A tangle of emotions whirl around when leaving a home and searching for a new one. Here are just a few things to keep in mind when looking for your new ‘home sweet home’. Visiting the towns and local spots, talking with the people who live there, and taking videos and pictures in each season can help shape an impression of an unknown town. Pro-con lists, research, and the natural instincts of the senses can help you decide where you’re next nest will be. We’ve been living this process, and thought we’d share a few things that we find helpful when looking at each property listing. Stay tuned for more Sustainable Home Design journal posts. This info also appears in my Design Book Collection. Most of these tips are still good for city apartment hunting, too! Happy sweet spot searching! XOXO ~Amor Milagre
A few practical shopping tips to keep in mind when looking for a new house or land:
~Location: Is this the area you want to live in? Is it close to your basic shops? But, is it too close to neighbours, highways & major roads, or louder, polluted areas? Is the surrounding area likely to be developed into commercial shops or subdivisions? Is this area in line with airplane routes or power lines? Would your home be close to a hospital, police & fire dept, doctor’s office, dentist, and what you find important for staying healthy and in the case of an emergency? Is this area near bodies of water where you can exercise naturally and swim seasonally? Can you walk or bike to work or town? Where are the grocery shops, and do they have organic food shops that support local farmers? What are the surrounding towns, and what can they offer your lifestyle and weekly routines? What are the schools, regular attractions, and seasonal festivals like? If you homeschool, do the schools allow you to participate in specific classes or groups? How far is your commute? Are there local restaurants where you can celebrate special occasions? Do they have options for your kind of dietary choices/needs?
~Health: Does this area have fresh air and peaceful, natural sounds? How quiet is the area? Do the neighbours fix cars, chainsaw, use/ride loud tractors or motorcycles? Do they have roosters or loud pets? Can you sleep well at night or have quiet naps in the day for children and people with illness? Whether you’re planning on living there a short or long time, is this a healthy choice for your lifetime? Does the house or land have strong scents? If you’re allergic to pets/dust/mold, does the house irritate your sinuses and lungs? Does the land smell of farm animals from previous owners? Does the smell worsen during rain and warm seasons? What is in your control and how can you live somewhere new that is healthy for your specific needs? What is the barometric pressure like and how often/quickly does it change (for migraines)? Is there a good sunny space for organic gardens and a place to unwind? Can you safely go on walks on the land or nearby? What is the empathic feeling of the house/land: positive, negative, or both? Can you find history notes about the area? What is the energy of the place?
~Maintenance: How well can you maneuver on the roads in the winter? Do they plow well and often? If a private road, can you plow or hire someone reliable and nearby? Would this land require too much maintenance for you to personally take care of?
~Relaxation: What is the feeling of the town? Does it match with your natural, personal mood that you’d ideally like to be in daily?
~Community: What groups can you join or take part in when you like? Are the people generally friendly and helpful? What is the culture(s) like? Do you need to learn a new language? How many available jobs are there in your new area? What can you be a part of there? What kinds of activities do they have for children and holidays? How is the crime rate and how easily can you find help from local systems if you need it? Are there any reported/known offenders in the area? What are the usual lifestyles, customs, activities, and events that some locals subscribe to? Would you be able to find the things you Love to do there? Could you make opportunities for these things there?
~Price: A major factor. Can you afford this area? Finding somewhere that you can afford is important so that you can live at home, and not live at your job, working overtime to afford a certain area. What are the taxes like? If a HOA, what are the annual fees? Is the cost of living in this new area affordable? Does a tomato cost 3X more here than in the next town? If you’re investing in a house that needs a renovation, how much will the reno improve the value of the house if you choose to sell it later?
~House Type: Does the house suit you and your lifestyle? Does the layout suit your needs, family, routines, and space per person? When was it built? Does is smell of smoke, perfume, pets, dust, mold, etc? What condition is the house in: renovate or move in ready for your needs/tastes? What design type is the exterior and interior? How easily and cost efficient could you renovate it to your needs/tastes? How motivated are the sellers? How willing are they to work with you so you may have money to renovate? Can they finish a project before you move in? Would you need to paint, remove wallpaper, redo floors, build additions/ storage/ driveways, pave roads, etc? Which walls are load bearing? What is the condition of the roof, chimney(s), siding, insulation, etc? What are the heating/cooling sources? Is this sustainable and cost-efficient for your annual budget? Is there an air system for fresh air circulation? Are the windows efficient and do they operate properly? Is the electrical up to code? Is there a fire sprinkler system? Does the house lot need better drainage to avoid leaks and flooding? Is it on a hill that could result in a landslide? If in a place that is prone to high winds, is the house flexibly built to withstand the strain? Is the driveway flat to reduce wintery accidents? Where is the mailbox? Is the street safe, busy, easy to find/turn into your driveway? What is the flow and ease of use for the rooms? Does it feel like someone else’s house, or with some changes/your belongings, could you see yourself living there? …..+
~Land Type: Is the land flat, steep, hilly, uneven, rocky? Is the bedrock exposed or close to the surface which could require blasting to install the foundation? Is the land marshy, too near brooks, or too buggy? What are the lot lines? What is the slope? How much of the land is naturally ready to build on? How much extra work/money/time would it take to build there? Would the type of land change what kind of building design you could accomplish? What is the climate & usual weather? Walking around the property can really help by seeing if there are half-buried “treasures” and vehicles from previous owners. What is the state of the Natural ecosystem? Is there a good space for wildlife? What are the views: the neighbours garbage cans strewn along the street, piles of antique machines and car parts, or…beautiful water, mountains, fields, or trees? Can you see the sky? How much light will you have, especially on rainy days? How many trees will you leave near the house? Are there natural features such as: brooks, waterfalls, large mossy boulders? Are there old man-made features such as: stone walls, sheds, gardens, etc? Is there a well or a septic system or enough room to put them in? How far is the building site from existing utilities for electricity, plumbing, phone lines, internet, etc? Does the land have good drainage? What is the history of the land?
Whew…and these are just a few…we’re excited to find our new spot and share a fresh batch of building & design tips along the way!
A Few Related Posts:
Music of the Moment: Our House, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young