When you're browsing sites like Zillow or Trulia, finding the right home for the right price can seem overwhelming. Try taking it step by step and you'll be in your new home in no time.
Make a plan and a list
It's important to go into your home search with a long-term plan. Do you know how long you want to stay in your home? Will it be big enough if you decide you want to grow your family? Will it suit your needs just as well five years from now as it does today? A home is a big commitment, so it's important that yours works well until you're ready to move on.
Once you have your plan, it's time to make a list. This list will be the roadmap your real estate agent uses to help find your perfect home. Make sure you have a good idea of what is a must-have and what you're willing to compromise on. You should think about the:
- number of bedrooms
- number of bathrooms
- school district
- yard features
- price per square foot
More: Get our guide to hunting for your first house.
Choose the right neighborhood
When it comes to real estate, it's all about location. And the right location means different things to different people. What's most important to you? Do you want to minimize your commute time? Would you love living 500 yards from your favorite bike path? Or are you ready to settle down and you want a nice cul-de-sac in a family-friendly neighborhood with a good school district?
Be sure to write this all down so you can tell your Relator. She might be able to find a hidden gem that you didn't even know existed. Once you've narrowed down the neighborhood, we recommend visiting it a few times on different days and different hours so you can get a feel for how it might change from a Sunday afternoon to a Thursday night.
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Look for red flags
Keep in mind, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. So, when you see that 5 bed, 3 bath house on Zillow for way less than anything else around it, you should approach with caution. The home also might be cheaper because it is a little bit of a fixer-upper, which is exactly what some people are looking for. Be on the lookout for these red flags and be sure to talk everything over with your Realtor.
- It looks rundown: A rundown property isn't a deal breaker, but just keep in mind there might be other issues to deal with later if the owner was negligent.
- You see standing water when it hasn't rained recently: Poor drainage can cause a whole host of expensive issues with your foundation. It might also be a sign that the property is prone to flooding.
- Musty odors: A musty odor can potentially mean that there's mold somewhere in the house. Mold can be expensive to get rid of and can cause a lot of health problems for you and your family.
- Water stains on the ceiling: A leaky roof is the last thing you want. It's annoying, dangerous, and expensive to fix. If you see water stains on the ceiling, it might indicate a roof leak. But it also might have come from a one-time accident, it's hard to tell without an inspection.
If you do see anything that looks suspicious, make a note of it and ask your home inspector to take a closer look at it if you do decide this is the house for you.
More: Remember to be picky! Don't buy the first house you see.
Think outside the box
The right house for you might not be the standard three bed, two bath house. Sit down and really think about your wants and needs and where you see yourself in the next five to ten years. You might find that a downtown apartment or a one-room cabin in the woods is really more your style. There are so many options today that there's really no one size fits all approach to finding the right house.
More: Want to get really creative? Amazon's new shipping container home might be just what you need.
Up next: Seal the deal on your first home
All that's left is some careful negotiation from your Realtor and you'll be a homeowner! Get our tips on how to seal the deal.