10 things to know when buying a house in the suburbs.

  1. The very first thing to consider when buying a house anywhere is location – we all know that right? But picking the right location doesn’t just involve finding a great street with lots of friendly families that is far enough from main roads so you don’t hear the noise but close enough that you can quickly get to work, stores, etc. I’d recommend driving the neighborhoods at different times of day to get a feel for it, maybe even chat to some locals whether town is planning a dog park near you,  will there be construction, things like that.
    newly renovated colonial in South Wilton with outdoor fireplace and chef's kitchen
    House for sale in Wilton, CT
  2. Town’s financial state – that cute little town you were eyeing might be struggling fiscally and that might mean bigger taxes down the road.
  3. Town amenities – if you have little kids, you’ll want to look into local playgrounds and preschools. If you have a dog, you’d want to know where the dog parks are. Will you want access to the beach or town pool, perhaps you’d like to get to the nearby cities often, then you’d need quick access to trains or highways.
    children playing by the beach in Wilton, CT playground
    Merwin Meadows playground in Wilton, CT. Photo from Good Morning Wilton
  4. House itself – make sure to distinguish between what you want versus what you need. No house will be perfect and you will have to make some adjustments to get it how you want it. Try to calculate the cost of any upgrades you feel like you need to do and do NOT go by HGTV prices. No where in this country can you remodel a kitchen for $10,000. Permits, plumbing, HVAC systems, windows etc will cost you a lot. On the other hand, paint and light fixtures are relatively inexpensive yet seem to be one of the most often complained about items! Drives me nuts!
    kitchen remodel marble counters and subway backsplash built in appliances
    Drury Design kitchen renovation
  5. Yard – buying a house in a suburbs usually means getting some decent acreage with it. Most of us envision green lush lawn where kids can play but good lawn needs irrigation, weekly mowing, fertilizing, aerating etc. Flowerbeds need water and annual mulching. Your well size is a factor in irrigation. Also, if you have a trees in your yard, consider their age and condition. For example, ash trees have been dying out all over East Coast, these are large trees so therefore their removal and stump grinding could be costly.
    rockwall connecticut garden and landscape design by Janice Parker
    Janice Parker Landscape Architects
  6. Buy in the best school district even when you don’t have kids or are not planning to have any. When buying a house anywhere whether suburbs or urban areas, focusing on good schools will guarantee the house value won’t tank.
  7. Buy the worst house in the best neighborhood ONLY if you, your husband or family/friends are handy. Renovations, especially in nice neighborhoods, are costly and when you start taking down walls etc there will often be other issues that arise, problems you didn’t budget for, not to mention the stress that renovation inevitably brings. Contractors will charge more per zip code, they will assume you have more money. Don’t be surprised if your maintenance cost goes up also. All my friends who have recently renovated their houses tell me they went over their original budget by 30-50%.
  8. Don’t get pressured into buying and think what kind of life you envision having. For example, everyone told us that in Northeast where the summers last 3 months or so pools are a waste of money. The maintenance, heating, etc. BUT if you have kids, what are you going to do with them when its really hot outside? I so wish we had bought a house with a pool, putting one in doesn’t add any value to the house and because of how rocky it is here, installing one will cost upwards of $100,000.
    rectangular pool surrounded by boxwood parterre hedges
    Pool by Glen Gate Company in Wilton, CT
  9. If you can’t pay 20% down when buying a house, rent or consider less expensive home. Shop around and get pre-approved. Make sure you can not only pay for the mortgage but also for repairs and maintenance.
  10. Find a good realtor – someone who knows the town and the neighborhood, who can frankly tell you what upgrades would cost and what resale value they would add. A good realtor will have a network of connections that you’ll benefit from. Most importantly, a good realtor will have great attention to detail and is willing to hustle. Ours knew the history of the house we were interested in (and advised us against another property which had had an oil tank issues previously), she showed up for every inspection, including the 7 am septic tank one which I missed, and walked through before 7 am on the day of closing discovering a leaking ice maker which had broken down right then!
    marion filley team wilton realtors berkshire hathaway
    Marion Filley Team, Berkshire Hathaway
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