When looking to buy a home, you’ll probably start searching for one that meets your short-term needs. Maybe your company just went remote, and you want a place with a home office. Or maybe you just had a baby and need more space or somewhere without an elevator.
While it’s great to search for a home that will fulfill your immediate needs, it’s also important to think longer-term. Ideally, you want to buy a home that accommodates you for the next 5 to 10 years – and while that may not seem like a long time, a lot can happen. Moving is exhausting and expensive and breaking a mortgage early can come with financial penalties. While life can never be planned perfectly, set yourself up for success and look for a home that has all the essentials for your anticipated life milestones in the next decade, or one with spaces that can adapt as your needs change.
Here are some things to consider when purchasing a new home.
Size (and Layout)
The size of home you need should be one of your first serious considerations., and must be weighed against your realistic budget. How many bedrooms do you need? If you anticipate having children or a family member live with you for a long period of time, you’ll want to ensure that you have enough bedrooms, or that the existing bedrooms are large enough for children to share. You’ll also want to consider how many bathrooms you need. One full bathroom may be fine in the short-term, but if your family grows that one bathroom may not be sufficient anymore.
Home by Oke Woodsmith Building Systems Inc. – Grand Bend, ON
When thinking about bedrooms, you’ll also want to consider any work requirements. Many companies are adopting a hybrid or fully remote work model, which means a home office could be a huge value add for you.
After you’ve determined your core requirements for bedrooms and bathrooms, it’s time to evaluate what common living spaces will best suit your family and lifestyle. Do you want a formal living room for entertaining large groups? Do you need a second entertainment space for kids? Do you prefer an open-concept layout or the privacy of separate rooms?
Home office by Hardwood Design Builders Ltd. – Winnipeg, MB
Parking needs are often underestimated and can negatively impact your living conditions if not accounted for. Make sure the driveway is big enough to park your vehicle(s) and be realistic about what you want a garage for – if you’re planning on parking in it, make sure the space is big enough. Parking on the street may seem like an option, but consider that many community streets have restricted street parking that could cause you added stress in the winter during snow removal operations, or it might cause friction with neighbours.
On top of the size and layout of your home, there are several other features to consider. It’s helpful to divide these into nice-to-haves and must-haves to help you prioritize during your search for a home.
Accessibility is imperative for those who plan to age-in-place or who have special needs. Perhaps your home should have a ground-floor bedroom if someone has difficulty taking the stairs. Or maybe you need a wheelchair/walker accessible bathroom and kitchen, in which case the rooms must already be wide, or have enough space to make impactful changes during a custom renovation. It’s important to consider the needs of everyone who will be living in your home.
Accessible shower by Effect Home Builders – Edmonton, AB
Entertainment and Leisure
Having flex or hobby space usually requires more square footage, but if your budget allows it’s a great way to make a house a home. If someone in your household plays a musical instrument, a home that has room for a small music studio might benefit everyone. Maybe your mother-in-law who lives with you enjoys crafting – it might be forward thinking to consider a place other than the kitchen table where she can store her things and get creative. And if you have kids, there’s nothing like a swimming pool to keep them busy on a hot summer’s day. Or maybe you have or are looking to get a pet – a dog wash station or kitty den might be special features to incorporate for your furry friend(s).
Next, consider storage. If you plan on growing your family, the amount of storage you’ll need will also grow. Think about whether there’s space in the garage, basement, or elsewhere in the home to house hockey gear, beach toys, cleaning supplies, and more. Or perhaps you’re looking to downsize in the coming years and want somewhere smaller to look after. Take a realistic look at your current and future storage needs and make sure whatever home you choose can accommodate them.
Once your core needs like number or bedrooms and bathrooms are met, you can consider which design elements will make a home more enjoyable. If you’re an avid reader, there’s nothing like cozying up next to a fire with a good book, so a fireplace might be on your “really want” list. If you want your space to feel bigger, higher ceilings and large windows can help. And don’t forget to consider the exterior of the home. Do you want enough space to grow a garden, or do you prefer low-maintenance landscaping? Is there room to expand the outdoor space or build an addition if you need it in the future but plan on staying a long time?
Mid-century modern style living space by Bella Vista Developments – Saskatoon, SK
Finally, you might want to consider what features can be included in your home to make it healthier and more comfortable. If someone with asthma will be living in the home you may want to prioritize enhanced indoor air quality with a tighter building envelope and superior mechanic equipment (HVAC). If the household has a light sleeper or someone who works nightshifts, you might want to consider a home with exceptional insulation and high-efficiency windows to block out exterior noise like barking dogs, road noise, or lawnmowers.
“Woodlands C at Hart Village” Net Zero Home by Terra View Homes – Guelph, ON
A great home in the wrong location is probably not the right home for you, so you’ll want to consider a location that fits your lifestyle and life stages.
First, you’ll want to determine the kind of neighbourhood you want to live in. Are you someone who enjoys convenience and walkability or loves open, vast landscapes? Do you want to live in a new community with modern amenities or an older one with mature trees and unique character?
Work is huge factor in determining the right location for you. If you’re required to travel between home and your workplace, you’ll want to consider the length of commute – whether it be by car or transit, what routes make sense, travel time, and the approximate cost of your commute before purchasing a home. Note: if you do plan on commuting via transit, you’ll want to ensure the home you purchase is in a transit-accessible location to avoid a daily travel nightmare.
Carefully evaluating your lifestyle, job, and future will also help you determine if you want to live in a downtown, suburban, or rural setting.
If you have children or plan on starting a family, you might want to research areas with schools nearby. You’ll also want to consider how your child will get to school – will your home be close to a school bus route, or could your child potentially walk to school given your home’s location? Plus, if you believe you’ll require childcare, you’ll want to look at what’s available in the communities or neighbourhoods you’re interested in.
Simultaneously, you’ll want to look at recreational facilities. Are parks and bike paths on the must-have list for you and your family? Maybe you’ll want to be close to community centres with gyms, public pools, hockey rinks, gymnastics stadiums, baseball diamonds, and more.
And finally, it’s crucial to decide how close you’d like to be to family and friends. If you have or plan on having kids, it might be nice to have family and friends close by to help with childcare or attend Saturday group dinners. Or maybe you’re okay keeping a little distance. Whatever your preference, these are important factors to consider when choosing the location of your home.
As you begin to look at homes and communities, make use of CHBA’s Home Summary Worksheet to keep track of what each home offers you.
You can also use the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC)’s downloadable Home Features Checklist to help you think about and record what you need today, and what you may need in the future.