Floor plan check
When you're in love, it's hard to see things clearly. It's also hard to imagine how this new home of your dreams will feel if it's furnished with the pieces you're living with in your current home. Right now, people are migrating from cities in the West and Northeast to our home in North Carolina, and you can got a LOT of house for your money by comparison. So do some size comparisons, room-by-room, of what you're living with now vs what you're considering in this new purchase. A vastly different size of house can change the way your family interacts, the way you spend your time, and the way you spend your cash. Make the decision intentionally, with clarity about what you really want (and what you don't).
You want your new home to mean positive changes for you life! So thinking through the less sezy aspects of owning that fabulous new home can be a good disciplined exercise that puts you face-to-face with the brass tacks of expenses. Feel bold to ask for some good maintenance information from the seller, aspart from basic HOA fees or taxes. How much it cost them the previous year to heat and cool the space? Does the property's size require a maintenance company, and if so, what was last year's tab? Ask your broker (or licensed contractor) to help you work out when you may be looking at the purchase of a new HVAC system, roof, or other big ticket item...and assume that cost as a financial "add" you'll be taking on.
Furniture check (this is your budget calling...)
If you're sizing up, remember you've got to fill all that extra space - and even if not, no two homes are alike (duh). Force yourself to get real about which of your existing furnishings may (or may not) work in your future Barbie Dream House. One way to do this is by taking the floor plan given to you by the listing agent of the home you're considering, and re-drawing the key rooms to scale with a pencil and ruler on your own. Then do the same for your current home. Once you have the two side by side, measure the furniture in those key areas and see if it translates. Your new living room might just not take that old sectional you love, or your current rugs may look like postage stamps in the new place. If you're in for a new furniture plan, and budget is an issue, you're better to have eyes wide open than to come to this conclusion after closing.
Know the big picture
I moved to Durham, North Carolina from New York City in 2001 - and for a short while, everything felt free. Cheap. So inexpensive!! I could hardly believe we'd gone from a tiny one-bedroom apartment to a glorious three-bedroom home with a yard, garden, and screened-in porch. We bought a car! We joined a community pool! We ordered the additional furniture we'd need, and took a vacation to celebrate our good fortune. And then....and then? the sparkle started to fade. Our beer goggles came off. We realized that as the cost of living had decreased, so had the cost of compensation, and we had our own little market adjustment. Twenty years later, I'm in the business of helping people spend their money on interior environments for themselves and their families which improve the way they experience home life. But at all kinds of levels, I see that same old pattern repeat itself: cost of living honeymoon followed by reality check. And it's pretty disappointing to realize you'd imagined this big new home feeling very differently than it does, because you spent your interiors budget on buying more house. Real estate is an investment. But so is interior design, of a different sort. So, if you can bear it, spend less than you're able - so you can have the budget to make it your own.