I can’t tell you the best way to shop for a house, but I can tell you how we’re doing it. This will be our 4th house – not counting the 14×70 mobile home we dragged around the country when we were in the Air Force. We bought that trailer in Minnesota, then moved it to Ohio and finally to Massachusetts where we sold it to a coworker.
1. We set our budget
2. Decided on a general area to live in. Remember the three most important things in real estate are location, location, and location. In our case it was a 13 x 17 mile rectangle
3. Found an experienced Realtor with an office inside the search area. This is very important to us, we want them to be highly knowledgeable of the area.
4. We gave the Realtor our “must haves” and our preferences. As both evolved we kept her informed. For this home our #1 requirement was “zero outside maintenance”. We want to be able to lock the door and leave for months at a time.
5. Searched for neighborhoods that seem to provide the lifestyle we’re looking for. In some ways owning a home is like owning an RV, it’s mostly about the lifestyle that you want.
6. We didn’t just let the Realtor look for houses, we searched too and asked her to look into houses that we thought were interesting. Two main sites we used:
- Zillow.com gives you access to the MLS with many custom search features and the ability to see prices on homes sold in the past few years and both the sale history and listing price history of houses that are for sale. I love the mapping function.
- Homepath.com lists foreclosed homes with government backed mortages. The programs available allow you to purchase much quicker than a typical short sale and with special financing minimizing your required down payment and other out-of-pocket expenses.