Step 3: Begin Your Search for a New Home

There’s no wrong way to approach your home search. Perhaps you want to venture into the mysterious realm of real estate like a mighty explorer searching for hidden treasure. Armed with images and virtual tours, you start piecing together a roadmap for your intrepid real estate agent to follow (this kitchen, that back yard, and how about a fireplace?) Or maybe you are hesitant and indecisive. You want to wade into this slowly, relying on your agent to help you find your way. (It could be the right house, but maybe there’s a better option … it’s best to take it slow and think it over.) You might be practical and busy, so you choose to let your agent do most of the searching for you. (Find the best three houses in my desired neighborhood and I’ll choose from those.) Or maybe you are conducting your home search from afar and need to rely on virtual walk-throughs with your agent. No matter how you find “the one,” here’s what to expect from your home search.

Searching for Homes Online

According to the National Association of Realtors, at least 90 percent of home buyers search online for their new home. Before you dive in, however, make sure you are using a reputable website. Make sure the site you are using is pulling information from a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and that the information the site is providing is accurate. Don’t rely on a site that overestimates (or underestimates) property values or prices. In addition to being accurate, you want the information to be current. Luckily, you’re on Homes.com, which partners with more than 570 MLS systems to ensure all data is up to date and accurate.

In addition to using sites with the best, most reliable data, you’ll want a site that’s easy to use. Some websites make finding the information you want difficult. It is either hidden behind a paywall, or the site forces you to sign up before you’ve even had a chance to look at the website. Some sites are littered pop-up and banner ads, making getting the information you need so frustrating that you forget what you were looking for in the first place. Homes.com makes the search experience a pleasant one, with an easy-to-navigate interface, large images, virtual tours, and information about the location, the schools, and similar homes in the area.

As you search for homes online, remember that images can be misleading. The kitchen may look huge in the photo, but you won’t know how well it fits your needs until you see it in person. You also won’t know what’s hiding behind those cabinets. Since this is a major purchase, you’ll want to inspect every inch of the home yourself – something that can’t be done virtually. If you can’t visit the property in person, it’s vital that you have a real estate agent you can trust to take you on a virtual walk-through.

Finally, look for a site with a wealth of information on the home buying process. A site designed to answer all your questions will make finding your home less intimidating and more enjoyable. After you buy, this may also be a go-to resource for information on renovations, maintenance, and tips on keeping your home in top condition. When it comes time to sell, you’ll find articles detailing that process, as well. Essentially, this becomes your first stop for all things home related.

What to Look for When Touring a House

One of the most frustrating things about those home-buying reality shows is when the buyer walks into a house and states, “I don’t like the paint color” or, “the carpet is ugly.” Unless you have a house built custom to your specifications, even the most move-in ready homes will probably need some modifications. Cosmetic changes, like repainting, changing the flooring, or even updating the kitchen cabinets are things you can easily tackle before or after you move in. Try to look past the window dressing – the paint, the carpet, the furniture – and see the bones of the house. Here are some things to look for when touring a home:

  • The location of the home. If it backs up to a highway, will noise be an issue? Where is the nearest shopping center, and how quickly can you get there? How will your commute be from this location?
  • Are the other homes in the neighborhood well maintained? Is it an older or newer neighborhood?
  • Are there sidewalks in the neighborhood?
  • When you first arrive at the home, look at the roof for signs of age.
  • Check the lot size. Do you prefer homes that are close together, or do you want more space?
  • Inside the home, look for cracks on the walls that run horizontally or diagonally. These could indicate water damage or an issue with the foundation. (Vertical cracks aren’t typically a cause for concern but take note of those as well.)
  • Check for signs of water damage on the ceiling or walls
  • Watch out for spongy or warped floorboards
  • If the home is carpeted, ask what’s under the carpets
  • If there’s a musty odor in the home, it could indicate mold
  • Check the amount of storage space in the home. How many closets are there, and where are they located?
  • If the lights are flickering, it could be sign of an electrical problem
  • Turn on the faucets. If the water is discolored, it could indicate an issue with the pipes.
  • How is the natural light in the home?
  • Check the slope of the yard. If it slopes toward the home, flooding could be an issue.
  • Look for signs of DIY gone wrong. Odd rooflines, sagging beams, converted garages, or rooms that look markedly different from the rest of the house could indicate unpermitted “upgrades” that could eventually cost you money to fix.

Questions to Ask During a Home Tour

Your real estate agent will likely alert you to any issues they see with the home but knowing what to look for (and what to overlook) will make home tours much more productive. As you tour, ask your agent questions. Even if they don’t have an immediate answer, they can contact the seller’s agent to find out. Here are some things you might want to ask as you tour:

  • What is the age of the HVAC system?
  • Are the appliances relatively new, or will they need to be replaced soon?
  • How old is the roof?
  • Why is the seller selling?
  • What is the home’s repair and renovation history?
  • How many owners have there been for this home?
  • Is the house in a flood zone?
  • Where are the property lines?
  • Is there an HOA?
  • What school district is the home in? Even if you don’t have kids, this is good to know for resale purposes.
  • If there’s a fireplace, when was it last cleaned and inspected?
  • How long has the home been on the market, and are there any current offers?
  • If there’s something you want to keep (for example, a storage shed or hot tub), ask if it stays with the home.

At the end of the tour, discuss the home with your agent. Ask what stood out to them; as an expert, your agent may have seen something you missed. If it isn’t the right house for you, explain what you didn’t like so your agent can rule out any future homes with similar features. Communicating openly with your agent will make the touring process simple and easy.

If you’re touring the home virtually with your agent, ask them to turn on the faucets, show you the back yard, and look under the sink. Don’t be afraid to ask how the house smells or if they hear any odd noises, like clanking pipes. Your agent expects you to have a lot of questions, especially if you are unable to see the house in person. Don’t forget; your agent is your advocate. They want you to find the right house and will happily answer any question you have.