8 Tips for Finding Your New Home

8 Tips for Finding Your New Home

A solid game plan can help you narrow your homebuying search to find the best home for you.

House hunting is just like any other shopping expedition. If you identify exactly what you want and do some research, you’ll zoom in on the home you want at the best price. These eight tips will guide you through a smart homebuying process.

1. Know Thyself

Understand the type of home that suits your personality. Do you prefer a new or existing home? A ranch or a multistory home? If you’re leaning toward a fixer-upper, are you truly handy, or will you need to budget for contractors?

2.  Research before you look.

List the features you most want in a home and identify which are necessities and which are extras. Identify three to four neighborhoods you’d like to live in based on commute time, schools, recreation, crime, and price. Then hop onto realtor.com to get a feel for the homes available in your price range in your favorite neighborhoods. Use the results to prioritize your wants and needs so you can add in and weed out properties from the inventory you’d like to view.

3.  Get your finances in order.

Generally, lenders say you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Create a budget so you know how much you’re comfortable spending each month on housing. Don’t wait until you’ve found a home and made an offer to investigate financing.

Gather your financial records and meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter spelling out how much you’re eligible to borrow. The lender won’t necessarily consider the extra fees you’ll pay when you purchase or your plans to begin a family or purchase a new car, so shop in a price range you’re comfortable with. Also, presenting an offer contingent on financing will make your bid less attractive to sellers.

4.  Set a moving timeline.

Do you have blemishes on your credit that will take time to clear up? If you already own, have you sold your current home? If not, you’ll need to factor in the time needed to sell. If you rent, when is your lease up? Do you expect interest rates to jump anytime soon? All these factors will affect your buying, closing, and moving timelines.

5.  Think long term.

Your future plans may dictate the type of home you’ll buy. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in the home for five to 10 years? With a starter, you may need to adjust your expectations. If you plan to nest, be sure your priority list helps you identify a home you’ll still love years from now.

6.  Work with a REALTOR®.

Ask people you trust for referrals to a real estate professional they trust. Interview agents to determine which have expertise in the neighborhoods and type of homes you’re interested in. Because homebuying triggers many emotions, consider whether an agent’s style meshes with your personality.

Also ask if the agent specializes in buyer representation. Unlike listing agents, whose first duty is to the seller, buyers’ reps work only for you even though they’re typically paid by the seller. Finally, check whether agents are REALTORS®, which means they’re members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. NAR has been a champion of homeownership rights for more than a century.

7.  Be realistic.

It’s OK to be picky about the home and neighborhood you want, but don’t be close-minded, unrealistic, or blinded by minor imperfections. If you insist on living in a cul-de-sac, you may miss out on great homes on streets that are just as quiet and secluded.

On the flip side, don’t be so swayed by a “wow” feature that you forget about other issues — like noise levels — that can have a big impact on your quality of life. Use your priority list to evaluate each property, remembering there’s no such thing as the perfect home.

8.  Limit the opinions you solicit.

It’s natural to seek reassurance when making a big financial decision. But you know that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen. If you need a second opinion, select one or two people. But remain true to your list of wants and needs so the final decision is based on criteria you’ve identified as important.

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has found happiness in a brownstone in a historic Chicago neighborhood. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

By: G. M. Filisko; Published: February 10, 2010

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

photo credit: Wishing Tree – Exterior View via photopin (license)


  1. I like your idea on making a list of the features that you want and need in a house and three or four neighborhoods that you would like to live in, and then research specific houses from there. That seems like a great way to start the real estate search for a new house. My husband and I want to move to a better school district for our kids, so we will have to start doing some research into them and figure out which neighborhoods they belong to and start searching for a good house.

  2. I totally agree with your advice to not let one amazing aspect of a house overshadow some glaring negatives, like your example of the noise level. My wife and I are considering moving into a new neighborhood to be closer to some extended family, and we want to be sure that we love everything about any future house that we move into. Even if we find a house that seems perfect, I will be sure to look for any glaring negative aspects that we may have missed.

  3. I like how you mentioned that you’ll want to find a home that aligns with your long term goals. My friend and her husband are looking to buy a home, so this tip could really help them–especially since they want to have a big family. I’ll definitely mention this article the next time I eat out with my friend.

  4. My wife and I would like to get into our first home soon. I appreciate how you point out the importance doing proper research about the neighborhood and other amenities before we start house hunting. We’ll make a list of things we want in a house before deciding on which one to buy.

  5. Thank you for mentioning the importance of asking for referrals and getting an agent that is experienced in buying the type of property I am interested in before buying a home. A friend of mine did not seek the help of a realtor when he bought a home way back, and he pointed out how hard it was for him. Because of that and the idea that I do not have the time to research myself, I think I’ll be fine in just relying on a pro.

  6. You’ve got great tips for finding a home to buy. I like how you said that we need to create a budget that helps us know how much we can afford on housing each month. We want to buy a home before this year ends, so we’ll start planning that soon!

  7. Your advice is very helpful and you shared a very helpful and informative post. These tips help to find a new home. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I wanted to thank you for this advice for picking a real estate agent. It’s good to know you can actually ask for a list of recent clients. Perhaps it could be good to also have a list of questions.

  9. I really appreciate this advice for finding a new home. I’m glad that you mentioned it could be good to have a priority list to evaluate each property. This also seems like a good way to not waste any time looking at properties that do not fit your priorities.

  10. I appreciate how the article explains that when you are looking for a new home, you should make sure to have a list of the features you are wanting in a home so you can start to narrow down your search. My sister is wanting to move soon so she is needing to start looking for a home but there are so many options out there at the moment. I will suggest that she make a list of features so she can narrow down her options.

  11. I found it interesting when you said that you should find a home that matches your personality. My husband decided last night that we want to buy or very first home and we needed some tips on how to find the right one. Thank you for these tips on how to find a new home!

  12. I love that you point out how important a priority list can be so that you do not forget about major details because of one great feature. About a week ago, my sister and her husband decided that they want to move so that they can be closer to our family and his job. I hope that they follow your tips and look for truly amazing homes.

  13. I like how you explain the importance of making sure that you are thinking about your future as well as your present when finding a house to make sure it will suit your needs then as well. My husband and I are ready to take the next step and get out of our apartment but we aren’t quite ready for our own house yet. I think we should look for homes to rent that we can stay in for the next short while we figure out our finances.

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