Neighborhood

Urban, suburban, rural, young, old, high-traffic, low-traffic. You have many different options when it comes to choosing a neighborhood - too many to cover here. But here are some neighborhood variables to think about.

How long are you willing to commute? This will give you a geographical boundary to look within.

Do you have children? If so, carefully investigate the school system that your children will be attending. See what learning opportunities are available to them. Even if you don't have kids or your children attend private school, the quality of the schools in your community will have an impact on the resale value of your home.

Do you like high-energy environments or peace and quiet? When some people go home, they want to leave the world behind and relax in the peace and quiet of their personal retreat. Others would be bored to death by that environment and need more interaction and energy.

What aspects of a community are important to you? Envision the perfect neighborhood. Ask yourself what makes it perfect? Then seek out that neighborhood.

When you're looking at homes, try to get a feel for the neighborhood to see if it's right for you. Talk to the neighbors and ask them what it's like. Be nosy. After all, you might live there for quite some time.

Are there association fees? Be sure to check if there are homeowner association fees and how they may impact your budget.

The Right Home

When you're deciding what type of home is right for you, you not only have to think about now, you must think about your future. Will your family be growing? Are you going to need an office at home? Are you going to be able to keep up with the maintenance? You don't want to buy a home and then find out three years later that you have outgrown it.

Types of properties:

Houses

If you like privacy and independence, buying a single-family residence might be the right choice for you. Decide whether you want a new home, a previously-owned home or a fixer-upper. If you buy a newly built home, be sure to figure in the cost of upgrades and landscaping, which aren't usually included in the base price. You might be better off with a previously owned home in good repair. A fixer-upper, on the other hand, may allow you to purchase more home for your money. Your house will quickly increase in value as you put work into it - as long as you're willing to invest the time and money it requires to do the job right.

Condominiums

A condominium is halfway between an apartment and a house. You still own the building and the property, but you pay maintenance fees every month that pay for cutting the grass, trimming the hedges, painting the shutters, etc. You're still responsible for interior repairs and maintenance. Be sure to read the homeowners agreement before you decide to buy a condominium. These documents dictate what is and isn't allowed on the property and can include anything from how many and what types of vehicles can be parked in your driveway to how many pets you can own.

Co-ops

Co-ops are more frequent in larger cities and they're becoming increasingly popular. In a co-op, you're a renter, but you're also part of a group that serves as a landlord. You buy into the association.

Home Size Does Matter

The drawbacks to a small house are obvious - not enough space. But there are drawbacks to a large home as well. Upkeep is considerably more work with a large home. The spaciousness that once brought you such happiness may lead to the frustration of never-ending cleaning and maintenance. Consider how much space you need, how many rooms you need and how much furniture you want to have. Limit your home size to meet these requirements unless you're willing to put in a lot of time or hire maintenance and cleaning professionals.