This home shopping roadmap will lead you to your new front door.
Thinking about looking for a new home? Twenty years ago, your first step would have been pulling out the Sunday newspaper and making a list of open houses to attend.
Today, however, it’s likely you’ll spend weeks — maybe even months — looking at listings online or on your mobile device before you step foot in a listed home or talk to a real estate agent.
As you prepare to start home shopping, keep in mind that buying a home isn’t like buying a new car or a tablet. It may seem like all the information you need is available online or through real estate apps, but there’s more to a home purchase than simply comparing two products. It’s a huge investment, a personal and emotional process, and a transaction you’ll probably only make a few times in your life.
With that in mind, here are five stops you’ll make along your journey to a new home.
Explore, discover and dream
Viewing photos and reading listing descriptions online gives you a chance to dream, and imagine all of the things you would want in a house. In the comfort of your living room, you can get an idea what’s on the market, what pricing looks like in different towns, and how long homes typically take to sell — all without having to commit to a real estate agent.
This lack of commitment can be a comfort when you’re juststarting your home search. It’s like the freedom of going into a store to look around without being bothered by the salesperson.
Check things out in person
Soon your research will lead you to an excellent house, a great deal, or both. You’ll be motivated toattend the open houseor contact the listing agent to ask questions.
Actually stepping inside a house takes the search to the next level, but the first home you see probably isn’t the one you’ll buy. Most buyers see a dozen homes before they even make an offer. It’s part of the process.
Hook up with a good local agent
Clicking that “Contact Agent” button or showing up at an open house might lead you to the next step of the process:meeting a great real estate agentto have on your team.
Buyers don’t pay a fee to work with a buyers’ agent, and they rarely need to sign formally to work with an agent. Smart agents work for free until someone buys a house, all the while providing an incredible resource.
Don’t click with the first agent you encounter? Don’t feel obligated to stick with them. There will be others.
If your search is heating up before you connect with a great agent, start looking at agent reviews online or ask friends or family for a referral. Having a good local agent on your side makes all the difference for such an expensive and infrequent transaction. Be sure toask plenty of questionsas you’re getting to know a prospective agent.
Trust your gut
What many people don’t realize is that a real estate purchase is incredibly emotional. Sometimes your reaction to what you see online won’t jibe with what you feel when you tour a home.
Be open to letting your feelings and emotions spill out. Youmight feel remorse laterif you don’t listen to your instincts.
Case in point: First-time buyers in Bedford, NY fell in love with a home with an incredible kitchen and views as far as the eye can see. The data online told them they should pay no more than 96 percent of the asking price, and they stuck to their guns.
The home sold at the asking price, and they kicked themselves months later when they were still looking for a home. In this case, the home was worth every last penny, and they missed out.
Before long, you’ll find yourself looking at listings online every day, and on the open house circuit every week. At this stage, work closely with your agent to monitor new listings, and see as many homes as you can.
The more you see, the more you’ll learn the market. Eventually, your search will become laser-focused on one or two areas.
When the right home comes along, you’ll know it. But it takes some time digging in and learning the market to build up the confidence to get to this place.
The time and effort will all be worth it, however, when you walk through the door of your new home for the first time.