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Beat buyer's remorse: 5 things to consider while house hunting

Here are the things we wish we'd thought about before purchasing a home.

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Getty Images

Buying a home is exciting. Despite the tedious and stressful circus of financial approval, house hunting, making an offer, getting through inspection and making it to closing, it's a great feeling when you finally have the keys in your hands. 

Our CNET Home editors represent a variety of home buying experiences, and we each have a few things we'd do differently next time around. Here are five things we think you should consider before signing on the dotted line. 

Consider resale value

It's tough to imagine selling a home you haven't even purchased yet. You might assume the home you're currently shopping for to be your forever home. It's still wise to keep in mind that life is unpredictable. You could find yourself ready or needing to move unexpectedly in five or 10 years. Even if you're relatively certain you're staying put long-term, it's still important to consider resale value when purchasing a home. 

That means thinking about all the things the average buyer would look for. Is the neighborhood safe and well maintained? Does it back up to an undesirable feature like a highway or railroad track? This also includes thinking about school systems, even if parenting isn't in your plan. A home that's zoned for a good school will be more appealing to potential homebuyers with children.

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Think about your furniture

No, you shouldn't purchase an entire home based on where the couch will go, but it is important to visualize your belongings in a space. Do you have a billiards table or pinball machine collection that needs dedicated room? Maybe you've inherited a beautiful eight-person dining set that you'd never afford on your own, and it needs a sizable dining room. Finding out after you've moved in that you need to purchase different furniture or get rid of prized pieces can be frustrating and expensive. 

The same goes for large belongings that need space on your home's property. "I currently have three cars, a motorcycle and three trailers I'm trying to fit in my driveway," said our Labs Manager Steve Conaway. "They don't." 

Take a few measurements and photos and then take inventory of the large items you absolutely must keep and consider where they will (or won't) fit in a would-be home.

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Brian Bennett/CNET

Property maintenance and HOAs

That gorgeous, stately brick home might be what your dreams are made of, but are you prepared to spend multiple weekends a month mowing the large lot or paying hundreds of dollars each year for someone else to do it? If the property comes with a garden or beautiful landscaping, those features will also require upkeep (or removal and replacement if you get rid of them). That outdoor maintenance is important to consider. 

It's also smart to look into any Home Owners' Associations associated with the property and include them in your cost calculations. If you're likely to land in a neighborhood that has one, take a look at the HOA bylaws if possible to learn exactly what is regulated. Will you need to maintain your lawn or landscaping in a certain way or at a specific interval? Are there limits to the changes you can make to your home's exterior appearance? Make sure you're ready to play by the rules before you become part of that community. 

Remodels and updates

It's likely you'll be excited to make your new home feel more like you: Changing wall colors, arranging your furniture and hanging your favorite pieces of art are all fun ways to make a house feel more like home. Bigger projects, however, need to be taken with a grain of salt. 

It's easy to imagine all the creative ways you could transform a space, but be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. If you're considering removing walls, refinishing floors or remodeling bathrooms those costs can add up and need to be factored into your budget and timeline.

Read more: 7 things to do to your new home before you move in

Do you have time to continue living in your current place while updates are made? Once you've moved in, major remodels and updates will mean moving and covering furniture. Will there still be cash left over for emergency issues like replacing a water heater? Inspections can reveal a lot of potential fixes that loom in your home's future. 

"I'm very glad we got a house with projects, but nothing urgent or huge," said Staff Writer David Priest. "Because the other option was a house where we would've had to immediately rebuild the whole kitchen, and I'm so thankful we didn't end up doing it. The smallish projects we've taken on have proven more than enough for now." 

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Megan Wollerton/CNET

Expandability for people or pets

A one-bedroom condo might be perfect for you right now, but what will your household look like in five years? It's tough (okay, impossible) to know what your future holds, but buying a home is a long term commitment. If you're considering pets, you might need to search for a home with a spacious backyard. If children could be in your future, you'll need a second bedroom and you'll want to consider the local school system. If you think you might someday provide elder care for an aging family member, your home needs a space that could be made accessible. 

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That's a lot to think about, and it gets even harder when you fall in love with a home that meets your right now needs, but doesn't provide for future plans. That could be okay, too, as long as you're willing to repeat the home buying process when that next phase of life comes along.