Home Buying Advice

Updated on August 15, 2016
W.W. asks from Reston, VA
18 answers

I'm always looking at "new" homes. We've been in the same place for 20 years. I am READY to move. Being born and raised military - I am used to moving every 3 to 4 years. This is the longest I've EVER been the same place...

I have searches on Zillow and Realtor. Since I have these searches, I get other links. I found this one


My husband is OPEN to the idea - notice I said IDEA of moving...however both our boys are in High School (freshman and junior). Sooo we need to in the same area...urgh...

What's your dream home?

Mine? The outside has a full veranda or porch. Five bedrooms and 4.5 baths. I want a basement - we don't have one now. Just two floors.

Now the location? Urgh. This is where husband and I disagree. He's New England born and bred. ANYTHING west of the Mississippi is "injun territory". Yep. He can be a snot.

What can I do next?

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answers from Honolulu on

I think that's pretty good advice in that article.

We've moved so much - internationally, to a remote island, all over the states. We've had large single family homes that we owned, small rented apartments, large rented homes, you name it.

I'd consider waiting until your sons graduate. You don't know where they'll go to college - maybe abroad, maybe local, maybe across the country. You should consider how much maintenance you want to do, both in landscaping (mowing lawns, trimming shrubs, tending gardens) and interior (fixing things like sinks and toilets and door hinges). What do you enjoy? What do you hate? You might find that their schools are in an area you'd like to be in.

If your sons currently mow your lawn and shovel your walks, how will things change when they're away at school? Are you and your husband willing to do it (and physically able)?

We're currently dealing with the problem of where to move. Dd's medical problems are making it pretty clear that Hawaii is not going to work out. She's been recently diagnosed with Aquagenic Pruritis and Aquadynia, which is an allergy to water (showers, swimming, sweat). It's a neurological response, not a histamine situation, and not a psychosomatic reaction. We thought Texas was too hot, and maybe that was why she was so miserable in the heat there. So we hoped that Hawaii would be more temperate. Well it is, but it's of course humid, being surrounded by 6,000 miles of ocean and all that. It's such a conundrum. So right now we're trying to find a dry locale that is not too elevated (altitude isn't good for her heart condition). We feel pretty stuck.

Oh, and Fanged Bunny, you described my perfect dream home! Can I move in with you???

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

By dream home, are we talking about if money was no object? Or being realistic? My dream home now, with two kids in school, or my dream home as a retired empty nester? I suppose my realistic dream home for this stage in my life would be in the same neighbourhood I currently live in, where my kids can walk to school and activities. It would be a split level, slightly larger than my current house, with 3 or 4 bedrooms, more closet space and a bigger garage. Since I don't really like the idea of moving, it would have to be a perfect house at a fantastic price to make me consider leaving this house. The neighbourhood is more important to me than a house. I sleep, eat and shower in my house, I do most of my living out in the community.

ETA: My dream home would definitely NOT be open concept, nor would it have white cabinets and trim, but I would certainly be allowed to have a clothesline and a garden wherever I wish!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I would not move until both kids have graduated from high school. Then if anything, I would downsize. Our kids are almost the same ages and this is what we are doing, at least until the older one graduates. The youngest goes to a charter school and there isn’t buses so no matter where we move, I will still have to drive him. So we are in this house for another 2 years at least.

My “dreams” have changed drastically over the last few years. I used to want a huge house with nice furniture, a huge yard with city views and brand new cars. But not anymore. I’d rather have less and easier to manage and shove money away for retirement and travel.

Now after having the 6 bedroom, 3 car garage house we are currently in, I can’t wait to downsize! We will always have a room for the kids to return to but will likely have 3 bedrooms with an office. I’m not opposed to extra bedrooms (but only if we got a great deal) because I could always use a room for my painting and crafts. But if the office is big enough, I could share space with my husband too.

Now my “dream” is to live simply and comfortably with as little stress and effort as possible. I would not want a huge house to take care of when I get older. Even if I paid for housekeeper and landscapers, it’s just too much and not necessary. I don’t need to impress anyone and unless I was going to have kids and grandkids live with me full time (which I highly doubt), then I don’t “need” all that space and now I don’t even want it.

I will also inherit my mom’s house eventually. She currently has a small 2 bedroom with an enclosed patio. It’s in a retirement community. It’s likely my husband and I may just move in to that when we are older anyway…which could be in as little as 6 years! LOL

I would however LOVE to move out of hell...I mean AZ. It's just unbearable here in the summer and I hate it. But...my husband's business has been here for the last 16 years so he has to stay. And my mom and kids are here. But to solve this problem, I *hope* to have a small house in the city and a small cabin in the mountains, which is only about a 1.5 hour drive from here. Now THAT would be my dream come true!

Good luck with whatever you decide!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My dream home has changed several times over the past 50 years. My first dream home was similar to yours. My dream also included a loving relationship with my husband and at least 2 babies. That didn't happen. I did find a home similar enough to my dream home but much smaller. I've lived her for 30 years.

My dream life after retirement was to travel, coming back to this home. I adopted my daughter and still dreamed of travel. Then grandchildren entered my life. I love being with them. Now my 16 yo granddaughter lives with me. She's stayed with me from time to time since she was born. I'd still like to travel but that's a less of a priority than being with my grandchildren.

My latest musings have been about moving to a condo or living in a tiny house. My priorities have greatly changed. I want less space, to spend less time on my house, and have more time to spend with friends and travel. My family is still a high priority.

When I read your post, my thoughts went immediately to how life changes and how we adapt to those changes. I suggest that keeping teens in the same school until graduation is a high priority. Sounds like you want to move several states away. If you do so, not only will you have difficulty with your husband, you'll be taking your teens away from their routine and their friends. You will be asking them to start over as teens. I suggest that this big of a disruption has the potential of throwing them off track. Friends, during these years, are a strong influence. Consistency is always best. In the teen years it's a necessity. A teen is dealing with many issues that will determine what their adult life will be like.

I also suggest that your marriage and how well the two of you get along is more important than a house with a veranda, etc. Moving has to be a decision made together with both partners listening and understanding the other's feelings. A compromise agreed upon by both is essential.

You've lived in this house 20 years and you still want to move because you had to as a child? Your life has dramatically changed in last 20 years. Decisions you make now needs to be based on your and your family's needs today. I believe how your husband feels and the needs of your children have to be more important than what happened when you were a child.

I suggest that you're at an age during which people look back on life and compare where they are now and what they've thought life would've been by now. It's important to go through the process of comparing so that one can have a realistic idea of where to go now. One can not go back to where life was 20 years ago and, because of current responsibilities, cannot make the dreams we had then, be real now. (Consider men's midlife crisis we often joke about. The new sportscar and affair.)

I urge you to look at the bigger picture. I suggest the needs of your family have to be a part of the decision to move. Based on my broad experience with teens over several years, how your teens feel about a move needs to be high on your list of priorities. Even more important is how your husband feels. His feelings should not be something to laugh about.

Perhaps your question isn't about deciding to move as much as it's about looking at those early dreams from our perspective.

I read the article you cited. Good way of thinking and suggests you're thinking about what you need in comparison to your dream house.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

I've always lived west of the Mississippi (except for the one year I lived 4 blocks east of the Mississippi). I actually lived in the middle of "Indian Territory" for several years. Some of the most beautiful scenery and some of the nicest people you will ever meet. I'd move back if my husband didn't have such a good job where we are now. There are a few states west of the Mississippi that have no state income tax. I know a lot of people who have retired to those states so that their retirement money can go further. The mountain states are beautiful!

We are just getting serious about buying a new home after talking about it for about 6 years. We just talked to our realtor today and are going to see a house on Monday!! Is it funny that the house we are considering is about 12 houses away from ours? Our kids are still in elementary school so our "dream" home is more functional than anything. 4-5 bedrooms (with 3 on one floor), a big kitchen, a 3 car garage (for 2 cars and all the bikes, scooters, snow blower, lawn mower, etc), a nice fenced in backyard (the kids want to be able to get a dog and to have trees so they can put up a zip line), a bar area (not for entertaining--for a science lab/art space for the kids since I'm tired of constantly having to clean things off the kitchen table), in the right school area so we don't have to change schools.

My true dream home is a lot different! Cozy little home with a library, nice kitchen, small acreage, lots of trees, a creek or river on the property, mountain or ocean view, no close neighbors, within driving distance of a small to mid-sized city (less than 500,000). I'd love to have a much simpler life. sigh.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I'd wait till the kids were out of high school and then you can move anywhere.
I have to say we've got our dream home!
3 acres, 4/5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 3 car garage - it's a ranch (one level) except for a media room upstairs.
We have a front porch and a back porch, plenty of room for any sized veggie garden we want.
We're 30 min away from the beach.
I like to think we're where we are going to be until we die of old age.

Big and somewhat empty I like but we need to downsize our stuff.
Guess I'll end up doing like my mom did and when our son gets a house of his own - I'll mail him my house one box at a time.
It's tradition!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

If I remember right, your boys are close in age to my 2 kids. We have 3 more years before the youngest is out of high school. We will make no plans to move until that happens. And after that, anything could be worth discussing. Our youngest plans to move a good distance away... we are in the far coastal south, she is talking upper midwest. So.. We might decide to move to our Tennessee Mountain dream place after all. Our eldest is in no hurry to move far away. Didn't even choose to go away for college (same town, but dorm living anyway). So, who knows where he'll end up.

I'm not planning to chase my kids all over kingdom come, but I don't want to be a plane flight away if I don't have to, either. Weekend trips are nice. :)

But, if you are just ready for change, and are so close to really being able to MOVE locations (not just houses), then I'd paint or redecorate for the meantime. And make bigger, more substantial plans for a few years down the road.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Since you moved around a lot you know the difficulties children can face. Do you want to uproot them at this point? So I'm with hubby as far as staying in the same school district.

Another thing to consider, do you want to buy now? You could buy a house now in the same area, only to discover in 4 years when the kids are off on their own you want to relocate.

And what about size? 5 bedrooms??? Ok maybe now, but what about in 5 to 7 years?

I think you and hubby need to have a long discussion and make sure you both have the same plans for both now and the future

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I absolutely LOVE my home! However, the older I get the more sick I am becoming of cleaning it. (My kitchen/morning room floor is huge and the whole back of my house is windows) I guess I envision downsizing at some point (I also hate the fact that our school taxes are so high too). I would like a ranch house with high ceilings and a studio for my mosaic art. Any house I own I want to keep our hot tub outside. I also hate the snow so I would love to live somewhere with mild winters. My husband will never move that far from his parents however and I really don't know where I would want to go. I'm thinking at some point we will go to Florida for the winter and downsize our house in this area. I know I like living in a neighborhood. I think we will also have to build a custom home to get what we want.

(I felt like I moved a few years ago when we replaced the carpet with hardwood and added 2 miles of moulding to our house. We also replaced the steps. The contractor just took them out with the carpet on and all and then carried in the new wood steps and installed. I wish I could attach a photo on this site. It was amazing.)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

My dream home is one in a metropolitan area with mass transit a thriving art and restaurant scene good live music and in spitting distance to both beach and skiing. It would have two baths, three bedrooms, high ceilings, a modern but enclosed kitchen, a generous balcony and no outdoor maintenance. (Apt or home owners association). It would have underground parking and be in walking distance of shops, parks, friends and family.

Hubs would be happy in Colorado or in any town near "proper mountains" where he could do some motion practice in the morning and go ski in the afternoon.

Do you really want such a large house with your boys nearly off to college? Just a thought.

F. B.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I don't have a dream home in mind, but I do have a dream studio apartment. You know, just for myself, in my fantasies. It has lots of light, french doors which open onto a balcony covered with plants, very airy and a small kitchen to fix up a little repast. Just a place to go, write, sit and think, listen to music uninterrupted, maybe do some drawing and painting at a table. No cat hair. No one to ask me to do anything. Introvert's Paradise. (I nearly always lived in studio apartments until I moved in with my husband. Love them.)

As for now, very happy with our cozy little 1920s bungalow, garden and neighborhood. I went to 14 different schools growing up and moved nearly every other year as an adult, so I love being here. 14 years and counting, love the sense of permanence. Just wish for a proper linen closet. :)

Advice-- stay until the boys are out and gone. Shifting schools in HS is too hard. (I did it twice.) Then, the world can be your oyster. Do you want a home to live in until your older age? Maybe consider a duplex for the extra income. My folks are converting their basement to a separate apartment for that reason-- someone to help pay the mortgage in upcoming years. Think about long-term, what does that look like in regard to physical needs for yourself in regard to the house? I know that, at some point long away in the future, we'll move our bedroom back down to the ground floor because the stairs to our attic master bedroom are steep. So, that's what I think about when I think of 'house for the future'-- mobility and safety, manageability.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I think I would wait 4 years till both boys are done with high school. Then I would entertain the idea of moving. Four years will go by in a flash. My dream home is small and rustic...wide planks of wood, wood beams, slate, charming nooks, a room of floor to ceiling book shelves, a woodstove, a sauna a short walk away in the woods, a great deck or patio with beautiful gardens of veggies and flowers, a screened in back porch, the forest and ocean outside. And it must get snowy winters so I can cross country ski from the house onto my own trail in the forest! Definitely in the west.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I never thought I'd like Georgia. Turns out? I love it here. The humidity sucks, it's not year round.

My dream home? I think I live in it. We've got land and everyone has their own bedroom. Our boys can ride ATV and dirt bikes out back. We have a pool and for Southern summers? You need one! We were VERY fortunate in finding this home! I know our boys will be leaving in a few years and it will be a big home to take care of. I don't see us moving.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

i am a stayer. i hate moving, i hate getting used to a new place. i like to get my stuff settled and i like keeping stuff the same. my hubbs is wanting to move. we have been her about 4 years. i don't want to move. i love the house, the neighborhood, i love my yard. if theres no valid reason to move they why do it? only reason we moved was for more room and a better neighborhood. now we have plenty of room, and a great neighborhood. i am staying. (told the hubbs that if he wants to move he can pack up and do all the work since i did that last time while pregnant and nursing a newborn (i was pregnant when we bought the new house, and she was 4 months when we were finally able to move in after the remodeling was done)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Hey! We have that in common! My dad was "corporate" and we moved every 3 to 4 years!! My mom always said when it was time to paint, it was time to move!!!

My husband says I get "moveites" every 3 to 4 years. I have wanted to moved for years out of our old home. I wanted a one story.

We built our new home and moved in it in April. It has 4 bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths, a study and gameroom. Its 3400 sf. ALL one story and very open concept. I LOVE IT!!! I just need to get the pool installed!! hahaha!! My husband isn't too keen on that!! Whatever!!

We waited to move because I couldn't afford the new house and put two kids through college! So we waited until the boy graduated. We moved in April and he graduated in May!!! =)

Funny story - my parents moved to Arizona in the late 1990s. My mom was at a meeting and a friend said "I'm going back east tomorrow". Of course, when someone says "I'm going back East" you think East Coast. Nope, she was going to Louisville, Kentucky!!! Its all prospective!! I have lived North, South East and West. I prefer the South. When my folks lived in CT, I thought half of those folks when drown every time it rained because their noses were so high up!!! =)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

My dream home is actually the house I'm in now but back in my old neighborhood. My old house was great for everything except the house itself LOL - kind of important. We lived on a side street in walking distance to everything and had pretty landscaping, a fenced-in yard and an in-ground pool. If I could wave my magic wand, I would buy back that lot and the lot next door to give myself more space and a corner lot and update the pool to a more modern style and update the landscaping/hardscaping to something more contemporary. Oh and there would be a sunny space for a nice garden.

Then I'd build a house just like the one I'm renting (or have a house moved). The house I'm renting is the perfect layout for me - it's an American Foursquare house, which I had never heard of but they were popular in the late 1800's to early 1900's. It's sort of like a Victorian with high ceilings and other period detail but a bit wider (a square) and has a full second floor with a hip roof instead of the slanted roof/second floor of a Victorian. The one I'm in has a large family room added on to the back, plus a great back deck. I would probably add another bedroom on top of that to give myself 4 bedrooms and keep my younger sons from killing each other in the bedroom that they share. I love that it's large enough for us to be functional and comfortable but isn't too large, and it has that nice old house character.

ETA I'm always astounded by points of reference when we talk houses on here. That anyone lives in a house with 5 or 6 bedrooms and more than two bathrooms or on acres of land just blows my mind as those houses are around $1M in my area. I can't even imagine what one would do with so much space. Where I am, 4 bedrooms (real bedrooms, not ones carved weirdly out of alcoves and closets in really old houses) is considered big. It's all relative!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

These are questions you need to think about before speaking with a real realtor to help you get what you are looking for in a home. I say this as a former realtor. Your children may move and you will not be in the same town or state after college.

How long will you be living in the area you are in?
Will your children be going off to college soon?
Do you really need 5 bedrooms to clean in the future?
Will you use our basement or will it become a catch-all for overflow?
Can you update your present home and stay in the neighborhood?
What is your budget for a new house?

Yes, I understand the move every three to four years in the military so you don't get to have excess in the home. If you do have a full house, it is time to move. I have missed six moves (24 years) and my house is stuffed but I can't see moving just to move unless it is a retirement location where I can do the things I want to do. Yes, I need to clean out the house so that it does not look like the hoarders have taken over. I do crafts that require room and am in the process of downsizing them. Hubby has crafts that take up space as well.

the other S.
Retired Military Wife

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I'd wait. High school is enough of a transition without having to be uprooted. My dream home: A pre-war apartment overlooking water. I loved to live in London (I lived in the U.K. for a couple of years), or Italy. My husband's is a rustic cabin in the woods in Portland, Oregon. Clearly, we have some differences there! We live in a 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom house with a 2 car garage and a yard. It is a bear! We essentially live in the living room, kitchen and two bedrooms, the rest is space which is just filled up with stuff we don't use (we're not hoarders, but if you have room, you tend to keep more stuff.) We do all our own cleaning and there is never a point in time when the whole house is clean, the garage is organized and the yard is in good shape. It is never ending stream of washing, dusting, wiping, organizing, planting, shoveling, etc. I'd love just a one floor condo apartment with a great doorman (or W.!)

If you decide to wait till your kids are out of college, I'd think about what kind of life you want. Will you be working outside the home? Retired? In need of income? Focused on developing new relationships or deepening current ones? If it were me, I'd then think about what kind of place you want to live in and where based upon your decisions.

My husband and I have been married for a couple of decade and have many overlapping interests. However, my idea of a great life is filled with attending concerts, plays, seeing museums and his is hiking and making his own furniture!

1 mom found this helpful
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