A frequently asked question from first-time homebuyers is: How can I start my home search even if I won’t be financially ready until next year? There are two ways to get started: start online research and visit open houses.
To begin online research, pick a home search site (Zillow, Realtor.com, etc.) and open an account. Start going through the map search and click-through the listings and picture marking the ones you like. Downloading the mobile app for these sites also makes it easier to search on the go.
The three benefits from starting your research online are:
- You will learn the home features you enjoy – Are you attracted to hardwood floors, updated kitchens, or open format living rooms? The more listings you see, the more you will learn your personal home taste. You will start having a mental checklist to work from when you are ready to buy.
- You will learn neighborhoods you like – Every neighborhood is different. There are different styles, price points, and amenities depending on the neighborhood. By selecting a neighborhood now, you will already know the area when it is time to buy.
- You will learn the market – As you favorite properties, the home search site will send a notification when they sell. With this information, you will learn the average price range and days on market for the neighborhoods and style houses you enjoy. The more you know about the market, the more confident you will be in making decisions later.
After you are comfortable, you will to move from the screen to real life. Set aside a weekend a month and start going to visit open houses. You will discover homes don’t always look the same in person as in the pictures! Open houses also expose you to aspects of the house you cannot see in pictures: layout, flow, lot size, proximity of neighbors. If you are buying with a significant other, please make sure you attend open houses together. Rarely do couples want the same features. Opening up a dialogue now about what you both like and dislike will help start the compromise process. If you wait until it is time to buy, the pressure will cause a lot more tension and stress. Attending a low pressure open house allows you to start the communication process without the pressure of needing to move quickly.