These days the amount of information available to home buyers on the internet is remarkable. There was a time when Realtors held all the secrets to home listings and home buyers would have to go through a Realtor just to get access to this information. Now almost everything a Realtor knows about a house is online for anyone to see. This can be a good thing for people who like to do their own research, but it can also be information overload for a lot of people. Having a Realtor can help with the amount of choices you have by weighing in with their professional opinion based on your needs, wants and personality. Realtors come in handy with their market knowledge and they usually know information about a house or neighborhood that isn’t mentioned in the listing. After all, the listing information provided online is simply marketing for the home seller. The listing Realtor isn’t going to mention anything negative about the house, only the good things. If you are doing some preliminary searching on your own, or looking at listings your Realtor has sent you, there are some things you can do to help narrow down your choices if you feel overwhelmed with your choices.
1. Get pre-qualified for a loan.
This is an important first step that most buyers overlook initially. There is nothing worse than looking at houses and finding one you absolutely love and then finding out you can’t afford it. Once you get qualified for a loan you will know exactly what you can afford and what your payments would be like. You will need to be pre-qualified when the time comes to make your offer on a house anyway, so getting it out of the way first means when you find that perfect home you can get your offer in right away.
2. Set your search criteria
The next step is to decide what you are looking for in a house and coming up with what your minimum needs are. If you need 3 bedrooms, then there is no use in wasting time looking at 2 bedroom homes. Initially, I wouldn’t narrow your focus too much. Separate what you are looking for in an ideal house into wants and needs. Focus first on what your absolute needs are such as size and number of bedrooms and bathrooms. If you get a lot of homes coming up as a result of your basic need list, you can start adding in your wants. Wants would be things that aren’t deal breakers, but things you would like in a house. Maybe you need a 2 car garage, but would like a 3 car garage if you could find one. That would be an example of a want. I wouldn’t necessarily set search criteria for items that are easy to add to a house later, such as granite countertops, a swimming pool, all hardwood floors or those types of things. Things like those are relatively easy to add, and if you only search homes that have these features you might miss out on one that is absolutely perfect for you just without an item you can add later.
3. Narrow down your choices
Once you got your search results of homes that meet your criteria, unless you didn’t get that many, you will want to narrow your list down. Most listings these days will have lots of pictures; take a look at them and get rid of any houses that don’t fit your style. You shouldn’t have any problem getting rid of houses that you can’t picture yourself in. Try to look past messy rooms or wild paint in the pictures and look at layout and fixtures. Cosmetic fixes are generally not too expensive and easy to take care of. Once you eliminated the ones that definitely aren’t what you are looking for, go to Google maps or Bing maps where you can get an aerial view of these houses. If your listings include the address of the house, plug each one into the map so you can get an idea of the area the house is in. Scroll around and look at the surroundings of the house. You will want to make sure there is nothing wrong with the immediate area near the house. Is the house directly behind a gas station? Is it located next to a bar? Is it right next to a major road? These are the kind of things you will be looking for. You should be able to eliminate a few more based on this. The final step if you live local to where you are buying a home is to do a drive by of each home. What you are looking for on each drive by isn’t just the house that is for sale, but all the neighboring homes too. Remember the only thing you can’t change about your house is the neighbors and surrounding properties. At this point you should have a reasonable sized list of homes left. I would set up some sort of ranking system so that you know which your top choices are. At this point your next step will be to involve your Realtor so that you can get their professional opinion of each home and schedule a time for you to tour them.
4. Find your new home
Now you should be working with a Realtor, hopefully me; to show you the homes you narrowed your choices down to. A Realtor is a valuable asset to help guide you through the final decisions on choosing a house. When I take my clients on the home tours, unless they are from out of town or they have limited time to find a house, I usually will limit the home tours to 6 to 8 a day at the most. Anymore and people tend to get the homes features confused when trying to remember them, and it can be overwhelming to have to look and think about too many homes in a single day. I will also provide my clients with a copy of the listing for each house with a comment form on the back to help them keep track of what they liked and didn’t like about each house. Sometimes you will find the perfect house in the first go around, sometimes none of these will work out for you. You don’t want to settle for something that you aren’t going to love, so don’t feel pressured to buy the best of the bunch if it isn’t ideal for you. The perfect house for you is out there somewhere.