I'm not even a pretend realtor or someone who understands real estate. I just happen to have been through the process of listing a home, renting a home, shopping for a home and buying a home in the last year.
A few of my friends are house hunting right now and I thought I'd share my two cents on the subject, so take it all with a grain of salt, it's just my own experience!
- Start by talking to friends in your area who have experience with a local realtor. Using a realtor who is experienced and knowledgeable on the market you hope to buy a home in is essential, in my opinion. Our realtor not only lived in the area we decided to buy a home in, she knew about the builders and layouts of certain subdivisions. Jackpot.
- Plan for the future and do your research. Are you planning on staying in this home when you start a family? Do your research on schools in the area you want to buy a home in. Use websites like Neighborhood Scout to learn test scores and general demographic information for the schools in the area. The suburb we live in has seventeen elementary schools in the district. Seventeen! I wanted to do my research to know our kids were going to a great school. A lot can change in a school in the time you're prepping to have a family, but doing your homework can really help you in the long run.
- Be honest with your realtor and listen to their expertise. If you know you can only spend a certain dollar amount, don't try to be a hero just to see homes bigger than your budget. Being honest will ensure your realtor shows you the right homes. He or she may even have suggestions on other neighborhoods where you get more "bang for the buck" if you're willing to step outside the box.
- Use the Redfin app. My husband and I stalked this app like you wouldn't believe. We had it on every device and refreshed it constantly. It was a huge help in our home search. Your realtor will email you MLS listings daily but the interface on the Redfin app and website is so easy to use - it helped us compare homes quickly and find lots of open houses in our area every weekend. We also received notifications when the homes we liked changed prices or went under contract.
- Go to open houses. A LOT. Visiting open houses gives you an idea of the housing market before you're ready to shop with a realtor and gives your realtor the day off if you find enough homes in the areas you'd like to live. It is also fun to see homes a little outside your budget to learn why they are worth more and what upgrades put them in that category. Seeing how they are decorated will also give you ideas for your future home!
- Give it time. This is the hardest one to swallow, because the minute you decide you're ready to buy a home, you want to move in that moment. House hunting can take a long time (it took us months of serious looking, we'd been casually looking for years) and rushing it will only build frustration.
- Get your funds ready. If you're planning on putting 20% of the total home purchase down on the home you buy, fluff up your savings account so you have that amount plus emergency living expenses and house hunting expenses. Home inspections are a must whether you're buying a foreclosure, short sale or traditional sale home. Knowing what you're getting yourself into before you sign on the dotted line will really help you down the road. Whatever items the inspector finds in the home inspection, plan a budget around fixing them. They may not be "emergency fixes" - as in you can live in the home without doing them - but trust me when I say, you will find things to spend money on in your home. Take care of the suggested inspection issues first before they become emergencies.
- Don't fall in love. We made several offers on several homes before we found the right home for us. I fell in love with every home we saw that had granite counter tops and a walk-in closet but you know what? Our home has neither of those things. The right home will find you, so be patient and make smart offers. Don't fall in love with the details of a home, make offers on homes in the right location with the right amenities for your family. You will turn it into your home in no time! Cosmetics can change - location cannot.
- Adding onto the "don't fall in love"....Don't panic. When you find a home you love online, don't panic and think "It's going to sell before we can see it!!". Do your research (using Redfin or some other real estate app/website) and learn the history of the home. This research will save your realtor time if you do it yourself - learn when the home went on the market, what the original asking price was and what school districts it is in. Homes with beautiful finishes can shock you and be on the market for months to years before getting scooped up. So relax, your home will find you.
Been there, done that? What tips and tricks did you find most useful in your home search?