Beginning a Home Search
Created by FindLaw's team
of attorney writers and editors.
This article will help you in beginning a home search, with advice about navigating the housing market and finding homes that may be right for you.
There are many different ways that you can go about beginning a home search. For instance, many people like to hire a real estate agent to help them in their search, while others have found classified advertisements to be their greatest tool. Whatever method you choose, you should still commit yourself to getting out into the market to look at open houses and to get a feel for what is happening in the communities you are considering. Today, home buyers have a very powerful tool in the internet that can be of great use when beginning a home search. There are many internet search options that allow you to view homes in your desired area and price range. Some of these searches are even smart enough to suggest other, nearby areas where your money could stretch further.
First Step in a Home Search: Find Listings in Your Area
People who are beginning a home search often fall into the trap of thinking that they will never find the right home. However, this could just be because they have not explored all of the available means of finding homes for sale in their desired locations. Here is a short list of ways that you can find homes for sale in the area you desire:
- Visit the area, and drive around residential neighborhoods -- Many people find a home simply by taking a drive or a walk around neighborhoods that they think that they would enjoy. "For Sale" signs are often seen in neighborhoods during the warmer months of the year, and if you go on a weekend, you may even see some homes that are hosing open-house events. Also, people that are listing their homes as "for sale by owner" may not list their homes in conventional places, like classified ads. So, the only way you may ever find these opportunities is by seeing the sign on the front lawn.
- Newspapers -- The classified section of the local newspaper will often have home listings advertised. In addition, many newspapers now put their classified section online, which makes it easier than ever to determine the homes for sale in your desired.
- The Internet -- The internet has become one of the most powerful resources that you can use to find homes in your price range and area of interest. Indeed, a large majority of those looking for a new home will use the internet as their first tool in their searches. There are many websites that allow you to search through homes in a certain area. Most of these sites use the multiple listing service (MLS) to get their data. Because you will likely find the same data on several different sites, it makes sense for you to find the site that works best for your needs.
One popular website is run by the National Association of Realtors, which maintains Realtor.org. Another popular option is Craigslist,org, which allows private sellers and real estate companies to advertise homes though a searchable database. Craigslist allows for sellers to post detailed photos, video tours, and descriptions of the homes for sale.
- Real Estate Companies -- Finally, you can visit a local real estate company to see what kinds of homes they have for sale. You can do this either by visiting their offices, or browsing through the websites they maintain. Very often, real estate companies will specialize in homes located in specific neighborhoods within larger metropolitan areas.
If you find a home that piques your interest, you should call the contact and see if there is an open house. If there is not, ask if you can schedule a tour of the home. The home search can be a long process and shouldn't be rushed, so be patient!
Figure Out What You Want from a Home
Once you have been looking at the realty scene for a while, you may start to discover certain aspects of homes that appeal to you more than others. In addition, you will also probably start to notice things in homes that you strongly dislike. Once you have some ideas of what you are looking for in a home, you should make a list of home attributes, categorized into three areas:
- Deal-Breakers -- This category should be filled with a list of home attributes that make a house an absolute no-go. For example, homes in high crime areas or near airports often make this list for people. Other examples include houses in natural disaster areas (tornados, floods), as well as homes that are near things like landfills or feedlots.
- Wish List -- This category should be filled with attributes in a home that you would like to see, but are not necessary. For example, a pool, air conditioning, location near a shopping mall, central vacuum, dishwasher, etc.
- Must-Haves -- This category should be filled with those things that a home must have in order for you to be interested. For example, a good school district, space for a workshop, a two-car garage, and more. This list should be the most carefully complied, as you do not want to purchase a house that does not have all of your "must-haves."
This master list of preferences should live in your pocket whenever you go out to look at homes. Take it out often, laminate it, make multiple copies, and be sure to keep it accurate and simple. This list can be one of your most powerful tools when you are beginning a home search.
If you follow the home search steps above and later decide to hire a real estate agent, you will probably find that your preparation will come in handy when working with your agent. If you can direct your agent to homes that you know you are interested in, and also show your agent your home preferences list, the agent should be able to work for you in an efficient manner.