What to look for when buying a house

The location, price, and condition of a home you want to buy may be your initial considerations, but other factors such as the home's features, size, and ambiance will determine how much you like living there once you move in. Start your home search by setting a budget and then move on to other considerations that will affect the day-to-day experience of your new home.

5 min to read

Explore Progressive's editorial standards for Answers articles to find out why you can trust the insurance information you find here.

Things to know before buying a house

It's essential to clarify your top "must-haves" when you begin your house search. You may be surprised at the significant role your emotions play in searching for a home. Getting clear on your priorities and needs at the outset will help you make a smarter decision when buying a new home.

Here is a checklist of things to consider when you're preparing to buy a house:

  • Location: The house's location is one of the most critical factors. Before you start your search, create a list of your must-haves. Think about what areas you might like to live in, consider what they offer, and then compare them to your list. The home's proximity to where you work, schools, shopping, dining, grocery stores, and parks will significantly impact your daily life. Is walkability to these places important to you? Check the house's walk score.

    Also consider the crime rate in the area, the quality of the local school system, and whether the house is in a flood zone. Visiting the area at different times and on different days can help you understand any annoyances you may encounter. You can renovate the house, but there isn't much you can do to change the location, so you need to find an area you like.

  • Know your budget: When buying a house, budget is typically the most important factor. Once you know what you can afford and get pre-approved for a mortgage, you can start your search. Remember that a home's cost is more than just the price. It also includes the down payment, closing costs, homeowners insurance, property taxes, maintenance, and repairs or renovations. You might begin looking at homes near the lower end of your budget to leave room for unexpected costs.

  • Age and condition of the property: When you walk through the house and create a mental checklist of things you'd change, are they minor issues such as paint color or light fixtures? Getting a home inspection is critical to identifying costly, deal-breaking issues such as structural defects, a roof that you'll need to replace, or faulty plumbing, electrical or HVAC system that needs repair.

  • Neighborhood and community: You must like the neighborhood surrounding your prospective home — as this will also impact your quality of life in that home. Is the house on a noisy street with lots of traffic? How does the vibe of the neighborhood feel when you walk around? Is there an HOA, and does the fee you'd pay for maintaining community facilities fit your budget? Home Light suggests that being part of a HOA can boost property value because the rules and restrictions they impose help maintain and beautify the neighborhood, enhance quality of life, and protect property values. If the house is in a historic district, it may limit the changes you’re able to make.

  • Local amenities: Is it essential to live close to a neighborhood pool, tennis courts, or playgrounds for your children? If you're considering condos, is a gym and community room or common area something that appeals to you?

  • Energy efficiency: The American Society of Home Inspectors, ASHI, reports that better energy efficiency leads to lower bills, and even older homes can implement upgrades to improve their efficiency and environmental friendliness. The U.S. Department of Energy, DOE, has a tool called the Home Energy Score, which can give home buyers credible information about a home's energy use.

  • Property taxes: As you narrow down your list of prospective home purchases, consider how much you'd pay in property taxes for the houses you like. You can enter the location of a property you're considering into our home affordability calculator, which will help you estimate the cost for a mortgage, homeowners insurance, property tax and other expenses related to owning a house.

  • Future resale value: Look for a property that is likely to appreciate. You might enquire about future development plans for the neighborhood, which could impact property values.

  • Your life plans: You'll want to consider your long-term plans when shopping for a house. If you have children who will soon be going off to college, your plans will be different from a couple who is retiring and looking to downsize their living arrangements. Consider how your lifestyle will change as your family grows or as work demands change.

What to look for in a house

At the end of the day, many homebuyers seek an emotional connection. Not everyone needs to fall in love with a house, but a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) survey reported that aside from the home's location, they are looking for interior style, curb appeal, and a better community and lifestyle when looking for a home. You get to decide on what you want in a house and whether you feel an emotional connection to the homes you walk through.

Buying a house is a major decision and a significant investment. Take your time, do your research, and consider the factors we've shared thoroughly.

Get insurance for your home with Progressive


Compare and customize your coverages and limits when you quote online.

Quote homeowners insurance online

Call a rep

Talk to a licensed representative who can help you quote home insurance.

Call 1-866-749-7436

Through an agent

Connect with a licensed independent agent in your neighborhood.

Find an agent online

Quote homeowners insurance online or call for advice

Learn more about home insurance policies.