When buying your first home there are several basic factors to consider. You must think of your home as an investment, as it can cost one-two weeks of your salary per month, so you should be comfortable and happy for many years after closing. 

Try to keep your housing expenses between 25-30% of your monthly income, even if you qualify for more. There’s nothing worse than buying a home and having no money left for fun or unexpected expenses.

Work with a real estate agent that has expertise in the neighborhood. Have your real estate agent prepare a market analysis, so you know what the neighboring homes sold for. Don’t by the most expensive home on the block, as the value may depreciate faster than your neighbors. 

Listen for noise. Many buyers don’t notice the sound of trains, the highway noise, planes, or businesses until their first night’s sleep or their first BBQ.

Check the distance from home to work. Many young people I meet think it will be no big deal to drive across the metro to get to work. I recommend driving the route during rush hour to get a feel for what it will be like. Another factor young people should consider is the proximity to their parents or siblings as they often make the best babysitters when children come along. 

Consider the school district, even if you do not have children. Homes in good school districts retain their values better, as they are more desirable to parents. I have seen identical homes across the street from each other in different school districts with substantial value differences and the homes in good districts sell much faster.

Look at the elevation of the home on the street. It is better to be at the high end of the street than have your neighbors run off coming towards your house. 

Buy a home that has at least three bedrooms on one level, and make sure it is large enough for your family to live comfortably for at least 10 years, so you can handle a downtown in the market, should it happen.

Get a home inspection and find out what the future maintenance items will cost to repair, and have a monthly budget for home maintenance items. Check the trees on the property; especially if they are touching the house, and request the seller have them trimmed or removed. This is a normal maintenance item that many sellers neglect as it can be costly.

Talk to the neighbors and see how they like living in the neighborhood and if they have any insight to the home you are considering. 

Be ready to buy with your pre-approval letter, but be patient. If you miss out on one home, another one always comes along.

  An experienced Real Estate Agent can help you make a wise investment in your first home.

  Ask the Real Estate Agent is a weekly column by Cheryl Kempenich of Coldwell Banker Burnet, who lives and offices in the Chisago Lakes Area. Submit your questions to ckempenich@cbburnet.com. All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For legal assistance consult an attorney.