When it comes to buying a home, we always think about the big things: sales price, location, mortgage qualification. But it's often the little things that rise up to make living in that home a great joy or a huge letdown.
Your welcome to the neighborhood
There are neighbors who bring warm cookies to welcome you to the neighborhood and then there are the Homeowners' Associations that welcome you with a stern warning to move your storage unit immediately even though it's only been in your driveway for a few hours and you haven't even arrived from your cross-country drive (true story).
The friendliness of your neighbors
Beyond your initial impression, is living in your neighborhood going to give you the kind of lifestyle you want? In many cases, you won't know until after you've moved in. Spending some time there and getting to know your potential neighbors/asking questions before you purchase may give you the info you need.
Where to put the dog bowl
Does it seem like a frivolous thing to be considering when buying a home? Only until you move in and realize there's nowhere to put the food and water bowls that won't end up spilled, kicked over, or constantly in the way.
Think about it in terms of a car purchase. You might not notice the number/placement of drink holders in the new car you're buying, but you're sure going to notice how lacking they are when you're driving a carful of people around in the 100-degree summer and there's nowhere to put your Big Gulps. When your pets are a part of your life, considering where they will graze (and sleep and run) may help you make the best decision.
Closet space isn't necessarily a small thing (for many of us, it's an absolute necessity!). But, it can also be one of those things that is easily overlooked when seduced by a big kitchen or a pool in the yard. If the closet space seems like it may be a problem when you tour the house, it most likely will be a problem when you're living in the house.
Placement of the laundry
Is it a deal breaker if your laundry room is downstairs and the bedrooms are upstairs? Probably not, but it does make things more challenging. If you're trying to decide between a couple of homes, this may be one of the little things that helps you finalize your decision.
Commute time to and from work
Your daily commute is something you've probably spent considerable time thinking about, especially if you're considering moving farther from work. But even if you're moving equidistance from your existing home, the commute could be very different. And it's not something you want to discover AFTER you've moved. Doing a few test runs before you make an offer can help.
The schools aren't great
If you don't yet have kids, or they're babies, or already grown, or you don't plan on kids, the quality of the schools may not seem like a big deal in relation to other items on your must-have list. But, you never know how long you might live there. A "starter" home that's supposed to be a springboard to a large home in a few years may not end up springing you so quickly. And studies show that good schools can help home values, so even if you're not packing lunches and preparing backpacks, being near people who are might be a good move.
Positioning of the house
Everyone wants a house that's light and bright, but what you might not want is a sun that sets right in your living room. If you're in a warm climate, you can plan on being hotter than you'd like to be in that room during the summer and having higher electric bills.
Really high ceilings
This is another feature people tend to want in their home... until they actually have them and realize:
It's cold in the winter since all the warm air gets sucked up.
It's hot in the summer since conditioned air has a hard time doing its thing in such a vast space.
You'll never be able to paint the room without renting scaffolding
Ditto for changing light bulbs