Whether we dream about a tidy home and garden with a white picket fence or a rambling country estate with tennis courts and a pool house, we all basically want the same thing: to come home to a place where we can relax and feel safe and secure. We want our home to be a refuge with room to grow. Turns out the secret to happy homeownership is not about a home’s size or style or even location. It’s about buying what you truly want, what you can afford, and being able to easily protect what's yours.
Q: What are the most essential things to look for in a new house?
A: It is true that location is key. Consider what’s most important to you: access to a lively community or privacy and quiet? Do you want to walk to work? Drive? Train? Or maybe you can work from home. Is convenience to shopping and transit more important than a bigger yard? Do you or will you have kids? Are good schools important now or might they be in the future? Whether or not you plan to expand your family is a key question to ask before you buy. Moving is expensive and a lot of work, so long-term planning is important. If there are two bedrooms now, might there be room to add a third? Is the roof or heating and A/C system new or might it need to be repaired or replaced sometime soon? Try to honestly assess your tolerance for maintenance before you buy a house that’s older, larger, or has a lot of property. If you love gardening, great. But do you love mowing the lawn? These are the kinds of questions you should ask yourself in addition to the most basic gut check: if you can picture yourself living there, does it make you happy?
Q: Who can I turn to for help?
A: In a way, it takes a village to own a home. Your “home team” should include not only a real estate broker you like and trust, but an insurance agent and home inspector. Once you’ve made the purchase, consider getting recommendations for a reliable electrician and plumber in the area. If you don’t know your local neighborhood yet, your insurance agent can help you get acclimated. If your budget allows, also consider hiring a handyman, landscaper, and/or housekeeper, getting as many personal referrals as you can. Your insurance agent can help you review your policies regularly and help you choose insurance options to protect your home.
Q: What kind of home insurance coverage is available?
A: Home insurance is all about customization; knowing what’s right for you and working with an agent who can make it happen. Consider the difference between market value (what your home is worth in real estate terms) and replacement cost (what it would actually cost to rebuild if you lost everything) and be ready to ask yourself what level of coverage feels best for you. Then, focus on your liability coverage. The amount you need depends on your personal net worth. The more you’re worth, the more you have to lose and the more coverage you need.
Q: How can I be sure that all of my valuables are protected?
A: Take an inventory of everything in your home (or everything you plan to move in to your new home). A home inventory is a great way to expedite the insurance claims process after theft, damage, or loss. This record of your insurable assets will not only help you in the settlement of a covered loss or claim, but may also help verify tax-deductible property losses and determine the right amount of insurance coverage you need. You can create this inventory using smartphone apps, a video/visual record, a written list or all three. Save receipts and keep them in a safe place outside your home (like a bank safe deposit box).