How good are the schools?
You might not have kids and might not ever plan on having kids, but that does not mean that you should not look into the quality of schools. It will have a huge impact on your life in the future regardless, and here is why.
For starters, things change. While you might not have family goals now, future you may be a bit different. You would hate to change your mind a few years down the road only to realize that the schools in your area are junk. Additionally, if you wait to investigate schools until you decide on kids, you might get trapped in an area that is unacceptable to you.
Second, and more important reason to look at the schools is the fact that the quality of local schools will have a dramatic effect on home value. If you want a home that will grow in value, it needs to be in a good school district. Otherwise, when you go to sell, your home will have a big strike against it for families.
What will utilities cost?
Different homes will have very different levels of efficiency, depending on their age. As years go by, home builders are forced to comply with greater and greater energy ratings. You need to consider this when making a home choice, because it could cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in utility costs.
With more insulation and higher efficiency appliances, a new home can be substantially cheaper to operate. That 20 year old house might come with a 300 dollar utility bill, while the new build could cost under 100 dollars. Sure, the new home might cost more but it could be more than offset by the reduction in utility payments.
You also have to consider the comfort level. An energy efficient home will have more stable temperatures and you will actually be able to get it to the temperature that you want.
Is Home Owners Insurance Expensive?
It only takes a few minutes to get a home owners insurance quote for a particular property, and the effort is well worth it. In some areas of the country, homes just a few miles apart could have premiums that are thousands of dollars apart.
One home could be in a wildfire area and another could be in a flood zone. You can check other sources to find out if your home is in a danger zone, but a quick quote from an actual insurer will tell you what you need to know.
What Is Traffic Like?
If you commute to work, this is so very important. Get a feel for neighborhoods by driving during the time you will be trying to commute to work. During rush hour traffic, a drive that would normally take 15 minutes could easily go over an hour. This is something that can turn into a huge annoyance for you, so you should look into this before you commit to a home by driving the potential route to work during rush hour.
Another option is to use a feature of Google Maps that allows you to get directions and schedule a departure time. That will give you some idea of how your future ride would be. If possible, it is best to make the actual trip however.
Is The Neighborhood Safe?
Finally, you need to address safety. Is the neighborhood safe to live in and are there any sketchier areas close by. Crime does not stay inside neighborhood lines, so if you might be living close to a lot of burglaries, car thefts or violent crimes, you need to know.
Luckily, the information is just a click away, so search for crime maps and your city name for all of the information you need. If you have kids, also look up sex offender data. Sex offenders can generally live wherever they like, but they do have to register.
To Sum Up
As you can see, there is a lot more to picking a home than just the home itself. Do your due diligence and research any home purchase before you make a commitment. It would be nice to think that you can count on a realtor to help you through the process, but this is usually not the case, so it is on you.