House Hunting Tips
So you’re ready to buy a house. If you think house hunting is like trying to find toilet paper during a pandemic, you’re not alone. Most buyers say finding the right home is the most challenging step of the home-buying process. But don’t let that get you down. If you strap in and stay focused, you’ll find the home of your dreams!
To keep calm during your home search, it helps to know that most buyers search for 10 weeks and view nine homes before they find the one they purchase. In the middle of all that, it can be easy to lose focus and forget what kind of house fits your budget and lifestyle. But our house hunting tips will show you exactly how to buy a home that’s right for you!
What Should I Do Before House Hunting?
Know how much house you can afford. While it’s important to sit down and write a list of must-haves for your new home (especially if you’re married), it’s a dumb idea to go looking for one without considering how much you can afford. You’ll risk falling in love with a house that’ll pulverize you in monthly payments! Don’t buy a house unless you pay in cash—or unless your mortgage payment (including private mortgage insurance, HOA, property taxes and homeowner’s insurance) is no more than 25% of your take-home pay.
Save for your down payment. If you save anything less than a down payment of at least 10–20% of the total house price, the extra amount you’ll pay in interest and fees will suffocate your other financial goals. We recommend a down payment of 20% to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI) for the life of the loan. You can use our mortgage calculator to enter your down payment amount and test out different house prices within the budget.
Get preapproved for a mortgage. Getting preapproved takes a little work on the front end, but it pays off when you find the house you want. When you include a preapproval letter with your offer, it tells the seller you’re a serious buyer and they can sell their house faster. A 15-year fixed-rate mortgage is your best bet to avoid gigantic interest payments over the life of the loan. If you’re ready to get preapproved, connect with our friends at Churchill Mortgage.
Find a real estate agent. An agent gives you access to a multiple listing service (more on that later) and simplifies the rest of your home-buying steps toward a great house and a great price. You can’t afford to go without a great real estate agent!
House Hunting Tips
Tip #1: Keep looking until you find your price range.
Every housing market is different. House prices range on such a huge spectrum throughout the country that one ridiculous price might stop you dead in your tracks. But don’t let one number make you think you’ll never find a home that fits your budget.
Don’t give up! And rely on the advice of your agent—they’re a seasoned pro. A house is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make. Do the math to know how much house you can afford and stick to that number!
Tip #2: Pay attention to location and layout.
Hate the decorations? Disgusted by the paint colors? Get over it. You can fix those later. But there’s nothing you can do about a lousy neighborhood and crummy floorplan or a 20-minute drive to the nearest grocery store. So don’t compromise on those. Look for a community and layout that fit your lifestyle. And for a good deal, be open-minded about that kitchen tile.
Tip #3: Consider the size.
How much space does your family need? Remember, your budget should have the final say on how much home you buy. But to give you an idea of what people are buying, recent data shows most buyers purchased homes that were 1,850 square feet—including three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Tip #4: Evaluate the school districts.
If you have kids, the quality of the surrounding school districts is obviously a big deal that’s already on your mind. But even if you don’t have kids, a home located near good schools could increase the value of your home when it’s time to sell.
Tip #5: Think about home value growth.
Don’t just go for a groovy porch or spacious yard. Look for a home that’ll grow in value over time. Research the history of home values and businesses in that area. Are home values rising? Is the number of businesses increasing? Those are good signs!
Also, try to find a home at the bottom price range in the best neighborhood you can afford. You don’t want to get stuck trying to sell a $300,000 house to future buyers who are shopping in a $200,000 neighborhood.
Tip #6: Ask questions while viewing the house.
Ask a ton of questions when you’re touring the house to make sure it’s truly your ideal home. Your real estate agent can help you with this as well. Here are questions to ask sellers when you view a home:
What’s included in the sale? (Does the price include things like appliances or light fixtures?)
When were the appliances and other systems last updated? (Look at the HVAC, plumbing, septic tank, washer and dryer, refrigerator, oven, and dishwasher.)
How old is the roof?
What are the neighbors like?
Have there ever been any pest infestations?
What’s it like to live there in winter and summer?
What do you love most about the house?
What problems have you experienced with the house?
And there you have it, folks!