You may be ready to buy a home, but are you armed with the knowledge you need to make the best decision? Have you thought about buying versus building a home? A great way to make sure you have all the information you need before purchasing your home is to make a checklist for each part of the home buying decision process.

Before you make an offer on a home

1. Search for neighborhood information online

Search local newspaper websites, local government websites, community websites and blogs to learn more about upcoming development or other issues in the area.

2. Check crime reports

Check the crime reports of the neighborhood and community. Is there a neighborhood watch group? Talk with local police to get facts and statistics on crime in the area.

3. Research the school district

Even if you don’t have children, you should check on schools in the district. Buying a home in a good school district is an important way to ensure your home maintains its value.

4. Visit the area at different times of day

If you want to know what it will be like to live somewhere, visit on a weekday, a weeknight, and a weekend to see how quiet or active the area is at different points throughout the day.

5. Test your commute to work

Get a feel for the traffic in the area by testing out what your commute to work would be like in the morning. The traffic pattern during rush hour may be much different than traffic in the area on a weekend, which could have a significant impact on your enjoyment of the property.

7. Ask about taxes, home association dues, homeowners insurance and utility bills

Since your monthly housing payment includes more than just the principal and interest on your loan, make sure the taxes, insurance, homeowner association dues, and utility bills will work with your budget. Ask your realtor for this information or discuss it with the sellers, if possible.

8. Consider building a home in the neighborhood

If you find the perfect neighborhood, but can’t seem to find a home for sale that meets all your needs, try looking for open lots in the neighborhood and consider building a custom home instead. This will give you the best of both worlds with a home that meets your needs in a neighborhood you love. Tip: If you decide to build a home, make sure your builder offers a custom home plan that will satisfy the rules and requirements of your new neighborhood association.

Getting a home inspection:

9. Do your research to find a qualified inspector

Contact a professional organization like the American Society of Home Inspectors to find an accredited expert with adequate experience. You can usually expect to pay between $300 and $750 for a general inspection.

10. Request a detailed report in advance

Talk to your home inspector to find out what the finished report will look like. You’ll want to get a report that’s at least 10 pages long and should include photographs of anything issues.

11. Attend the inspection

Attending the home inspection gives you the opportunity to ask questions about the home’s infrastructure. Be sure to ask about the operation and locations of the gas and water shut-off valves.

12. Ask for written estimates for all fixes

Ask your repairman to provide you with estimates for all issues and fixes found during the inspection. Your real estate agent can then submit the anticipated costs to the seller.

13. Ask for a price credit for fixes

Control the quality of your repairs by scheduling them yourself. Ask your repairman for a quote and request that the seller deduct the cost of the fixes from the sale price so you can have the fixes done after the purchase is final.

Making an offer

14. Make clear demands

Be clear about extras or special features, such as curtains or light fixtures, that you want included with the home.

15. Bid smartly

Understand market trends and ask your real estate agent for the sale prices of comparable homes in the area that were recently on the market.

Conducting the Final Walk-Through

During the final walk-through, there are a number of things that must be checked. Make sure you do the following tasks before the final purchase.

  • Verify that all included appliances are in working order
  • Turn on all faucets and flush every toilet
  • Plug something into each outlet
  • Check all smoke detectors
  • Test heat and air-conditioning
  • Double check for mold and water damage

While buying a home is an incredibly exciting time, it’s also important to make sure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision about your new home and its location.

What do you think is the most important thing to consider before buying your home? What would you add to this checklist?