With all the popularity of fixing up a current home, buying an existing home and building your own home, the decisions are more complicated when you have to make them up front.

To help sort out your options, consider your lifestyle today and envision where you’d like to be in three to five years. Is this your first home, are you thinking of starting a family or are you outgrowing your current home? Did you raise your family and are closer to retirement? Do you need more space or less space?

Real estate is about location, location, location. Where you live has a huge impact on your overall wellbeing. Do you want to walk in a neighborhood, shop and dine within walking distance? Are you able to commute to work easily? Do you want to live near bike trails or other activities?

What is your estimated income over the next few years? Are you settled in your career with a steady path forward or are you just starting your earning curve? Although we are unable to see into our future, we can project where we think we will be in three to five years so we can plan.

Whether you are thinking of buying an existing home, building a home or remodeling your current home, these are universal decisions you will want to explore.

  • Where do you want to live – urban, suburban or rural
  • Commute time to work and attractions of interest
  • Access to shopping and dining
  • Neighborhood or regional quality of life
  • The amount of traffic nearby
  • Yard and size
  • Schools

Before you move forward with your decision, you might want to consider your financing options and ability. You can get prequalified for a loan at your community bank.

So are you going buy, build or remodel? Let’s review your options.

Buy Your Home

Here are some areas to consider whether you are buying your first home, expanding or downsizing.

  • First, get prequalified for a mortgage. This will let you know right away how much home you can afford to buy. It will also let your REALTOR and the seller know you are a serious buyer. Finally, you can make an offer when you find a home in a competitive market.
  • In addition, you can check your credit to make sure it’s accurate and up to date. This will also allow you to fix any mistakes in your credit report. It does happen.
  • Take a look at homes for sale in your market to get an idea of what your current home is worth (if you already own), and what you can sell it for realistically.
  • Look at what homes are for sale in the locations where you want to live and determine if they fit within your prequalification budget.
  • You might want to buy a smaller home, or a home in need of repair, if you find a location where the value will continue to rise.
  • Always demand full disclosure and a professional home inspection.
  • Remember to explore taxes in different locations – they do vary.

Build Your Home

If you decide to build a new home, here are a couple more steps to consider in the process.

  • Get prequalified for a construction loan and mortgage so you know how much you can afford.
  • Do your research to find a reputable contractor to build your new home. Make sure to explore the work from previous builds and check references.
  • Will your bank support you if you want to self-build? Self-building is popular today and few financial institutions will actually finance a self-build.
  • If you are thinking of a self-build, seriously consider the time involved to contact contractors/suppliers, get bids/quotes, and follow up with each when the time comes for the work to begin. However, taking on this time with a self-build can save you a lot.
  • Explore the neighborhoods, suburbs or areas where you want to build and live. Make sure there is land available.
  • Research your property taxes and how much they will go up after your home is completed. This will affect the mortgage loan escrow payment.
  • Are you prepared to wait for your home to be built?

Remodel Your Home

If you decide to love it and remodel, you will want to do some personal research to be sure it is worth your time and investment.

  • Get prequalified for a loan so you know how much you can afford. Your banker will have loan options available as well as the overall amount you can afford to borrow. In some cases, you might be able to use the equity in your home for a loan.
  • Is your current home worth the remodeling investment? Make sure the structural design is solid. Prepare for the unknown if design issues arise.
  • Research contractors for your project. Make sure to meet with them and see their work. Check with past clients and other references.
  • Consider the school district where you currently reside. Verify that local support for public services is strong.
  • Look at the amount of traffic in your area and future growth trends.
  • Is the size and layout of your yard acceptable considering your family and pets. Consider the upkeep required.
  • Commute time to work and attractions, access to markets and malls and neighborhood or regional quality of life.

Once you think about your lifestyle, your location and how much you can afford, you can start the complicated decision to buy, build or remodel. So are you going to love it or build it?