"If only I could find the perfect home for me" doesn't have to be just a daydream if you use the right sources to narrow down your choices. Instead of hitting as many open houses or online listings as you can in one weekend, it makes better sense to first look at the big picture. Understanding what you can afford, what you can and cannot live without and where you'd like to be in five years are excellent places to start.
How to Find the Perfect Home
Try starting at the Zillow resource web page; this site describes the kinds of questions that home buyers need to ask themselves when embarking on their home search journeys. The first step is to get your finances in order because there's no point in wasting time on properties that are way out of your price range. Besides that, your offers are more likely to be accepted if you're pre-approved for a mortgage.
Determine what you can put down and how much you can afford to pay in down payments and monthly payments. Years back, homebuyers could put 10 or 20 percent down on a home, but the percentages can be 25 percent or higher in today's competitive market. Keep in mind that if the house needs repairs or renovations, you will have to pay for those. You'll need to visit a lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage; this will help determine your price range.
Now you can start thinking of the basic style of the home and the essential features it must have and spend more time thinking about how to find the perfect home. Do you want a condo, attached home or single-family, and should it be a ranch or two or more stories? Think about decisions like how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need and whether you want a basement and a backyard. You might be drawn towards older homes in established neighborhoods or modern ones with different architectural styles. Also, decide if you must have a garage, handicapped access, a home office, or a nursery.
How to Find the Perfect Home Location
It's important to prioritize the home location because while some people don't mind busy streets, others need more space and privacy. Ramsey Solutions points out the importance of researching the schools in the areas, as this affects home values. Most real estate websites have information about school and crime ratings, which is invaluable when home shopping. You can also find neighborhood profiles on local real estate sites; one example is on the Mark McKenna Team site.
You can check out listing locations and see if they are on busy streets, cul-de-sacs, quiet streets, large residential developments, country roads, or elsewhere. It's also an excellent idea to map out the commute if you work out of the house. Try to become familiar with traffic patterns, too, because even if you're only 20 miles from the office, it could take over 60 minutes to get there during rush hours. Once you settle on a few neighborhoods, spend some time visiting the schools and checking out the developments to see if people keep their properties well maintained and if there's a lot of noise and traffic.
Zoning in on the Choices
It's common for home seekers to find the perfect home in the wrong neighborhood and vice versa, but you can set up search alerts to help. Joywallet recommends using the ones on Zillow and Trulia; you can enter your criteria and get emails every time new homes come on the market that match your parameters. Time is of the essence, so don't put off opening up those emails.
Once you find that dream home, you still have to clear the hurdles of making an offer, negotiations, acceptance and closing. Prepare a competitive offer because sellers are in the drivers' seats these days. You might have to offer above the asking price since there could be multiple offers on a single property. Being pre-approved for a mortgage helps, and you'll also want to use a real estate agent who has your best interests in mind.
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