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What Factors Matter Most When Buyers Are Comparing Two Homes

a couple pointing at property

Given the inventory issues many local housing markets are still experiencing, if you're a house hunter faced with the dilemma of choosing between two attractive, affordable properties—well, that's one of those good problems to have.

Personal preferences and outlying factors will always play a role, but if you want to weigh the pros and cons of each home in question, there are eight criteria identified by the National Association of Realtors that should impact a decision above all else. If you honestly assess each property's strength in these areas and one emerges as a clear-cut, quantifiable winner, your stress may be simplified. Here are the primary factors worth considering, along with any unique circumstances that apply to your family, your job or lifestyle needs.

What's the Cost?

The cost of a home doesn't always come down to the price tag alone. Consider appreciation potential and the amount of money that will need to be put into maintenance and utilities, as well as monthly mortgage expenses, homeowners insurance, title insurance and closing costs. Then, determine whether one stands to cost you significantly more than the other in either the long or short term.

How Big Is the Space?

Whether or not you and your family can comfortably enjoy a home over the course of the next decade is sometimes hard to discern. But consider things like the size of each bedroom, the amount of outdoor space and whether or not there's ample room for all your existing furniture and possessions. Streamlining the amount of stuff you have can be a positive development, but if your family is likely to grow—both literally and figuratively—you'll need to account for which home best fosters that sort of expansion.

Community Concerns

Does one home sit in a much better school district than the other? What do local crime statistics tell you? What sort of access to public transportation will you have, and what sort of amenities, such as parks, restaurants and shopping, will improve your quality of life? In other words, envision yourself settling into the area well into your family's future—if all else is even, this can serve as quite the determining factor.

Consider the Condition

As part of your price analysis, you should assess what sort of work needs to be done and how much it will cost. But there are other repercussions for purchasing a home that might need repair work. If it features older appliances or outdated insulation, those will not only cost you money through excessive energy use—they could also complicate the resale process down the road.

Return on Investment (ROI)

In the same vein—how likely is one property to accrue value over the course of your time spent in it, compared with the other? Take a look at comparable rates of appreciation in the area in an effort to gauge long-term payoff potential.

Day-to-Day Logistics

How far will you have to drive to get you or your children where you each need to be on a daily basis? If one property's location significantly cuts down on commute times, ultimately helping you save gas and money, that's not to be underestimated.

Potential Dealbreakers

Perhaps as weighty as any other criterion aside from price and size is the pivotal "problem area" factor. If one home has a major recurring issue—say, a basement that's highly susceptible to floods—that can be enough to sway a decision in the other direction. It depends on the nature and seriousness of the issue, of course, but you'll have to attempt to quantify the cost and hassle that could be associated.

Add-On Fees

If one home is part of a Homeowners Association, you'll owe HOA dues on a monthly basis. This probably won't make or break your decision, but it's a cost that adds up.

How low will your payment be?