Everyone wants to be a homeowner and live the American Dream and today's real estate market provides some pretty good perks for those looking to buy a home. However, before you buy, there are some things to consider. Purchasing a home is the most important decision you will make in your lifetime. Therefore, it makes sense to understand what's important to know before you buy.

Some questions you should answer before you buy include:

•When do you want buy? Depending on the time of year you begin house hunting, the market may be slower. For instance, if you are buying in the colder seasons (i.e., through the holidays), sellers may be more willing to offer incentives or be more flexible on price.

•What part of town and what neighborhoods do you want to live in? Looking in neighborhoods that have good schools tend to have higher values. Even if you don't have school-aged children, it's an important aspect to consider when it does come time to sell, because resale values will be higher.

•Be sure the neighborhood you choose is one you can commit to staying in for a while, so do some research on different neighborhoods to find out about property values and if houses are selling close to their asking prices. Find out about the attributes that are important to you such as schools, shopping, recreation, homeowners associations and dues, crime rates, etc.

•How many houses in the neighborhood are for sale and how fast are they selling? Talk to neighbors to see how they like the neighborhood. If they are selling, ask why they are selling. Again, consider your lifestyle and make sure the neighborhood will work for you.

•Can you afford to be a homeowner?  Being a homeowner means there are costs associated besides your mortgage payment.  You can't call a landlord and have them fix something when it breaks.  If something breaks you will have to bear the costs of maintenance and repairs.  Insurance doesn't cover all items.  You need to keep some money aside each month to pocket for repairs and maintenance.

Investigating the Structure and Lot:

•Check age, square footage, lot lines, ILC and surveys for the property as listed in County records.

•Secure and examine the Seller’s Property disclosure for any specific items concerning the structure and lot.

•Additionally, Buyer is advised to consult with their local Regional Building Department and/or a qualified, licensed contractor to evaluate the status of permits pulled for work completed on the property and the possibility that work may have been completed without required permits pulled.

Reviewing the Neighborhood and Surrounding Areas:

•You may want to consider reviewing information about the neighborhood and surrounding areas that may be important to your evaluation of a property and/or impact your purchase decision. This may include:

•Reviewing the Homeowners Association (HOA) documents (where applicable) to study and examine any regulations and covenant restrictions.

•Evaluating and researching the schools in the area

•Inquiring into the availability of cable, satellite and high speed Internet service providers.

•Looking at crime statistics and conducting a sex offender search for the area.

•Contacting the local planning authority to inquire about future development plans for the area.

•Looking at what amenities you may have access to in the surrounding area, including access to fire and police departments, shopping, recreation areas, food and entertainment, and public transportation.

Additional Considerations

In addition to what has been outlined previously, the following is a further non-exhaustive list of other items you may want to consider as you evaluate your home purchase:

•property taxes for the property and any special District obligations

•utilities that may be necessary for the property

•checking all appliances (including getting serial numbers) that are purchased with the property for its age, proper function, warranty and whether any are on any recall sites

•whether you should request “gap insurance” on the Title Policy

•obtaining a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) Report to obtain information regarding property claims history

•contacting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to inquire about such things as high power lines, underground storage tanks, placement in a floodplain, and any issues with noise, air waste, water/water quality and/or light pollution

•possibility of landslide and settling issues

•Possibility of being in a flood zone

•Purchasing a Home Warranty on the purchased property