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House Hunting

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Target Your Search, Look at Properties and Choose a Home
Millions of homes are sold each year. There’s no shortage of housing options, but with so many choices the challenge becomes finding the property which best meets your needs.

 
The housing market is complicated because the stock of homes for sale is always in flux. Even if you could have a complete list of every home for sale at a given moment in a given community, such a list would become quickly obsolete as new homes become available and listed properties are sold.

 
The real estate market is dynamic and it is important to work closely with a local REALTOR® who is familiar with local markets and current real estate trends. Also, REALTORS® have access to all homes on the market, including those that have not yet been advertised.

 
Determine What You Want in a Home
A home is more than just a collection of bedrooms and bathrooms. Several properties – each with four bedrooms, three baths, and the same price – may have radically different designs, commuting distances, lot sizes, tax costs, interior dimensions, exterior finishes, neighborhoods, etc.

 
First, list the features and benefits you want in a home. Consider such things as pricing, location, size, amenities (extras such as a pool or extra-large kitchen) and design (one floor or two, colonial or modern, etc.).

 
Next, determine your priorities. If you can’t get a home at your price with all the features you want, then what features are most important? For instance, would you trade fewer bedrooms for a larger kitchen? A longer commute for a bigger lot and lower cost?

 
Last, consider your future needs. If you’ll need a larger home later on, maybe now is the time to buy a bigger house rather than moving or expanding in the future.

 
Target Your Search
Know what you want and target your search in preparation for working with a REALTOR®. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR) statistics show that a high percentage of buyers now research their options online and elsewhere for about six months before consulting a REALTOR®.

 
Basic targeting measures, such as general location and affordability, can help you refine your search and focus on homes that offer the most desirable features.

 
Target your desired neighborhood.
All neighborhoods and communities have a unique character and value. One community may be well known for historic homes while another offers both suburban living with easy access to downtown office areas. Determine which neighborhood(s) will work for you so you do not waste time looking where you would not want to live.

 
Look for Homes
Your REALTOR® will find you home listings based on your criteria. You can also look for homes online, local papers, real estate guides and by driving through neighborhoods that you’ve targeted.

 
Look at as many homes as possible both locally and online so you can make a sound decision when you choose a home. You may want to keep a file with information on each of the homes you like. Your REALTOR® can help you determine the pros and cons of the properties you are interested in.

 
If you are buying a condo, it is important that you and your agent review the Board and committee minutes and Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions to take a close look at the current financial statements to make sure the finances are sound.

 
Choose a Home
A house is shelter. But a home is far more: it’s where you live, relax, entertain friends, raise families, and work. A home is where you spend much of your life, so take your time to choose a house that can become your home.

 
Don’t make hasty decisions, especially about financing. Be sure you can really afford the home you choose.

 
10 Steps to House Hunting with a Well-Trained Eye
It sounds like a great listing – in your price range – in a good neighborhood – with features you’re looking for. First impressions mean a lot – but you find the bushes are overgrown, the front hallway is covered with tacky foil wallpaper, the kitchen cabinets are painted dark brown, the living room rug smells musty, and the hardwood floors have black water marks on them.

 
Should you head back out the door? Maybe. But to fully determine whether you should cross this house off of your list you’ll need to gather more information, and perhaps look past the blemishes to get a full picture of this house’s potential. How do you do that? Follow these 10 steps.

 
Keep them straight
Looking at a bunch of houses? With digital photography making it easy and inexpensive to record images, be sure to take a digital camera along, first taking a picture of the listing sheet so you can remember which pictures go with which home, and then key elements of each home.

 
Also, make a checklist before you visit the first house so that you can keep each of them straight. Here is a list of items you’ll want to include (rank each as either excellent, good, fair, needs repair soon, needs repair now).
• Kitchen
• Bathroom(s)
• Roof
• Windows
• Furnace
• Air conditioning
• Floors (rate by each level of home)
• Closet/storage space
• Plumbing
• Electrical (does it have 60, 100 or 200 amp service?)
• Basement
• Master bedroom
• Siding
• Garage

 
Then customize the list with your own “must haves,” for example, fireplace, master bath, walk-in closet, two (or three) car garage, dining room, open floor plan, eat-in kitchen, screened-in porch, large (or small) yard.
 
When narrowing down your home search, consider the following:
1. Start with emotion, but end with facts.
2. Look for good bones. Don’t get hooked on the decorating.
3. When looking at room layout, corners are key.
4. Make sure the most expensive stuff works.
5. Take an inventory of what needs fixing.
6. Is there room for expansion?
7. Does the basement leak?
8. What’s the condition of the home’s exterior?
9. Landscaping: Does it look like a park or a landfill?
10. Check the zoning, nobody likes surprises.