So, you're in the car rolling along and you see it, your dream house. It's nestled among large oaks, or hunkered down along a stretch of beach, or within easy walking distance of your favorite eatery. Whatever captured your attention, it's started you thinking about the joys of home ownership.
You may not be able to afford the house of your dreams first time at bat, but you will want a few of the amenities you've been yearning for. While you're making a wish list of features to share with your real estate agent, check it twice, literally, to make sure that the options you have in mind make monetary and practical sense, too.
A Big Yard
Hey, it's natural to want your first home to be a sprawling property with plenty of yard space. Kids love big yards and pets do, too. Yards have curb appeal (when they look good), and are a nifty spot where you can enjoy an occasional barbecue with friends and neighbors -- the more the merrier, if you have the space.
The only problem with a big yard is that it needs maintenance -- lots of maintenance. The lawns you see in the gardening magazines that look like lush, outdoor carpets are hard work and expensive to keep up. They aren't kid- or pet-friendly, either. If you do invest the time and disposable income maintaining a large lot and well-developed landscape, don't expect to recoup all that money when you sell [source: Cortez].
A Home Theater
The average person spends about five hours in front of the TV every day. It's mighty tempting to invest in a home that has a space dedicated to making the experience more pleasurable. The only problem is that the urban castle mindset of a few years ago is giving way to a more eco-friendly, minimalist vibe. If you want an energy hog for a home and don't mind the fact that you may be sitting on that extra square footage for a while when it comes time to sell, go ahead and indulge yourself. Otherwise, invest the money in a home with solar panels or triple-paned windows instead [source: Nielsen Wire].
Everyone loves a roaring fire for the holidays, but what do you do with dead space the rest of the year? A fireplace can also be a dangerous indulgence if you don't get it professionally cleaned regularly. Oh, and it's a big air polluter, too.
If you're thinking a fireplace will keep you toasty warm and safe when the power goes out on a cold day, consider the fact that most of the heat from burning fireplace logs, more than 80 percent, goes up the chimney and not into your room [source: Progress Energy].
Walk-in Humidors and other Fancy Fare
Even though you have refined tastes that cry out for rare wines, Cuban cigars, home-baked bread and a covered bin where you can grow your own shiitake mushrooms, there's a good chance that the people who come after you won't share your particular enthusiasms.
The more conventional and multi-purpose you keep your choices, the easier it will be to make your space attractive to others later. Go ahead and indulge a little, but this is one area where being average is a good thing.
Stainless Steel Appliances
No matter when you shop for a home, there'll be items that are considered "in" that'll push your buttons. Often, these deceptively enticing elements are in the kitchen. From stainless steel appliances to all wood cover-ups that completely conceal your refrigerator, dishwasher and other conveniences from view, there's always a new trend to tempt you. As popular as these refinements are today, in a very few years, they'll be replaced by other latest, must-have styles. Worse, last year's "in" thing looks dated and drab once it goes out of fashion.
Plain white is the most common refrigerator color sold every year in the United States, and there's a lot to be said for staying with classics that weather wacky fads and still look fresh. Seriously, have you tried keeping fingerprints off stainless steel?
Who knew that dragging your stove and sofa outside would one day be a design trend? Adding a virtual room by utilizing outdoor space, like a porch, used to be a nifty, inexpensive idea. Employ your patio or deck as a kitchen cum family room combo when the weather's good, and you can keep the mess, cooking smells and heat outside.
The only problem is that what started out with a hibachi and a few lawn chairs has morphed into a juggernaut that can cost a small fortune. If you live in an area that experiences great weather for at least three seasons of the year, some indulgence may be warranted. Otherwise, keep your major assets indoors where you can give them the protection they deserve.
Formal Dining Room
Formal dining rooms have style and undisputed grace, but unfortunately, most folks use them infrequently -- like once or twice a year. If your family is into eating in front of the television, and Sunday dinners at your house are courtesy of the nearest drive-through restaurant, a formal dining room may be relegated to monthly bill paying duties and little else. When you're shopping for your first home, put your money into square footage that will serve your needs and add some convenience, like an extra bathroom, a large laundry room or plenty of walk-in closets.
A Library or Sunroom
Both of these rooms have the ability to delight a few and intimidate many. If you aren't into plants and don't read much, then having a library or sunroom in your home is a little like growing an extra toe on your left foot. It's inconvenient and pretty useless.
You may adore activities that would make either of these rooms a wonderful indulgence, but when you move, don't expect most potential buyers to share your passions. To a degree, the same can be said for built-in bookshelves and those little, bump out greenhouse windows, too.
Having outbuildings on your lot can sometimes be an eyesore to others. Oh yeah, they're great for additional storage, but they also broadcast to everyone in viewing range that you don't have enough room for all your stuff inside your house. Worse than that, sheds are notorious for letting their contents get damp and moldy. Instead of a mini Quonset hut on your property, look for homes with creative storage solutions, like attics with stairs and modular overhead garage storage.
Pools, Ponds and Other Water Features
Most people who contemplate buying a home have considered the seductive lure of a water feature. Imagine this: You're sitting near your pool on a hot day with a cold drink in your hand and a great book on your lap. The gently undulating water is casting dappled reflections on the deck, and you can hear bird song in the distance. Ahhh.
The reality is that you probably won't be sitting around the pool as much as you'll be walking around it with a long poled skimmer removing leaves and gunk. You'll also be spending a lot of time adding chemicals and doing other maintenance. Ponds aren't much better. Need we say that any water feature on your lot is also a potential drowning hazard for young children and animals? Although they're great in theory, for these and other reasons, pools, ponds, lakes, creeks and any other outdoor aquatic environments on your property are problematic at best.
Your dream home is within reach. Now it's just a matter of finding and buying it. Here's a handy list of home-buying tips at HowStuffWorks.
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- DeZube, Dona. "Top 10 Updates." HGTV. 2/2/09. 3/2/10.http://www.frontdoor.com/Home-Finance/Top-10-Home-Updates/54706
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- Nielson Wire. "Americans Watching More TV Than Ever; Web and Mobile Video Up Too." 5/20/09. 3/4/10.http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/americans-watching-more-tv-than-ever/
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- Real Estate Investment Brain. "Top Rated New Home Features Most Buyers Want." 2/10/10. 3/2/10.http://www.thereibrain.com/top-rated-new-home-features-most-buyers-want/941/
- Stanton Homes. "Top 9 Home Features in '09." 2009. 3/3/10.http://www.stantonhomes.com/Docs/Top_9_New_Home_Features_In_2009.pdf