House Hunting: 10 Tips for a Smoother Home Search
House hunting is one of the most exciting parts of the home buying process. But it’s also where a lot of first-time buyers make mistakes. Without a solid plan in place, the house hunting process can be a lot of effort with little reward. That’s where this checklist comes in!
Here are ten tips to help you get the most out of your house hunting experience.
1. Create a Realistic Checklist
Get out a sheet of paper, put on your “realism” hat, and start writing down the things you need in a home versus the things you want. You can organize them on the page however you like, as long as you separate the needs and the wants. Put a box next to each item, and then make photocopies.
When you visit a home, take a copy of the checklist with you and write the home’s address at the top. Then move through the house and check off what it does and does not offer. This will help you remember which house had what, especially when you’re looking at many properties.
2. Be a Proactive Hunter
Your real estate agent will help with the house hunting process. (You are using an agent, right?) But don’t rely solely on your agent. Go out there and do some hunting yourself. Check out the websites listed below for starters, and then start driving through neighborhoods and communities.
3. Get Web Savvy
The Internet can reduce your house hunting time by 50% or more. By previewing homes and researching neighborhoods online, you can weed out the ones you don’t want to visit. This will save you time, energy and gas money! At a minimum, check out Realtor.com, Trulia.com, and Zillow.com. If you’re considering foreclosure homes as well as regular listings, check out RealtyTrac.com as well.
4. Play Detective
When visiting a home, don’t be shy about asking the sellers (or their agent) plenty of questions. Be friendly about it, but be thorough. Likewise, feel free to do a reasonable amount of “snooping.” Don’t violate the seller’s privacy — just be sure to look in all the dark corners, the basement, tools sheds and the like.
5. Validate the Asking Price
If asking prices were set in stone, they would be called “selling prices” from the start. But that’s not how it works. You should always compare the asking price of a home to recent sales in the area. Your agent should be expert at providing such “comps” to help you validate (or debunk) the seller’s asking price.
6. Visit During Rush Hour
That peaceful property you visited at 10:00 in the morning might be totally different at 5:30 in the evening. By visiting a home during rush hour, you’re evaluating two things at once. First, you’ll find out if traffic snarls make it hard to enter or exit the neighborhood. Secondly, you’ll be able to judge the noise factor at its loudest time of day.
7. Test the Drive
While we’re talking about rush hour, why not test out the morning commute to your work? It might seem silly to do a rush hour commute from a home you’re only considering, but think about how much time you’ll spend commuting day after day. It’s a major quality-of-life issue, so it deserves some consideration.
8. Look into the Future
Will that beautiful meadow across the street be a shopping center or a highway in two years? You won’t know unless you do the research. Talk to the city or county to find out what their plans are for the area around the home. Don’t expect the sellers to volunteer such information, because it’s not in their interest to deliver bad news about the neighborhood. Nor are they required to provide such information.
9. Bring a Digital Camera
Digital cameras are ideal for house hunting. You can take pictures of the homes you visit and save them in labeled folders on your computer. Which home had the swimming pool? Which one had the wood floors and crown molding? Just look at the photos and you’ll remember.
10. Bring a Devil’s Advocate
When visiting a home that could potentially become your own, it’s easy to be emotional. That’s good and bad. Sometimes, emotion has a way of clouding our better judgment. You can counter this by bringing a friend or family member along on house hunting trips. In addition to keeping you company, a “disinterested witness” can offer an objective point of view. This is crucial when making such a large purchase.