Searching for a home: where to start

Remember the days when a real estate agent was the only person who knew all the houses for sale? Not anymore. Technology has unlocked the front door for everyone. Here’’s how to begin your new home search.

Start by selecting a target area of town. This might sound obvious, but it’s more complex than you might think. That’s because you might have heard a particular neighborhood has something you like — such as good schools –– but you don’t know much about everything else.

So here are some questions to consider: do you want to be within walking distance of stores and restaurants? Do you want to be close to work? Are you looking for peace and quiet or the hustle and bustle of a city?

Location, location, location

The old real estate adage that the three most important considerations in choosing a home are location, location, and location is absolutely true. Plenty of people have fallen in love with a big house they could afford because it was 15 miles out of town, never thinking they would get tired of a daily commute, in heavy traffic, to their job 20 miles away.

If you are considering a home in the suburbs, try to make the drive during rush hour to see how you really feel about it.

Once you have narrowed down your target area(s), enter the zip codes into one of the real estate search sites like Zillow or Trulia to see how many homes are currently on the market. Narrow down the search even more by entering the number of bedrooms, bath rooms and your price range.

If there are a lot of homes on the market, you’ll have more bargaining power. By the same token, a tight inventory of available homes means you’ll have to act quickly and be ready to pay close to the asking price.

Look for foreclosures

Zillow map of a Palm Springs neighborhood.

Zillow map of a Palm Springs neighborhood.

The Zillow map is helpful because it visually shows you how many homes are for sale in a given area and their location. Homes for sale are red dots. Blue dots are foreclosures, or pre-foreclosures. This information is helpful to know because a neighborhood with a lot of foreclosures is a neighborhood with depressed property values.

However, if you are looking for a bargain, getting more house for the money, a neighborhood with a lot of foreclosures might be a place you want to look.

Now the fun begins — looking at the photos. After you have eliminated the homes you don’’t like and tagged the homes you do, all from the comfort of your favorite chair, it’s time to contact a Realtor to set up showings.

Once you find a home you would like to buy, visit the neighborhood several times, at different times of day. Park your car and walk the neighborhood to get a feel for its character.

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