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Choose your 'home sweet home' by lifestyle and price

When it comes to buying the perfect home, there's no such thing as "one type fits all."

A young couple planning a family might want a suburban house with a huge yard for romping dogs and youngsters. A single professional who racks up record frequent-flyer miles might consider a low-maintenance condo a "home nirvana," while an empty-nest older couple might find their perfect abode in a planned community that offers extra amenities for seniors.

The one thing all of these folks have in common is that they are part of a growing trend: buyers who are considering their lifestyle needs -- not just a house's price tag -- when they choose "home sweet home."

Fortunately, today's market offers housing options to suit every buyer's fancy, from traditional single-family homes to urban lofts, condominiums and townhouses.

While some people jump into the home-buying process with a very clear vision of the ideal type of home for their families, Terry Hankner, a Realtor in Cincinnati, says most of her clients are still working that out.

"I spend a lot of time asking questions about how they live and how it might influence the home they choose," explains Hankner. "Are they planning a family? Do they routinely have out-of-town visitors? Do they need a formal room for entertaining? Do they enjoy yard work? The answers make a huge difference in the type of home that will fit them best."

Realtor Rick Harris of Ashland, Ore., agrees that developing your home wish list goes far beyond selecting the ideal number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

" To pick the right house, you really need to evaluate your own personality," says Harris. "Are you an orderly person who likes to look out your window and see that all of your neighbors' yards are neatly trimmed? You might enjoy a home in a planned development with landscaping guidelines. Do you want your home to be a refuge, where you can relax without having to do a lot of yardwork? If so, a condo or townhouse might be perfect.

"Or maybe you want your house to express your individuality -- and you don't want any limitations on the way you do so," says Harris. In that case, a single-family home with no homeowners association would be a better option.

Another big issue when choosing your ideal home is privacy. "Some folks are comfortable living 'cheek to jowl,' or very close to their neighbors, as in a condo," says Harris. "Others are not, and need the space that a traditional home on a big piece of land can provide."

Last but not least, consider how much time you want to spend driving. "Many buyers choose a particular neighborhood because it is close to work or, in the case of older parents, close to where their children live," says Dick Gaylord, a Realtor in Southern California's desirable Long Beach area. "If the buyers are set on a specific area, that's great, but they may have to choose the kind of home that is most available -- and affordable -- in that neighborhood."

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