Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions you will make -- so it's essential to know what is important when making the decision. While this can be a matter of personal preference, you should consider the home's structure and neighborhood as well as your own finances and future plans.
When you buy a home, you're committing yourself to a neighborhood -- so you'd better be comfortable with your surroundings. Diane Benson Harrington of Realtor.com recommends talking to neighbors and exploring the surrounding area. Don't just look at your immediate neighbors; take a look at the surrounding blocks to see if a good neighborhood quickly turns bad. Also, check to see if the neighborhood is near services that are important to you -- for instance, if you're planning to have kids, you will want to know if there are good schools in the neighborhood.
Your Future Plans
Your home is where you will be making your future, so you need to ask yourself, "What will my future bring?" It can be tempting for couples to buy a home because they feel like they should be settling down. But even if you're committed to a partner, you may not be ready to commit to a house. According to CNN Money, you can lose money due to transactions costs if you sell a house after only a few years. Before committing to a house, it's important to get a sense of where your career and other changes may take you.
The Home's Structure
It's important that the home not only looks good, but that it is structurally sound, too. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, a home doesn't pass or fail an inspection -- it's not an appraisal -- but a home inspector can tell you about any defects in the home. If there are problems, don't give up on the house, but be prepared to spend money on the repairs. To see what work has been done on the house in the past, ask for records to see how much has been invested in repairs and maintenance.
What You Can Afford
One of the biggest deciding factors when buying a home will be how much you can afford. As a general rule, you can afford a home that costs two and a half times your annual income, according to CNN Money. So if you and your partner pull in $100,000 in a year, you can roughly estimate that you can afford a $250,000 home. The exact amount you can afford will depend on other factors, including your living expenses and debts, so consult a financial adviser who can help you plan for your largest investment.