The hunt is on; the house hunt that is. You have a long-distance move in your future and that means you’ve got to find a place to live in your new area. You have your guns loaded, but the competition is fierce. Will you end up getting away with the best deal, or will you fall prey to the sharks? House hunting like a pro takes a good team, a good scheme, speed, timing, and above all, a good strategy. Here are some house hunting strategies we suggest you put into action to house hunt like a pro.
House Hunting: Upsizing like a Pro
When you have three bathrooms, and still have to wait your turn to shower, it might be a sign that you’re ready to upsize. A plus size family needs a plus size house to accommodate it, but if you want to house hunt like a pro, there’s more to think about than square footage.
“Think About Not Only What You Want, but What You Need.””
You may find a house with enough square footage to accommodate your family, but how is that room being used? A big kitchen and dining room area may be a plus for a family that entertains, but if you’re not big on celebrations, the rooms will only subtract from the rest of the space. The pro house hunter makes a plan to prioritize the space he really needs and bases his final selection on that plan.
Another pro house hunting tip: Consider the resale value of your home. You’re upsizing now, you may find yourself with an empty nest somewhere down the line. This year, its flexibility people are looking for in a house. Who knows what next year will bring? Keeping an eye on the latest housing trends when you’re house hunting. This will help keep you ahead of the game when it’s time to sell.
House Hunting: Downsizing like a Pro
When you have more bathrooms then you have people in the house, it might be a sign you’re ready to downsize. The house has had its use, but now it’s time to move onto something smaller, something cozier, and more intimate. Just because you’re going down in size doesn’t mean you can’t go down like a pro. Here are some tips for house hunting like a pro, downsizing edition.
Buy House in a Neighborhood with Low Cost of Living
Sometimes it’s a good idea to wait things out. If you’re waiting for kids to make the long distance move out, or social security benefits to kick in the timing may not be right. But if all things are a go, take the money and run. The sooner you move out, the sooner you’ll be enjoying the financial rewards you’re going to reap.
Thinking of a condo? Condos will save you money on outdoor maintenance, but they will cost you in HOA fees. If you’re downsizing to a community with a homeowner’s association, be sure to factor the extra expenses into your budget before you buy.
Bonus Tip: When retirement is in the cards, buy a house in a neighborhood with a lower cost of living than the neighborhood you are currently in. That’s the most important key to locking down savings for the long term.
Using Technology to House Hunt like a Pro
You can use technology to find your home. Big surprise? It shouldn’t be. It was only a matter of time before real estate found its way onto the world wide web. What may actually surprise you, however, is how many technological resources there are available.
We all know Google Maps as the trusted source of walking and driving directions, and of course, the Street View can give you a good look at some good-looking houses, but did you know there was a “real estate” option on it? Hidden away on the “More” Menu lurks an option that displays houses for sale in the map area. Toggle it on and narrow down your search. You can sort by price, number of bedrooms, square footage, and houses for rent, sale or foreclosure.
If you “ask Alexa,” she’ll tell you that Zillow.com is the most visited real estate site on the Web. Zillow offers free searches to renters, prospective buyers, and sellers, and it’s a bit more specialized than Google Maps. Besides a wide range of sorting options, Zillow can customize emails to notify users when houses with their specifications are available and even offers tools for homeowners who want to know how much their house is worth. Plus, because Zillow gets so much traffic, there are tons of helpful people ready to give advice in the Zillow discussion section if you have a specific concern. Look for the free Zillow app for the iPhone, iPad, and Windows smartphones.
On a budget? Who isn’t? Trulia is a real estate search site that focuses on homes that have been recently reduced in price so you can bargain/ house hunt. Not only does Trulia show you the deals on houses, but it also provides useful information about stuff like median house prizes and open houses in your area. It also has a blog section with articles written by experts with tips. Talk about having a friend in the business! Trulia is so friendly, we’re thinking of adopting her.
How To Determine Your Must-Have List
There are things every house must have and there are things that every homeowner must-have. Are the items essential, or just highly desirable? The answers can go a long way to keeping within your budget.
A good way to determine your must-have list is by starting with a larger list and narrowing it down. Break things into categories such as:
- Location: Close to work, close to school, close to the park
- Home size: Number of bathrooms, bedrooms, floors.
- Home Systems: Heating and air conditioning, home security system, cable
- Exterior Home Features: Walkways, driveways, garages, garden
- Interior Home Features: Game room, wood flooring, walk-in closet, office, guest room
After you get the specifics down, rate them on a scale of how important to you they are. Ask yourself if it’s something you need, something you want, or something that might be better off on your wish list than your must-have list.
Pros and Cons of Purchasing a Fixer Upper
The fixer-upper is the stuff of urban legend these days. You buy a cheap house, do a little maintenance work and you have a house that is the envy of the neighborhood. Unfortunately, not every fixer-upper turns into the house of your dreams; in fact, about half the time, it turns into an absolute nightmare. Sure, a little hard work can pay off big, but if you want to house hunt like a pro, you should know the pros and cons of purchasing a fixer-upper.
Pros: Building Equity
When you remodel, you add to the value of your home. Since you’re not buying top line appliances, you can keep costs down and add equity to the house by upgrading it.
Cons: Going Overbudget
Sometimes, there’s more to a fixer upper then meets the eye. You might start by renovating the bathroom and find that you need new plumbing in order to continue. That can not only cost you your savings from the initial purchase but even put you over budget.
Pros: Living Your Dream
When you fix your house up, creative control literally comes with the territory. Fixing up your home gives you a chance to put your personal stamp on it, so the final product is uniquely your own.
Cons: Living Your Nightmare:
Picture this: You’re fixing up your fixer-upper, when all of
a sudden, you lose or job, or find you need your money for another big expense
but you’re in too deep. What do you do?
You probably won’t be able to sell a semi-fixed up fixer upper too quickly.
Fixer uppers can lead to a big jam in cash flow. If you’re renting a home while you’re doing the maintenance, you’ll end up paying rent on top of the mortgage, plus a contractor’s fee.
The pro house hunter tip: Only buy a home that you plan to live in for five to seven years. This is the best way to make sure your short-term expenses pay off in the long run.
Pro: Getting a Discounted Ticket to a Great Neighborhood
Sometimes, it’s good to be a little fish in a big sea. If you have your eye on a certain neighborhood that’s a little over budget, a fixer-upper may be your ticket in. Plus, the other homes in the neighborhood will increase your home’s final value, which can go a long way when you’re looking to sell.
Showings and Open Houses
There are two ways buyers can view property. One is through a showing or a private viewing by appointment. The other is an open house, in which the house is open to all buyers.
In reality TV house hunting shows, “pros” voice their
opinions about the houses during the open house. In reality, voicing your
opinion is not a pro move at all. For pro house hunters, open houses are
learning experiences. You can ask questions, but don’t give your hand away.
Remember, anything you say can and will be used against you when it comes time for negotiation.
Bring a Real Estate Agent and Let Him Talk
Ideally, when you house hunt you will have your agent with you. That way you can see homes together and stay on the same page. Another tip: let your agent do the talking. The agent will know how to get sellers to reveal their expectations, without revealing too much about yours so he can negotiate the strongest possible deal for you.
Keep A Critical Eye
A seller will sell a house by showing off its good side, which is why you need to focus on the not-so-good side. Don’t get distracted by flashy features and pay attention to the features in the house that are pricier to maintain. A stunning kitchen may add to the home’s equity, but it won’t compensate for a leaky roof.
Check out the area
Use the open house as an opportunity to check out other houses in the neighborhood to give you an idea of what else is on the market. You may end up finding something perfect that you weren’t even considering.