The housing market is flooded with countless options. For many, especially first-time homebuyers, the proposition can be overwhelming. Here are nine house hunting tips that will help you get your search underway.
1) Know Your Non-Negotiables
Before you start your home search, it is important to pinpoint your needs and wants. Need at least two bedrooms? Can't live without a breathtaking view? Will you lose your mind if you have to spend more than 15 minutes in your car on your daily commute?
Consider what's most important to you and make a list of the things that are non-negotiable in your prospective home.
[Editor's Note: After living in a literal cave (no windows!) during sophomore year of college, floor-to-ceiling windows are a requirement wherever I live. It's the first thing I tell realtors. "Everything else is up for discussion, but I Must. Have. LIGHT."]
Making a list is vital because when you start looking at houses, certain home features will catch your eye, leading you to want to compromise on your original goals. That Jacuzzi tub might sound like fun, but if the home doesn't meet your other standards, in the end, it's not a good fit. Your list of priorities will keep you grounded and help you narrow down the many choices on the market.
2) Get Preapproved
Talk to your lender to get preapproved for a loan. Preapproval helps to know how much money the bank will lend you and what different loan options will cost. This will give you an educated idea of how much you can spend, so you don't need to worry about falling in love with a house, only to learn that you can't afford it. Also, it makes the negotiation process easier when you are ready to make that leap and make an offer on a new home.
3) Remember the Three Most Important Factors in Real Estate
I don't need to remind you that location is important when it comes to choosing a house. That's why it's helpful to narrow your search by choosing two or three areas where you want to live.
Be realistic with your budget and priorities in mind. If you're planning on sending your kids to public school, it may be worth spending a little more to live in an A+ district. Other location issues to consider: access to public transportation, distance from the grocery store/pharmacy/gas station. Just remember, it's useless to set your heart on a neighborhood where you can't afford a home that fits your needs.
4) Research Home Values
Once you narrow down the neighborhoods, you can begin to research properties in your price range. This is important so you don't overpay and can get the best deal possible on your home.
Once you have an idea of what you are looking for and your budget, you can finally begin to actually look at homes currently on the market. This is the fun part and the internet is a great resource. With searchable MLS listings at your fingertips online, you can enter in all of your needs and find a list of relevant properties, complete with images.
5) Take Advantage of Buying Seasons
If you want the most inventory, the best time to start your hunt is during spring or summer -- this is when most houses go on the market. It's also the time of year when most people are buying a new home, so sellers may be less willing to lower prices or offer closing credits.
If you're looking for the best prices, consider waiting until winter, when real estate sales slow. While there won't be as many options, sellers will be more open to offers they wouldn't have considered earlier in the year.
6) Hire a
Some things are better left to professionals. Real estate agents have all of the resources listed above at their fingertips, plus years of experience that they can use for your benefit. For best results, choose an agent who is a specialist in the neighborhoods you want to move to.
[InvestingAnswers Feature: Why Your ] Isn't Always Working for You
7) Get Mobile -- Sign Up For Alerts
Ask your real estate agent to sign you up for real estate alerts that can be sent right to your email. Many agents have MLS access that automatically emails you when a house that matches your specifications hits the market. That way you can find gems the moment they hit the market.
8) Take Notes/Photos
If you view several homes, chances are after a while they will all begin to look the same. That's why it's important to keep track of the differences between different properties.
Make sure to have some way of writing down your notes, whether it's a pen and pad of paper, or even your cellphone's memo app. Bring a digital camera, or a cellphone with camera capabilities, to take pictures of spaces/features you like or dislike.
9) Don't Wait for Perfection
No matter your budget, you will likely never find the perfect house. That doesn'tthat you can't get a home that is perfect for you and that meets all of your needs.