House-hunting Tips for First-timers and Old Hands

Whether you are a seasoned house-hunter or a first-time buyer on the prowl for the perfect abode, there are a few simple but essential guidelines to keep in mind during the search. Nowadays, about 80 percent of all home searches begin online, and that number will almost certainly approach 100 percent as the decade unfolds.

Before you get engulfed in a cyber-based whirlwind of virtual tours, street-view perusals and a data dump of statistics on potential purchases, get back to basics for a minute and make a list of “knowledge nuggets” that every prospective buyer should follow. That way, before you begin in earnest, you’ll get your brain organized and be better equipped to snag the perfect deal. Here’s your list:

  • Mark your territory: Assuming that you are at least slightly familiar with the city, first decide what general geographic areas are, and are not, acceptable to you. It is best to use specific street names and numbers as lines of demarcation. For example, “I want to live between Elm and Woodlawn Avenues, and between Fourth and 57th Streets.”
  • Carry proper tools: Pack a high-quality camera and take plenty of notes on each home you view. Snap at least a dozen photos of the house and surrounding area.
  • Communicate with your agent: Have a one-hour (at least) discussion with your real estate professional during which you explain your financial and aesthetic parameters. This discussion will of course include geographic preferences (see above), as well as information about schools, shopping proximity and anything else of importance to you and your family.
  • Limit your daily searches: Try not to view more than seven properties per day unless you have a very powerful memory. Scientific studies reveal that the human brain deals best with chunks of data in bundles of seven or fewer.
  • Assign ratings: At the end of each tour, assign a numeric rating to the property using the standard 1-through-10 scale. This step might seem arbitrary, but later on it will help you sort out the winners from the losers and also-rans.
  • Revisit your favorites: After several days of touring, you should take a few days off to let your brain digest the information. Then, go back to your notes and pick the three or four homes that are your favorites. Tour those homes again and you’ll be surprised at how different they look. A couple of clear winners will probably stand out.
  • Double-check on availability: Have your agent make sure that your favorite homes are still available. This is also the time to find out about the sellers’ motivation and any special conditions of the sale.
  • Make the final pick: At this point, you should be able to choose your absolute favorite based on extensive touring and all the financial data available. Let you agent know your intentions and get ready to begin the home-buying process. Your search is over.

Buying your first home requires legwork and sustained effort on your part, but the process can be exciting if you go about it methodically and make certain to cover all the bases. If you do your homework (no pun intended) and have an experienced real estate professional by your side, you will find the house of your dreams. Happy hunting!

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