Buying a house can be a joy or a disaster, but making it an enjoyable process is largely about preparation. Here are five steps to help you hunt for your dream home.
You may know that you’re looking for new homes in Houston, affordable condos in California, or just a nice house in a city near good career opportunities, but you’ll need to narrow it down farther to really begin your hunt. Figure out your ideal neighborhoods by researching school quality, local crime rates, proximity to important locations, and so forth. That way you can narrow your search substantially before you even begin. Remember, though, that although it’s reasonable to work through several neighborhoods in your hunt, trying to evaluate every house in a large urban area can be exhausting.
Once you know the neighborhoods worth hunting through, you can use various online tools and the knowledge possessed by local real estate agents to find the details of past sales. Look for homes that are similar to the type of house you want to buy, that are in your most preferred neighborhoods, and that sold within the last six months. What you discover will set you on solid ground when making offers on your home of choice.
You’ll need to have chosen your house before everything is finalized, but knowing that you can get approval at a specific rate puts you in a position of strength. Taking this step also means that you can choose your maximum price based on the actual mortgage rates you’re offered. That way, you can narrow your search further by eliminating any homes that fall above your maximum price.
One danger of the home hunt is getting attached to an imaginary “perfect home.” If you’re not careful, it’s easy to turn down anything that doesn’t meet sometimes unrealistic expectations. The perfect house at the perfect price won’t drop into your lap, and adopting such a strategy of “maximizing” has been found to lead to lower happiness and less satisfaction with your home purchase. What you can do, however, is decide exactly what will meet your core needs.
Create a checklist of features about which you’re not willing to negotiate, then work with real estate agents to find homes that meet your needs. With this list, you can narrow your search by ignoring houses that don’t meet these needs.
This final step will help you choose from the many houses that satisfy both your needs and desired location. Decide up front how much any given feature is worth to you. That way, you’ll have something concrete to latch onto when deciding whether the house with the porch and walk-in closet is really worth the extra $20,000 or whether you’re really willing to give up that fourth bedroom to save a few thousand.
Finding and buying a home is a big task, but it’s certainly within your capabilities. As with any other hunt, preparation is the key to success. Following these five steps will help you track down and lay claim to your dream home.