Table of Contents Hide
- What Should I Do Before House Hunting?
- How to Find a House
- Mistakes to Avoid as a First-Time Home Buyer
- Best House Hunting Websites
- Tips For House Hunting
Especially if you’re a first-time home buyer, the house-hunting experience might be exhilarating. Perhaps you’ve spent years establishing your financial profile while saving for a down payment. Perhaps you are about to begin a new entrepreneurial path in real estate. Unfortunately, for some, the process of buying a house can be long and hard, particularly for those who go into the experience unprepared. By absorbing all of the strategies, tricks, and websites provided in this article, you can avoid encountering a house-hunting buzzkill.
What Should I Do Before House Hunting?
Before you hit the pavement with a few listings, make sure you check the following boxes:
#1. Determine how much house you can afford.
While it’s necessary to sit down and make a list of must-haves for your new house (especially if you’re married), it’s a bad idea to start shopping without first determining how much you can spend. You risk falling in love with a house whose monthly expenses would crush you! If you can’t pay cash, or if your mortgage payment (including private mortgage insurance, HOA, property taxes, and homeowner’s insurance) is more than 25% of your take-home pay, don’t buy a house.
#2. Put money aside for a down payment.
If you save less than a down payment of at least 10-20% of the total house price, the additional money you’ll spend on interest and fees will choke off your other financial goals. To avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI) for the life of the loan, we recommend a 20% down payment. You can use our mortgage calculator to enter your down payment and compare different house prices within your budget.
#3. Obtain a mortgage pre-approval.
Getting preapproved takes some effort upfront, but it pays off when you find the perfect house. When you add a preapproval letter with your offer, the seller knows you’re a serious buyer who can help them sell their house quickly. A 15-year fixed-rate mortgage is your best hope for avoiding massive interest payments over the loan’s term.
#4. Locate a real estate agent.
An agent gives you access to a multiple listing service (more on that later) and simplifies the rest of the home-buying process, resulting in a fantastic house at a great price. You just cannot afford to be without an excellent real estate agent!
How to Find a House
How do purchasers locate properties? The majority of them make use of the internet or a real estate agent. Drive-by viewings are no longer acceptable, people. According to the National Association of Realtors, 50% of buyers—that’s right, half of all buyers—discovered their property via the Internet, while 28% found theirs through a real estate agent.
#1. For maximum accuracy, use a Multiple Listing Service.
If the postings are inaccurate, house hunting can be excruciating. Did you find the ideal house? Whoops! It was sold just last week. Have you found a price that meets your budget? Sorry! That price has risen. Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? That’s why you should go house hunting with access to a multiple listing service, which is a fancy real estate term you’ll hear a lot during your home search.
A multiple listing service (MLS) is a private database of available homes for sale that is collected and managed by real estate experts to ensure accuracy and up-to-date status information. Agents must pay a fee to be a part of an MLS because it allows their homes to be seen by more potential buyers like you. It also allows them to show a bigger pool of houses to their own buyers.
#2. Find an Agent to Help You
An MLS, you see, is only accessible to licensed real estate agents. When you go house hunting with a real estate agent, you get an insider’s view of the most recent listings (often even before they hit the market) and always have the most up-to-date information about the properties you find.
And, if you share your wish list (including your maximum price) with your realtor, they’ll help you establish realistic expectations and narrow your search to regions you can afford. They may also help you navigate the home-buying process to ensure you get the best bargain possible with no surprises.
#3. Look for inspiration on the internet.
Many house-hunting apps and websites, such as Zillow and Trulia, allow anyone to publish a free listing, which means that some of the houses may have outdated or untrustworthy information. However, these online services have become so popular among house hunters that many MLS brokers have reached an agreement to incorporate their properties. So, keep an eye out for house-hunting apps and websites that primarily rely on MLS data.
Mistakes to Avoid as a First-Time Home Buyer
Being a first-time home buyer is an accomplishment in and of itself, but the house-hunting process adds additional challenges. When looking at numerous properties, it is tempting to become excessively enthused and make a hasty selection. The following are some frequent first-time house purchase mistakes to avoid:
- Failure to acquire a pre-approval letter
- Working without an agent
- Lack of a clear wishlist
- Failure to manage expectations
- Unwanted opinions are not managed.
- Not looking into every corner and cranny
- Failure to pay attention to the location
#1. Failure to Obtain a Pre-Approval Letter
The preceding section discussed the distinction between being pre-qualified and pre-approved, as well as how a pre-approval letter can give house hunters significant bargaining power when negotiating with sellers. In contrast, not receiving a pre-approval letter means looking at residences without knowing how much the lender is ready to lend. This could lead to an offer being made on a property that cannot be afforded, wasting everyone’s time.
#2. Working Without An Agent
The National Association of Realtors reports that around 87 percent of all purchasers consult with a real estate agent while looking for a new home. Working with an agent, some argue, is especially important during the first home buying process because these professionals are extremely knowledgeable about the home buying process, are up to date on the best neighborhoods and market trends, and have access to property listings that are not publicly available.
#3. Lack of a Clear Wishlist
Home purchasers should also consider what are their absolute must-haves in a property, as well as what they absolutely do not want. Those with partners may need to reach an agreement on some of these points. Having a concise list allows you to stay focused when looking at different listings.
#4. Failure to Manage Expectations
While making a detailed wishlist can be highly beneficial, it is also critical to moderate expectations. The sad reality is that a limited budget, paired with the inventory available on the market that meets that budget, may not be able to meet all of a homebuyer’s goals and dreams. Making a realistic and sensible house-hunting checklist will help you avoid disappointment.
#5. Ignoring Unwanted Opinions
When your friends, parents, extended family, and coworkers find that you are in the process of buying a house, they will want to share their advice and comments. Because buying a house is such a personal experience, it is critical to filter out unnecessary, prejudiced, and excessive opinions.
#6. Not inspecting every nook and cranny
Another huge blunder made by buyers is failing to inspect every nook and corner of a home during a walkthrough. It’s tempting to get caught up in superficial details that could have been easily repaired or updated. Nothing is worse than purchasing the home of your dreams, only to discover that there are a slew of underlying concerns that are costly to repair. When attending an open house, allow enough time to thoroughly inspect the property, including the external areas. Bringing a home inspection checklist with you may be beneficial.
#7. Failure to Pay Attention to Location
Many real estate specialists will argue that the location is just as significant, if not more so, than the property itself. The location is one of the most important elements influencing property value, how rapidly it will appreciate, and the worth and ease of selling the house in the future. Additionally, consider the neighboring area to guarantee convenience and compatibility.
Best House Hunting Websites
To find your dream home, you must first know where to look. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the eight best house-hunting websites to visit during your home search.
Realtor.com®, the official website of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), assists millions of first-time homebuyers around the country in their search for the ideal property. The platform includes an easy-to-use interface that makes it simple to search for available houses near you.
The attention to the minor details that matter to a first-time homeowner is what makes Realtor.com® the greatest website for house hunting. Each listing includes the most recent property information from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), as well as a historical summary of home prices. You can also put money back in your pocket with the Buyer Cash Rewards program, which pays homebuyers 0.3% of the purchase price when they use a Realtor.com® agent to buy a home.
Furthermore, if you’re still early in the home-buying process, you can connect with a reputable mortgage lender to get pre-approved for a loan.
Zillow allows you to search through millions of listings without having to leave your house. The platform, like Realtor.com®, allows you to limit your online search, connect with real estate specialists, and explore your mortgage alternatives.
If you’re curious about a property’s current worth, you can look up the current Zestimate – an estimate of the current home’s market value — on Zillow listings. The value itself considers data from the general public, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), and user submissions. However, the figure can change based on the housing market, how long it’s been on the market, and other factors.
Homefinder.com, formerly known as homescape.com, offers homebuyers an interactive web experience to search for available houses. In one location, you can simply search homes for sale, local foreclosures, off-market listings, and rent-to-own properties.
The website’s features are limited in comparison to other house-hunting websites, but it does provide visibility into which homes are available that cannot be discovered elsewhere.
Redfin seeks to reshape the real estate market in order to benefit purchasers at every level of the home-buying process. All of their ads include information from the MLS as well as transit details for people who do not currently own a vehicle.
A Redfin Agent can assist you in navigating the process by leading you through showings, locating comparable houses that are within your budget, and providing any information you’ll need as a first-time homebuyer. The home seller normally pays the agent’s commission, however, Redfin listings include the percentage. Furthermore, if you’re trying to buy a home in a hot housing market, you may check how many other homebuyers are interested in the same property you are in.
Trulia, a Zillow subsidiary, is a terrific website to visit if you want to search for available houses in a given location and learn what other residents have to say about the neighborhood. Get local information or look into your mortgage alternatives to discover what type of loan you might be eligible for.
The site is similar to Zillow, but there are a few differences to be aware of. Unlike other house-hunting websites, you may view LGBT Local Legal Protections to learn about how the LGBT community is protected in your community. If you already have a pet, each listing contains recent comments from local pet owners in the area to give you a sense of how your furry companion will be treated in the community.
Homes.com makes it simple to search for sale properties in your desired location. The listing information is derived from the MLS site and is regularly updated to reflect important information. If you want to learn more about the neighborhood by connecting with local specialists, you can simply do so on the site by contacting neighboring real estate professionals familiar with the region.
You can also look into house loan choices that can be applied to the home you want if you qualify for a Veteran’s Affairs loan (VA).
Estately is one of the more recent house-hunting websites, having recently joined Realogy in 2018. What distinguishes them from other house-hunting websites is their emphasis on matching homebuyers with the top real estate agents in each given location. All of the agents on their websites are on the buyer’s side and aim to make the home-buying process as simple as possible for everyone.
When browsing their house listings, they will all offer property details to ensure complete openness in your home search. However, not all of the information is immediately updated, but there is a wealth of information on the property available on Estately.
Since 1999, ForSaleByOwner.com has provided tools to both sellers and buyers in order to make the home buying process as simple as possible. When looking for a home online, you can filter by property type, such as single-family, condominiums, townhouses, multi-family, and more.
Tips For House Hunting
You’re ready to go house hunting now that you’ve got some tools and an agent on your side. Follow these strategies to avoid typical house-hunting blunders and land the home of your dreams:
Tip #1: Keep looking until you discover a pricing range that works for you.
Every housing market is unique. House prices vary so widely across the country that one outrageous price may stop you dead in your tracks. But don’t let one figure convince you that you’ll never locate a home within your price range.
Never give up! And trust your agent’s advice—they’re a seasoned pro. A house is one of the most significant expenditures you will ever make. Do the arithmetic to figure out how much house you can afford and stick to it!
Tip #2: Take note of the location and layout.
Do you dislike the decorations? Are you disgusted by the paint colors? Let it go. You can correct those afterward. But there’s nothing you can do about the bad area, the dreadful floorplan, or the 20-minute journey to the nearest food shop. So don’t scrimp on those. Look for a neighborhood and plan that suit your needs. And, for a good price, keep an open mind regarding that kitchen tiling.
Tip #3: Think about the size.
How much room does your household require? Remember that the amount of homes you buy should be determined by your budget. To give you an indication of what individuals are buying, recent data shows that the majority of buyers acquired 1,850 square-foot homes with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.4
Tip #4: Research the school districts.
If you have children, the quality of the neighboring school districts is undoubtedly important to you. Even if you don’t have children, a home near good schools may enhance the value of your home when it comes time to sell.
Tip #5: Consider house value growth.
Don’t settle for a cool porch or a big yard. Look for a home that will appreciate in value over time. Investigate the history of property values and enterprises in the neighborhood. Are house prices rising? Is the number of companies growing? Those are encouraging indicators!
Also, attempt to choose a property in the greatest community you can afford at the lowest possible price. You don’t want to be trapped attempting to sell a $300,000 house to prospective buyers looking in a $200,000 area.
Tip #6: Ask questions when you’re looking at houses.
When you’re visiting the house, ask a lot of questions to ensure it’s genuinely your dream home. Your real estate agent can also assist you with this. When seeing a home, here are some questions to ask the seller:
- What exactly is included in the sale? (Does the price include appliances or lighting fixtures?)
- When was the last time the appliances and other systems were updated? (Inspect the HVAC, plumbing, septic tank, washing machine and dryer, refrigerator, oven, and dishwasher.)
- What is the age of the roof?
- What about the neighbors?
- Have you ever had a pest infestation?
- How does it feel to live there in the winter and summer?
- What is your favorite feature of the house?
- What issues have you had with your house?
The house-hunting experience can be simple and fun if you do your homework and prepare ahead of time. Knowing what to expect and how to avoid typical traps can make you appear to be a house-hunting expert all along.
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