route you can take with your dog? Is there a gym nearby?

Where’s the nearest grocery store? Do you get to shop at Trader Joe’s or will you most likely end up going to the nearest Walmart?

What activities are near you? Is the rock climbing gym or yoga studio close, or will you end up making most of your friends at the bar a few miles away?

What are your neighbors like? Do they like the neighborhood? Does anyone have issues with the others?

What’s the HOA like? Will your dream front lawn garden be thwarted by demanding HOA standards?

How are the schools in your district? Where’s the fire department and hospital? How often do crimes occur in this neighborhood?

The point is, when you buy a house, you buy into the neighborhood as well. So make sure you love the neighborhood as much as you love the house. 

2. Make a Dream-Home Checklist

In your perfect home, what kind of lifestyle do you plan to live? What does the home need to make that possible? How badly do you need a pool, or is a two-car garage more important? 

Do you need a workshop for your craftiness or woodworking hobbies? Do you need a big kitchen so you can cook with your family or is adequate dining space for friends more important?

Do you need a fenced-in yard for Fido? Or is it more important to have a good space for gardening and composting? 

Write down everything you want, including needs, wants, would be nice’s, and “I can DIY this” ideas. Take it with you when you check out houses and pay attention to what each home does and doesn’t have. 

You can look at these homes for inspiration, or consider even consider one for yourself. 

3. Know Your Budget

Even the most perfect dream home isn’t perfect if it’s not in the budget. If you can “barely afford” the home, you can’t afford it. 

Factor in property taxes, mortgage, PMI, and HOA fees, and home insurance. Your home shouldn’t consume more than 25% of your take-home pay. 

If your home ends up strangling your other financial goals, it’s not an asset and it’s not a dream home. You need to stay away from it. 

So spend some time figuring out exactly how much house you can afford, and stay in budget. 

4. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage can tell a buyer that you’re serious about buying the home. It also gives you a good idea about your budget range. 

Keep in mind though, you don’t need to (and arguably shouldn’t) buy a home with the biggest mortgage you can get. You could still end up risking your financial future with an unsteady loan. 

It pays to look around for a mortgage lender with a good reputation. Make sure they can explain your mortgage in terms you understand. This will help give you peace of mind that you have a mortgage that’s there to work for you, not screw you over. 

5. Ask the Right Questions

A pretty exterior can hide a lot in a house. So you need to ask the right questions or face some ugly surprises when you close the deal. Here are a few questions to remember.

What’s included in the sale?

Not everything in the house necessary comes with the sale. Does it include light fixtures and appliances? What about the shed in the back? Remember, it pays to ask.

When were the appliances and other systems last updated?

This is especially important if you’re buying an older home. Make sure the HVAC, plumbing, septic tank are all in good shape. If the home price includes appliances, ask about them too.

How old is the roof?

A roof is good for about 20 to 50 years, depending on the material and maintenance history. Make sure the roof is in good condition because it’s an expensive repair. 

Have there ever been any pest infestations?

First off, if pests have been an issue in the past, they can be an issue in the future. Other pests, like termites or mice, can cause damage that’s hard to find. But they can have devastating consequences. 

What’s it like to live there in winter and summer?

Is it hard to heat or cool? Will you need to get better windows? Is snow removal a pain? You won’t be able to tour the house during all seasons, but you’ll have to live there all year, so it pays to ask. 

What problems have you experienced with the house?

Maybe it’s haunted. You’ll never know unless you ask. This can also prompt a homeowner to reveal other issues.

Use These Tips for House Hunting to Help You Find Your Dream Home

Buying a house will most likely be the biggest purchase in your life. So it pays off to take your time and do your research. These tips for house hunting will help you find your dream home when it’s time to move in.

Keep checking back for amazing tips and ideas to help you find the home of your dreams.