House hunting can be a long and arduous process—but it’s also fun and exciting. The closer you get to finding your dream property, the more realistic the prospect of homeowning becomes. But with so many emotions flowing, it’s important that you don’t let your feelings get in the way of rational decision making. Buying a home is a large investment, so it’s important that you align your enthusiasm with an equal level of detachment. To help you better navigate the process as first-time buyers, here are a few house hunting tips that will go a long way during your search:
Stay Within Budget
Even after you’ve been given a proposal letter, you have to really hone in on a realistic budget as you start to house hunt. Your lender will determine how much they believe you can afford, but you also have multiple other factors to consider, like homeowners fees, groceries, maintenance, emergency repairs, and other costs. Save yourself the financial stress later down the line by avoiding maxing out on your mortgage.
Sometimes, you walk into the perfect house with a great layout that’s valued at an ideal price. But because the current homeowner has bad decor, outdated furniture and finishes, and other unwanted elements, it’s difficult for you to look past it. It’s crucial that you always take a mental step back and know the difference between easily-fixed features and permanent ones. For example, if you hate the look of your kitchen cabinets in a home—but the structural integrity is just fine—a fresh paint job and new hardware could be all you need to completely transform the look and feel of the space.
Pay Attention to the Neighborhood
While your real estate agent will help you determine the best neighborhoods for your needs, it’s important for you to do your own research, too. If you have children, you’ll want to be in an area with good schools, playgrounds, and various recreational activities. It also helps to explore the area on your own once you’ve decided to shortlist a property; you might decide to take a walk in the area, or venture out further in your vehicle.
Pay attention to commute times, local businesses, and the neighborhood feel. You should also search for online forums, groups, and websites that are centered around the neighborhood. This gives you the chance to gain an insider’s perspective of a community, and connect with others to solicit honest feedback and advice about the area.
Create a “Needs” and “Wants” List
Every home seeker should create a needs and wants list to help them prioritize what they’re looking for. As you search for different homes, it’s easy to get lost in the details, but when you have concrete lists for both your needs and wants, it’s makes it quantifiable. If there’s a house that you like, pit it against your list to determine how it stacks up against the other homes on your wishlist.
Don’t Forget Your Real Estate Agent
Choosing the right real estate agent is imperative. Your agent will shape your entire house hunting experience. It’s not uncommon for potential buyers to believe they can save money by foregoing the agent. After all, a huge chunk of the home search is now online. And therefore, home buyers will assume they can shortlist and tour their own homes.
But the truth is, there’s so much more to the buying process than picking homes to see. The real estate process can be very tricky for a first timer, with plenty of paperwork, fine print, inspections, market valuations, and other factors to consider. You’ll save yourself plenty of time and headache when you have someone to help guide you along the way.
Leverage Your Open Houses
Open houses are a great way for you to not only explore a home and speak to the seller, but also to get a feel for how popular a property is on the buyer market. While there, keep an eye out for interior details, like water stains, cracks, and mold. It’s these little details that often speak volumes for the structural integrity of the home.
When it comes to homes that are popular on the market, you should also take some time to stand out from the rest; head over to the seller’s agent and have a genuine and candid conversation—remember, it doesn’t always have to be real estate-centric. The idea is to make yourself memorable. Because in the event that the buyer gets multiple similar offers, it may come down to preference for the people making the purchase.