How to find your dream home is exciting, yet an all-consuming, adventure. While it’s fun to swipe through listings and attend every open house in your area, it sometimes can leave you feeling like you’re spinning your wheels and wandering aimlessly from property to property. Here, Realtor.com offers some smart ways to keep your stress levels and sanity on an even keel.
Get pre-approved for a mortgage
Before you even start looking at online listings, be sure to have your mortgage pre-approval in hand. A pre-approval not only will make it easier to eventually make an offer as a serious buyer, but it also will help you narrow down your property search criteria by detailing the maximum mortgage loan you’re approved for or your instant housing budget.
Make a must-have list
Before you start looking at houses, write down the non-negotiable features your new home needs. Then if a place doesn’t have everything on the list, don’t go see it. The more specific you are about the criteria, the better. For example, if a garage is an absolute must-have, that is an easy way to narrow down your list of potential homes. In addition to saving time, focusing your list also can help prevent “list creep,” which typically occurs when you see shiny objects in each new house. If you’re not careful, you might find your must-have list has grown from three bedrooms, two baths and a decent commute to a brand-new, professional chef’s kitchen when you barely cook.
Home in on the neighborhood
Find an area that meets your criteria for amenities, commute and school district, and then spend a weekend exploring before you commit. You could find that you don’t like an area as much as you thought you would because it’s impossible to find parking, or you might discover another hidden pocket that you love and didn’t realize was nearby. Once you’ve taken a test drive and selected a neighborhood that you know is ‘the one,’ home in on listings in that specific ZIP code.
Pick a house style and forget about the others
Use a similar strategy with types and styles of properties. Once you’ve picked your neighborhood, resist the urge to visit everything that’s available, from condos to townhouses to bungalows. Each type of house has its own unique style, so you can eliminate homes that won’t suit your needs. For example, if you have several younger children and don’t want your bedroom on a different level, avoid Cape Cod-style homes that typically feature two or more bedrooms on the upper level and the master on the main.
Document your visits
During a single day of showings, everything probably will start to blur together by the time you visit the fourth or fifth property. That’s why you should keep your cellphone handy and snap photos from the moment you arrive. Note: Taking a picture of the for-sale sign or front of the property first makes it easier to distinguish between sets of photos afterward. As you walk through the home, capture photos of everything you like, such as a stellar view or to-die-for chef’s kitchen, as well as anything that feels awkward or out of place, from outdated shag carpet to a strange layout. Also, take notes on the listing sheet, so you can easily remember what features you were trying to capture in the photos.
Remember only the top three contenders
Determine whether a home is one of your current top three properties or you should forget about it. This means you have to keep only three homes in mind at a time.
Stop looking at listings already!
At some point, you have to just stop looking for additional options. Some people keep looking even after they have an accepted offer on a great place, still believing something better might come along. Eventually, you have to be satisfied with the choices at hand and make a decision. Just remember: The grass is rarely greener.