10 House Hunting Tips You Need to Know

Posted in Looking for a Home,Moving Tips & Tricks on February 26, 2021

By Eleanor Stewart

Buying a new home is one of the most significant investments you will ever make. It’s a complex process that takes a lot of effort, so it’s easy to make mistakes. To start, your best bet is to research house hunting tips to avoid any potential problems along the way. Also, you’ll likely have to have a few things in order before you even think about looking – you’ll have to set a proper budget, look at different neighborhoods, check market value, find a reliable agent, and so on. To help you get started on your search, we’ve compiled together some useful tips, so you can get a good start at finding a place for you and your family.

1. Get to Know Your Housing Needs

Usually, the first thing that people ask is “what should I look for when house hunting?” That depends on your needs. No one location will have everything that you want, but you should do your best to have a solid basis for what you’re looking for. If you go looking for a place without any idea of what your needs are, the process will be much harder and more time-consuming. For example, if you’re moving to another state alone and your household inventory list is short, you probably don’t need a four-bedroom place. On the other hand, if you’re moving with pets, you’ll need a backyard.

Create a List of Must-Haves

One of the best tips for house hunting you can use is to create a list of must-haves as your personal house hunting guide. You’ll be able to narrow your search and save time. It’s very important that you separate needs from wants when creating this list. Your needs should be included in the things you cannot go without. Your wants aren’t as important, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to include what you think you can get.

Another thing to keep in mind is to try and keep your needs as realistic as possible. If you have a family of four, it would make sense for you to write down the needs based on that. Lastly, try and avoid the idea of “perfect.” No residence will ever be 100% perfect for you, so it’s best to find a spot that meets your needs well.

A checklist
Always have a list of needs ready when searching

2. Research Real Estate Market Trends

Remember, buying a residence is a major investment and you want to invest in something that will give back. Whether it’s your first or fifth time searching for a place, one major part of knowing how to house hunt is to research real estate trends in your area. Doing a market analysis will not only help you find a good residence, but you’ll learn how to analyze the economic, employment, educational, and ecological health of an area. You’ll also be able to gauge what your ROI is and when the best time to buy is. Having practical knowledge can help you navigate the market and narrow your search.

Understanding Market Research

Though having to do market research can seem intimidating at first, you’ll soon find that having practical knowledge of the buyer’s and seller’s market will come in handy. For context, here are some variables to look at when searching:

  • Historic data of a neighborhood – Looking into public records to see trends and price increases and decreases in an area,
  • Property information – Looking into public records of a residence to see past buyers, mortgages, easements, foreclosures, tax liens, or if the listing is a short sale,
  • Local demographics – Researching the ages, professions, income levels of the people who live in the area,
  • The employment rate of the area – Keeping up-to-date with local business and employment developments. You’ll want to make sure that you choose a location with a healthy economy as it has a direct impact on property value,
  • Government policies and subsidies – Depending on the policies and subsidies, they can increase or decrease demand in an area and impact where you can purchase.
  • Environmental concerns – Looking at things like location, boundaries, neighboring properties, air and water quality, climate, weather, etc.
  • Mortgage rates – Check for shifting mortgage interest rates as they directly impact how much you can borrow from a lender and how much you can purchase.

Having a firm understanding of how each of these plays into searching for a residence will be your guide to finding one and should be a part of your house hunt checklist. With the right conditions, you’ll know when to buy.

Stacked coins
Knowing when to purchase a residence depends on certain variables within the housing market

3. Keep an Eye Out for Up-and-Coming Neighborhoods

It’s often said that what to look for when house hunting is heavily dependent upon location. In fact, location is one of the most important things to consider when looking for a residence. There are many different variables that directly impact the search, and you’ll have to be aware of the area you’re moving into. Usually, the more desirable homes are located in more desirable neighborhoods. For example, a property that’s located in a suburban town of a major city with great school districts, decent climate, and reliable public transportation into the city is ideal. However, you also need to look at shifting interest rates, mortgages – all of this ties into the location, so it’s best to research neighborhoods growing in popularity.

Look for Family-Friendly Neighborhoods

The most ideal places to find a new residence are in family-friendly neighborhoods. This means there are parks and playgrounds for you and your kids, a decent school system, an easy commute to and from work, and most importantly, it’s safe. Aside from the great benefits of buying in a good neighborhood, a major plus is that capital growth is often much faster. The property value increase is higher than in less desirable neighborhoods, so you’ll have a great ROI once you decide to move on.

Suburbs
The friendlier the neighborhood, the greater the property value is

4. Always Keep the Location as a Top Priority

One of the most important rules of what to look for when house hunting is location. Where you’re looking can be the difference between finding a place that will cost more than it’s worth or a place that increases in value. The area is integral to looking for a place, so include a few different locations to see which works out best for you. Here are a few things you should look for when searching for locations:

  • Average mortgage/interest rates
  • Available markets and amenities
  • School districts
  • Crime rate
  • Employment rate
  • Homeowners associations

Houses in Good Locations Sell Fast

If you’re particularly interested in getting a great residence that increases in value and sells well, good neighborhoods are your best bet. You’re more likely to sell your place within the first year specifically because of the area you live in. However, this also means you’ll have to be a quick and aggressive buyer.

Neighborhood
Location ties in directly with pricing and rates

5. Get Pre-Approved for Housing

Searching for a residence without a budget is like going into a basketball court blindfolded. You have no idea what you’re looking at or what to look for. This is why it’s incredibly important to go to a lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage. Your lender will give you an estimate of what they think you can afford based on your financial status and history. Once you get approval, you’ll have a budget that you can work with when looking at homes.

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The Benefits of Mortgage Pre-Approval

Having pre-approval will narrow down your search for closing in on a deal. Granted you have a reliable agent, getting approval is beneficial in these ways:

  • You’ll be closer to purchasing,
  • It shows creditworthiness to sellers,
  • Reduces the timeline for approval on a loan,
  • Sellers are more likely to choose buyers who have pre-approval.
Mortgage payment
Pre-approval should be among the top things to do when looking for a residence

6. Pick the Right Real Estate Agent

The housing market is always changing and can be hard to navigate while trying to balance your move. That’s why there are realtors who can navigate for you and help you find a place that fits you and your family. However, much like choosing a good residence, you can’t just go with the first agent you contact. Finding an agent that truly understands the market and works well with you to find a residence can sometimes be a little difficult. Just like you should avoid moving scams, you should also avoid any realtor that doesn’t seem reliable.

Always Interview Agents

You’re looking for the right place for you and your family, so it’s important that you have the right agent who knows your wants and needs and can find you a happy medium. As we mentioned earlier, you can’t just go with the first person you find. It’s a bit of a process and you have to be prepared to screen a few different agents before you decide. However, you can’t wait too long to make a decision. To narrow down your search, here are some things your agent should answer the following:

  • How long have they been in business?
  • List-price to the sales-price ratio
  • What is the search strategy?
  • References
  • What makes them different from other realtors?
  • How will they help you find what you’re looking for?
  • How much do they charge?
  • What guarantee can they offer?
  • Anything you haven’t asked that they think you should know.

Check out the video below for some additional advice.

7. Save up for Your Down Payment

When making a big investment like this, the seller will require anywhere from 5% to 20% depending on different factors. It’s important to get approved for your place so that you know what you’ll have to pay upfront. Lenders will look at the downpayment as your investment in the residence and it can affect how much you’ll be allowed to borrow, interest rates, and whether or not you’ll need PMI (private mortgage insurance).

How Much Should You Save

Generally speaking, your housing costs should not exceed a third of your annual income. Your down payment will usually cost you up to 20% of the full price. That way, you won’t have to pay for PMI. The downpayment cost depends on the price and the duration of your loan. For example, if you are closing on a residence with an offer of $250,000 with a loan length of 10+ years, you’ll have to pay $50,000 in order to cover the down payment. Your best bet is to save as much money as you can prior to going out and looking at locations. In addition to these expenses, you should also set a reasonable moving budget.

US dollars
Your housing costs should not exceed a third of your total income

8. Take an Adequate Amount of Time

You’ll often hear that timing is important when looking for a residence, and it’s true. If you wait too long to buy, other families will take up all the options. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be patient with your search. Rushing the purchase can be a major mistake, and you could end up stuck with a place that has serious problems.

Visit 10 Houses for 10 Weeks

At this point, we’re sure you’re wondering “how long should house hunting take?” As a rule of thumb, you should visit 10 houses and take at most 10 weeks to close on an offer. If you visit 2 houses per week for 5 weeks, by then you’ll have plenty of options and you can proceed with a second visit to the houses that you like the most. Keep in mind that the moving process itself can be quite time-consuming as well, so be sure to plan everything at least three months in advance. Getting packing services from movers or using auto transport services instead of driving can save you some time and take some pressure off your back, as you won’t have to stress over packaging fragile items and other moving essentials.

A calendar
10 weeks and 10 houses are optimal when looking for a residence

9. Always Go for a Second Visit

Picture this scenario: you and your partner find a location that seems like a dream. It looks amazing, has plenty of great amenities, it’s in a decent location, and the price is surprisingly affordable. With a catch like this, you jump at the opportunity without a second thought. Fast forward to moving day and suddenly you start noticing all types of problems and issues you didn’t notice before. There’s mold in some areas, the plumbing doesn’t work, the place is full of electrical shorts. The lesson in this is to always go for a second visit and carefully inspect every corner.

Inspect the Kitchen and Bathroom for Mold and Water Damage

When a realtor takes you through a location for the first visit, you should get acquainted with the place. See if there is anything you can check off on your needs list. If you find one that you really like, save all of your questions and inspections for the second visit. During that second visit, you can take the time to look around more thoroughly. You might end up finding a few things here and there that you didn’t see before. If you want to play it safe, you can hire an inspector to look through the place for you.

Open house sign
Always go for a second visit to a home you like

10. Don’t Sweat Superficial Issues

A lot of people usually don’t know what to look for when searching and will often be put off by small cosmetic issues. If the paint is chipping on some of the walls, they can be repainted. If some of the cabinet doors are loose and don’t fit well, they can be fixed. There’s a list of things to do after moving, and taking care of cosmetics is one of them.

Fixes and Renovations Can Create Greater Value

If you find a home that has a few issues, it would be wise to invest in renovating and fixing those right away. Not only will it give a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, it could potentially increase the value of the home. Turning a basement that was once nothing but a concrete room into a nice entertainment center could greatly increase your ROI once you decide to sell.

Color palette
Renovating and fixing small issues can add value to the home

Use These Housing Hunting Tips on Your Journey

Now you’re ready and equipped to go on your search. Hopefully we’ve given you the answer to “how do I survive house hunting”. Remember to take these tips with you for a smooth search. And once you’ve gotten your new home, don’t forget to book a reliable moving service for a stress free moving process. Learn how to organize your move properly, gather some handy moving hacks, and enjoy the beginning of the new chapter of your life.

Eleanor Stewart