Wednesday, July 27, 2016

10 Tips for Finding Your Next Home

It's no secret that we've been house hunting lately. If you follow me on Instagram, then you've probably seen an update or two about house hunting. If you haven't seen an update, then maybe you need to follow Coastie Couple as well. When we first found out we were moving to Port Huron, we got really excited for a fresh start and a bigger place. We knew right away that we wanted to rent a house instead of a tiny apartment. Then, we started looking at rentals and we got incredibly discouraged...until I came up with the idea of buying a house, which in some ways would actually save us some money. (That's a story for another post though!)



We spent the second week of July in the Port Huron area for our "house hunt." We had exactly a week to look at houses and find one that we liked. This may seem like a short time frame, but I think it actually offered us a nice deadline, which can actually help you make a decision. I thought I'd offer some tips for making your next house hunt a little less stressful.

1. Evaluate your budget.
Before you do anything else in your house hunt, it's best to evaluate your budget to see if you can afford a house. Can you make house payments? Are you already prepared for the unexpected sides of homeownership?

2. Set a timeline.
How long do you have to look for a house? Are you crunched on time or can you leisurely look while you live in your current place? Will you need temporary housing while you look? If so, where will you stay? Setting a timeline can help you stay focused during your house hunt. Be realistic about when you'd like to be into a new home and consider any overlap of payments that may occur. The house buying process can take anywhere from thirty to forty five days after you pick out a house, so that's something to consider when making decisions.

3. Get pre-qualified.
Look into banks and go ahead and get pre-qualified. This will allow you to determine what your price range is for houses. I recommend returning to your budget at this point. There's a chance that you could qualify for a loan that makes your payments larger than what's in your budget. It's helpful to let your budget guide your price range, especially if your budget is less than the amount you qualified for.

4. Look to the future.
Think about the future and what changes it might bring to your life. Is there a chance of marriage? Kids? Job changes? All of these can impact what you want in a house. For example, if you're planning on having kids in the near future, then a one bedroom house could pose problems for you.

5. Decide on your needs and wants.
It's important to distinguish between your needs and wants when you're looking for a place. Needs are the items that are non-negotiable. Wants are the items that you'd like but would be willing to settle without. Your needs and wants are going to be different from someone else's needs and wants because your life is different. It's helpful to create a list of your needs and wants to use as a guide during your house hunt.

6. Get a realtor.
You might be thinking to yourself "I can do this by myself." And you might be right, but buying a house is a big purchase and decision. A realtor can help you in so many ways - finding more homes, setting up viewings, answering questions, etc. It's helpful to have a professional around during this process to help you with everything.

7. Use online search sites.
Even with a realtor, I recommend looking online for homes. You can easily forward great finds to your realtor to add to your list. Remember that homes are constantly coming and going so you may need to continue checking for updates. Don't get discouraged if a home disappears - that just means it wasn't meant to be!

8. Window shop.
Your online search is your first chance to make decisions about places. If there's a red flag on the online page, don't be afraid to rule it out. This is where your needs and wants list can help as well. We were able to rule out a lot of houses simply by looking at their details online. If you're buying a home in your current location, you can also drive by and look at the homes from the outside. I don't normally recommend judging a book by its cover, but in this case you can tell a lot about a house and the neighborhood simply by driving past it. Don't get out and look at the house though - that's trespassing!

9. Set up viewings and go to open houses.
Work with your realtor to set up viewings of the houses you're considering. Communicate with your realtor about your timeline, schedule, and what you're looking for. This will help the viewing process a lot. We were able to do an entire day of viewing houses which led to our eventual decision. It may take you longer depending on your timeline and schedule. When you're looking online, pay attention to any open houses that may be happening. Open houses are the perfect time to drop by the house and look at it on your own.

10. Do your own research and ask questions.
Don't be afraid to do your own research. The internet can offer you many tips when it comes to picking out your next home. I also recommend asking any and every question that comes to mind. This is a big decision and you should be as informed as possible. It's better to ask a question than to be uninformed about something important.

Do you have any tips to add to this list? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

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