We all approach big purchases in our own (sometimes) methodical ways. Sometimes we research the snot out of the item before laying down our cash. We weigh the different brands, models, features and specifications to see which will fit our needs and budget. Other times, we simply make an impulsive purchase based on our needs in the "here and now."

I've certainly used both of those methods and almost always have a better result with the former. (Except when it comes to chocolate! There's always a need for that!)

When it comes to purchasing a home, an investment of that size calls for a bit of research. Even if you are desperate to get into a home, slowing down a bit can make a big difference in your overall happiness with the property. Today we're going to dig into this a little bit and focus on a few tips to keep you thinking straight and strategically about your home purchase. While these tips are certainly intended for the first-time homebuyer, grizzled veterans of real estate can always pick up a pointer or two!

There's a reason they call it "window shopping." Those store owners know exactly what they are doing by enticing you to stop in your tracks and appreciate the (dress, shoes, puppy, cotton candy, car, fudge, etc.) in the window. Almost insultingly simple, the goal is to attract us to something "shiny and new" long enough to possibly draw us in the door. With real estate, our first tip for buyers is to avoid being drawn in by the shiny stuff.

Our advice to sellers is to always "stage" the home so it looks beautiful. For buyers, just be aware that all those fancy trappings are not coming with the house. Focus on the "meat and potatoes" of the home and the things that will be there after closing. If you can consider the quality and condition of the floors, walls, windows, doors and other "core" parts of the home, you will be less distracted by the throw pillows, cute rugs and wall hangings.

Speaking of "trappings," it is also a mistake to get too hung up on the furniture you already own when considering a home. I fully understand it would be great to keep that $1,000 couch you bought for last year's Superbowl, but, in the grand scheme of things, it is truly not that important. Focus on whether the home fits you and your family vs. your furniture. I promise you, that nacho-laden couch will be a distant memory as soon as the Patriots win another one!

Although a bit of a sensitive subject, it is important not to focus too heavily on price. Now, don't be silly and grab that half-million-dollar home when your budget is half of that. You need to be reasonable and not homeless! But if you are not finding anything in your current price range, consider bumping it up a few thousand dollars. When you extrapolate the cost over the life of a mortgage, a $10,000 price difference could simply mean a few less lunches out with the guys and the home of your dreams to come home to.

A mistake many have made is ignoring the neighborhood. While the price, size and features of the home may be simply perfect, it is paramount to consider what is outside the bounds of your property line.

"As real estate professionals, we are certainly focused on what's inside those four walls," said Badger Realty agent Edward O'Halloran. "But we would be remiss, and doing our buyers a disservice, were we not to help them evaluate the surrounding neighborhood," he continued.

Ed is right, and his thoughts are even more pertinent when you consider that the median duration of homeownership in the United States is just over 13 years, according to a study by ValuePenguin. While the idea of a "starter home" is attractive and might get you convinced to sign on the dotted line, consider the fact that you may be staying here for more than a decade. It is a great idea to slow your roll a bit and ensure that, insomuch as you can imagine the future, you'll be happy here for a while.

Lastly, I'll just remind you to consider the parts of your day when you have to leave the house, whether that be your commute to work, a drive to the grocery store or a drive to the mountains to get out for a hike. Your home's distance to those places that are important to you can make living there a pleasure or a bit of a hassle.

At one point, I lived about six miles from (literally) anything. Living in the home was pure bliss. The drive to get to the store, gas station, pizza shop or downtown was consistently 15 minutes. For me, the trade-off was well worth it, and I would choose to live there again in a heartbeat. For you, you'll want to consider that drive and even MAKE that drive a couple times before closing. Drive to and from the house at least five or 10 times (yes, really) and get a real feel for the commute. Those pre-purchase trips will make a big difference in your decision.

It is no secret that buying a home is a big decision. I have owned a couple homes in my life and am looking forward to my next investment. We all learn lessons along the way, and here's hoping that a few of these will resonate with you and maybe even help in your decision this time around. Happy shopping!

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