Location, location, location...
If you talk to just about any Realtor in the world, they will tell you to buy in a good location. In fact, I can hear some of the old codgers still saying the same old cliche, "location, location, location..." Some Realtors even refer to this "benefit" in their advertising. But what does that really mean? What location is a "good" location? How do you define what is a "good" location?
When I sit down to talk to buyers that I work with, I ask them about what would be the ideal location. Because ultimately, it doesn't matter how good I think the location might be. A good location is best determined by your needs and wants. What might be a good location for you, might be horrible for another person. You know how it goes, "one man's trash...is another man's treasure." When considering buying a home in the Madison area or anywhere else, you should definitely think about location in terms of what's important to you.
One of the first things to think about is, what really matters to you. How important is it for you to be close to work? How close is close enough? Do you want to commute 60 minutes, 30 minutes, or be able to walk? Do you want to be next to an active park like James Madison Park or do you like the serenity of being near Cherokee Park? Is being near a park even important?
Some people feel drawn to an area because of the school district. I don't have any kids yet, so I don't really care to be near a school. But growing up I enjoyed living near the high school. Think about what type of school environment you want for your kids. The school atmosphere is a lot different at the Madison Metropolitan School District versus the small town simplicity of a place like Belleville.
What kind of neighborhood feel do you like? Do you prefer downtown and trendy? Suburban with lot's of kids running around? Some people ask me what are the best neighborhoods in Madison and it really depends on what you want in a neighborhood. The best way to do that is actually get out there and check it out, read about it, learn about it, ask about it. Narrow down what is important to you. Personally I like a more traditional neighborhood with smaller lots and a tight knit community. Other's might like more space in the suburbs. Whatever you prefer, make sure you think about what's important to you in the community before simply choosing a house.
After deciding on the right community for you, it's time to pick the "perfect house". I put that in "quotes" because THERE IS NO "perfect" house. Every house has something that you wish it did or didn't have. I remember talking to my Aunt who owns a house in Richmond Hill, which is a high end neighborhood on the East Side of Madison. She built a brand new custom built home 5 years ago and is now trying to sell her home. "It's too big, I wish I would have done some things differently." At the time she built, she spared no expense because this was her "dream house". I think the point is worth mentioning that people's needs and wants change over time. What might be the "perfect house" today might not be the "perfect house" tomorrow. And that's okay.
Consider a number of things in a house that you can't change (very easily). Wall color can change, light fixtures can change, flooring can change, and fences can be added (usually). Think about a home in regards to what you CANNOT change. How is the floorplan? How is it situated on the lot? Do you like the lot (think about a walk-out basement or lower level exposure, corner or traditional, 5 acres or 1/4 acre). And of course, do you like the location? Because ultimately that's what everyone says matters most. Location, location, location...