Driving all over town to look at one dead end house after another can be just plain tiresome. No matter how wonderful your real estate agent is, the prospective buyer is in the driver’s seat and it is their responsibility to communicate their wishes in order to make effective use of everyone’s time. Save time and enjoy the “thrill of the hunt” with these 5 suggestions:
1. Make a checklist
Before beginning your search for the perfect house, create a comprehensive checklist of all of the characteristics you are looking for. The idea is to come up with a personalized form, and print multiple copies to use each time you consider a prospective property. Start with aspects such as location, neighborhood amenities, and school district. Then address specific features that you desire, including home style, square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
Also have a place to note details about what needs to be changed, updated, or repaired. You may also want to have a 1 to 10 rating system to record your overall impressions for: curb appeal, overall appearance, etc. Attach your notes to the listing sheet from your real estate agent to avoid confusion about which house is which.
2. Be organized
Looking at several homes each week can get overwhelming. Do yourself a favor from the start, and invest in a 3 ring binder and plastic sheet protectors. Each time you have a look at a prospective home, use your checklist, take good notes, and photos, and keep everything together in sheet protector or folder for each home. Even if you cross a home off the list it can be helpful to hang on to your notes as they can help you remember what you liked and what you didn’t when deciding whether or not to view a similar property.
Also, become familiar with the offer procedure. Look over a sample contract well before you are ready to buy so you will gain an understanding of the offer process plus what factors and decisions will come into play.
Using online listings is an excellent way to save time and narrow your search. It is easy to see homes on the MLS and even those listed For Sale By Owner. Detailed interior photos, virtual tours, and even YouTube videos, help potential home buyers shop from the comfort of their computer. Some sites will even let you sign up to be notified if a new property meeting your search criteria comes on the market. Be sure to look slightly above and below your target price range. You might fall in love with a bargain or find a higher priced home whose seller is willing to come down some.
4. Examine your finances
In conjunction with house hunting, go ahead and get pre-approved for a mortgage. This will keep things in perspective in terms of what you can afford. Do not confuse pre-approval with pre-qualification, which is just a review of your finances. A lender bases pre-approval on your actual income, debt, and credit history. You should also look carefully at your budget to consider what you can afford for a down payment and as an ongoing monthly payment. If you would like to keep your up front costs to a minimum talk to your mortgage representative about low money down mortgage options such as FHA loans.
5. Build a relationship with your real estate agent
It is important that your agent understand what you’re looking for, and cares about helping you find it. Get to know one another, and if you find that the agent does not understand you or what you want, then find someone who does!
Also establish several modes of communication so that when the house of your dreams is finally listed, your realtor can get in touch with you immediately.