6 crucial, overlooked factors in renting or buying a home

Domestic living room (focus on side table beside window)Title:   Domestic living room (focus on side table beside window)Cre
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Are you overlooking crucial factors in your search for a home? Both renters and homebuyers consider factors like the bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage and rent or mortgage payment. But these aren't the only qualities that will determine whether a home is the right fit.

These six often-ignored factors can make a massive difference in how happy you'll feel with a property.

1. Sunlight

Sunlight has been scientifically proven to affect your mood, productivity and energy levels. If every room in a house has high, narrow windows (or few windows at all), you could find yourself living in a pretty gloomy atmosphere.

In addition, if your windows are north-facing, you'll get less sunlight than those with south-facing window exposures (assuming you live in the northern hemisphere).

You can supplement lack of natural light to some extent with lamps and overhead lighting, but it's not the same. There's no substitute for natural light.

2. East- and West-Facing Rooms

Speaking of natural light, you also want to bear in mind which direction your home is facing, as this will affect the amount of sunlight certain rooms get throughout the day.

If the kitchen is on western side of the house, for instance, your kitchen will heat from the afternoon sun, meaning the kitchen will be hottest right before you return home from work. That's unpleasant, especially since the heat from the oven and stove will also cause kitchen temperatures to rise. In the summer, this one-two punch of heat might tempt you to dine out more, which can affect both your health and your finances.

Likewise, bedrooms that have eastern-facing exposures may get direct sunlight early in the morning – which can be either a positive or negative feature, depending on whether you're a morning bird or a night owl.

3. Walkability to Local Amenities

The more you can walk to local attractions like stores, restaurants and schools, the less dependent you'll be on owning a vehicle. This can mean lower gas bills (and other auto savings) for you, as well as an overall healthier lifestyle. It can also make you feel more connected to your community.

4. Commute Time

Is buying your "dream home" worth spending an hour fighting traffic to reach work everyday? We spend enough of our lives at work as it is; cutting into your personal time even further with a hefty commute can make you miserable, even if you live in the nicest of houses.

If the home you're considering is close to your current workplace, how long do you plan on staying at that job? What are the most likely neighborhoods where your next job might be held?

5. Neighborhood Noise and Activity

Visit any property you're considering at different times of day to get a feel for when the neighborhood gets busy. You might find it's hectic and noisy during rush hour, or that the streets fill up on the weekends because you're located close to shopping and dining attractions. You might notice that the sidewalks are bustling with people during the daytimes but not late at night, or vice versa.

Make sure the ebb and flow of the neighborhood's energy levels match your own, or you could find yourself resenting your location.

6. Layout

If you work from home, is the office right next to the family room, where your kids will be roughhousing and shouting?

Will guests have to walk through your bedroom to access the upstairs balcony?

Is the bathroom directly off the kitchen, and will any resulting wafts or aroma cause you or your guests to feel grossed out?

It's not just the number of rooms in a house that matters; it's also the layout of those rooms. Make sure the flow makes sense for your needs and won't cause awkward or annoying situations.

Remember, when you're searching for a home, obvious criteria like the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage and price will remain at the forefront. But non-obvious factors, such as natural light and neighborhood noise, will make a massive impact in your day-to-day experience. Weigh these with the importance they deserve.
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