In any market, price has to come first. To determine what you can comfortably afford, take to your Realtor. She can recommend a lender who will prequalify you for a mortgage loan. When you know how much you can spend, it will be easier to shop for homes within your price range.
The size of your family and your activities determine the features you will want in your next home. The number of bedrooms, bathrooms and living areas are a matter of comfort and convenience. You may want an extra bedroom for guests or a second master suite for parents.
If you work at home, you'll want a private home office or a computer nook. You may want a playroom for the kids, a separate laundry area, and a fenced yard and covered patio or deck for entertaining. Perhaps an eat-in kitchen is more important to you than a formal dining room. You may even desire an outdoor kitchen for entertaining.
Think about your daily life from morning to bedtime and how your next home can make these activities more pleasant. This should be your "must-have" list and will help you look at homes more objectively.
What is the best home you can find in the area where you want to live? If these homes are out of your price range, you can compromise...buy a smaller home or a home that needs lots of work in the best neighborhood you can afford.
Condition refers to the state of repair. Does the home curb appeal? Is it updated and well-maintained or does it need extensive and expensive remodeling. Don't forget to consider any deferred maintenance, such as a roof that may need to be replaced soon. Also, consider the design and functionality...is the kitchen too small and would you be able to afford to remodel it? Look closely at repairs, cleanliness and room layout.
The one advantage of buying a home that needs updates and repairs is that these properties cost less than updated homes in the same neighborhood.
Be prepared to compromise. Don't frustrate yourself or your family looking for the perfect home. Sometimes the home of your dreams does not have to have every feature on your checklist, or it may be a bit further away from your favorite neighborhood, but you'll be happy if it has most of the criteria you want at the price you can afford.