Buying a home is exciting. A new neighborhood. More space. A yard. A shorter commute. There are all kinds of reasons people get amped up to go house hunting online and start dreaming of a new home. But when the market is competitive and sellers have an advantage, finding a home that is truly "perfect" is increasingly hard to do. Sometimes this keeps people from buying, and often excellent opportunities are missed simply because buyers sit on the sidelines hoping for perfection.
On one hand, this makes sense. A home is a huge investment. Why rush into it? You want to get it right. But on the other hand, buyers forget that a home is an investment. People sometimes allow themselves to become blinded by the thought that they're locked into a home, when in reality a home is often only held for seven to ten years on average. What you want to keep in mind as you shop is how well you'll do from an investment perspective over time.
Adopting an investment mindset means looking at the prospects of a neighborhood, buying at a fair price, and considering factors which may not even matter to you personally as you shop for a home. Yes, you want to be comfortable. Yes, you want it to have the right layout and enough space for your needs. But you also want to imagine who might buy the home in the future.
Even if a home is not ideal, there are factors you should rank before you make an offer. Savvy investors know these four factors can have a giant impact on price when the time comes to reap a return:
1. Affordability. Look for value. Homes which are below median prices are worth a second look, simply because they allow you to prevent yourself from becoming "house poor" in your mortgage while setting yourself up for a larger return when you sell.
2. Schools. You may not have kids or want kids at the moment, but it's a fact that good schools will help you sell and bad schools will hurt. Check into the local schools on a website like GreatSchools.com.
3. Transit and walkability. Ditching the car in favor for walkability and public transportation is a plus for a home's value. How's shopping and entertainment nearby? Check WalkScore.com.
4. Crime rates. BestPlaces.net will give you some insight into local crime rates. Even if crime rates aren't ideal, see if there are any trend indications. If they're going to improve, that could mean money in your pocket in the future.