Life Events

Life events pose a unique challenge because each is a new or infrequent occurrence for which many people have little or no prior experience.

For many, buying a home is the single largest transaction that we will ever make.

Not only is the mortgage likely to draw off a considerable chunk of our paycheck for up to 30 years, but the care and maintenance of a home is equally consuming.

Here is our advice on this topic.
/ Housing / Buying a Home /

Location

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If you work, location is more than views, schools, shopping, and other amenities. One of your primary considerations in choosing a location is the commute that you or other family members will experience.

Before settling anywhere, conduct at least one, but preferably several, commuting dry runs. Few home buyers actually do this, usually much to their later regret. In pursuit of beautiful surroundings, uncrowded areas, attractive home prices, and/or low property taxes, too many people burden themselves with excessively long commutes that sap their strength, render them strangers to their families, and, ironically, leave them precious little time to enjoy their homes.

If you plan to drive to work, make the drive on several different days of the week at around the time you expect to commute. Be aware of intersections where heavy crossing traffic may tie you up. Investigate seasonal traffic, too, especially if you are in a vacation area. Understand how many different routes you can take if you need to circumvent accidents or road closures.

If you expect to commute via public transit, be sure to determine exactly how you will get from your home to your embarkation point for the bus, train, ferry, etc. If this involves driving, be sure that you actually will be able to park there. Too many communities that boast access to public transit fail to inform you that it may take years for you to get off the waiting list for a reserved parking space. The space itself, by the way, may be costly.

Another factor to consider in evaluating your commuting options is the reliability of public transit schedules. By doing your homework you may avoid some nasty surprises. A schedule that looks great and convenient on paper can be a cruel joke if the bus, train, or ferry is habitually late or cancelled. In areas with harsh winters, this may be a seasonal problem.

If you work odd hours, you may have additional concerns. Public transits schedules may not accommodate people who must leave early, work late, or pull overnight sifts that have them commuting against the normal flow of daytime workers. Indeed, many commuter parking lots prohibit overnight parking, or local ordinances may allow the police to suspend parking privileges with little or no advance warning.

Another locational consideration is whether your quality of life varies greatly by time of year. For example, an area that looks
delightful in some seasons can be an overcrowded, grid locked nightmare in others if it is a major vacation or day trip destination. If you can engage in longer-term planning, visit the area at various times of year, both on weekdays and on weekends.

Likewise, an area that looks quiet and pleasant by day may take on an entirely different character by night. Of particular concern should be nearby schools, parks, or parking lots, which can be congregating points for unruly bands of youths, especially in the summer. Once again, better that you do some investigation and observation on your own, rather than meet with some unpleasant surprises.

Weather brings its own set of concerns. In areas with snowy winters, you should be confident that road clearance and snow removal are swift and efficient. If rivers, lakes, wetlands, or the ocean are nearby, you should investigate whether flooding is prevalent, particularly in stormy seasons. Regions prone to severe events like hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes present their own risks that should be fully understood in advance.
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