What's missing from your current home? Storage space? Decent parking? Privacy?
Chances are, you might not have noticed these missing features when you and your home were in the honeymoon phase. But, sometime in the first few months, that deficiency became glaringly obvious.
When you tour a home, it's normal to get so caught up in the granite kitchen countertops that you might not notice there's insufficient square footage to butter your morning toast. And while that master bedroom looks stylish and neat, you don't realize that it's the size of a postage stamp.
Sometimes, there's a fix. You can downsize the bedroom furniture. You can install shelving or buy bookcases to add storage. And for privacy, you can put up curtains or a fence.
And sometimes you just have to learn to live with it. Or vow that next time around, you won't make the same mistake.
Read on for six make-or-break features for your next home.
More than enough storage
No one ever walked out of an open house thinking, "Nice place, but too many closets." On the other hand, a good staging job can disguise that a home has precious little storage.
This is where it pays to use your X-ray eyes. Visually strip away the furniture in a for-sale home and place your furniture and belongings. Or simply measure -- both the rooms and the closets -- and compare it to what you have now, says Eric Tyson, author of "Home Buying for Dummies."
Ditto for kitchen cupboards, pantries and counter space, says Michael Corbett, author of "Before You Buy." Those countertops may look spacious until you get out all of your kitchen toys and discover there's not enough room, he says. Really look at a kitchen in terms of what you need when you cook to make sure the home offers the counter space you need.
An easy commute
You're only 15 miles from work. How long is that in traffic time? That daily commute factor is "a really big one that a surprising number of people don't properly research before they commit to a house," Tyson says. He advises trying the commute a few times, driving both ways, before you buy.
"If you wait until you move, it's kind of too late," Tyson says. "You're stuck with the house at that point." Instead, "do the actual commute during the actual time of day -- to and from -- that you'd be doing," he says. And talk to people with similar commutes. You may discover that it ebbs and flows at various times of the year.
Some buyers shop for homes where "commute" doesn't automatically mean "car," says Ron Phipps, immediate past president of the National Association of Realtors and principal broker with Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I.
"We're seeing a lot more urbanization and a lot more people moving toward public transportation links," he says. One college professor wanted a home that was a comfortable walking distance from campus, he adds. "Five years ago, that wouldn't have been a priority."
A neighborhood that suits your lifestyle
It could be the Saturday night party house, the guy who believes Sundays were made for leaf blowing or the kid who practices the tuba 24/7. Every neighborhood has its eccentrics, and you need to know if you can live with them.
One of the best ways to find out what's going on in the neighborhood is to chat up the neighbors, Corbett says. "You must find out if there are any existing neighborhood problems."
From the minor issues (such as one neighbor's casual mechanic "shop") to the major (a string of crimes in the area), you want to know the concerns of the people who live there. "It's really about asking questions upfront," Corbett says. Ask the seller, and do your own research, too.
One smart move is to visit during morning rush hour, afternoon and evening rush hour, adds Corbett.
One prospective buyer who planned to work from home even toured a home with a phone app that measures ambient noise, Phipps says. The place was quiet, "so it wasn't a problem," he says.
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