Buying a Home, Step 2: Search for Homes
This article authored by: Rob Hallberg
Once you have met with a Lender and know how much you would like to pay for a home, you are ready to start finding your dream home. If you do not know what area you would like to live in, I strongly recommend you contact a Realtor for help. They should be able to recommend some locations for you to consider based on your personal, economic and geographic requirements.
If you do know the area you want to look in, then I say get started! Most Buyers start looking for homes on the internet long before contacting a Realtor and that is fine. If you have any questions while you search, feel free to contact us by phone or email and we will gladly help, with no obligation on your part.
My first rule in setting up a search is, don’t be too limiting. In your initial search, only include the features that are a MUST HAVE. In other words, if you do not even want to consider a home that does not have a specific feature, then we want to exclude it from all search results.
Price and Area are two Must Have features. When you set a price range, you do not even want to see homes you cannot afford, so Price Range should be included in every search. Area, once you know the location(s) you want to search in, should also be a part of every search.
More examples of Must Have features include property type (single family home, townhome, condo, etc.), the minimum number of Bedrooms and Bathrooms, a Garage (usually minimum 2 car) and the number of stories in the home. Remember, only include these if they are features that you will not compromise on.
There are also features that start off as “Must Haves” but you may want to consider a compromise if the home is otherwise perfect. Features that often fall under his category are Swimming Pools (you can add one later), Split Bedrooms (highly desirable but if the home is otherwise perfect…), a 3 car Garage (in some price ranges this might be a difficult feature to find).
I always ask Buyers about Lot Size and Year Built, as these may be Must Have features. For example, if you need a yard for a dog, kids, etc. then you probably should set a minimum lot size. Year built is often more important.
In the 1990’s and more so in the current century, home designs and floor plans went through some major changes. In newer homes you find more open floor plans with higher ceilings than in homes built in the 80’s and prior. Newer homes often have “Great Rooms”, large Kitchens and Master Bedroom/Bath Suites, features not found in older homes. Newer designs and floor plans are important to many Buyers and we find that Year Built is often a “must have” feature.
In most cases I do not recommend setting home size or square footage as a search criteria. Price and number of Bedrooms usually have an impact on the size of homes found, which is why I don’t want to add another limiting factor. I have also found that sometimes a well-designed 1,850sf home appears to have more living area than a 2,000sf home, and I would like Buyers to consider both of them.
Okay, by now you should have a good idea of what to use for your search criteria so let’s get started. There are many websites that have home search capabilities, including Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Real Estate Agent websites and even the Tucson MLS. You simply enter the search criteria and available homes will appear as search results.
The search results will contain pictures and many more details about the property. After reviewing the information and pictures, you may decide this is a home that interests you. Some websites allow you to mark “Favorites” or “Rejected Properties” to help you stay organized.
The website should also have the capability to save your search and automatically email you any new homes found that meet your criteria. Some websites contain many “canned” searches, which allow you to search a specific area and price range for homes with certain features.
For example, on our website we have a page for North Vail homes by price range (say $200,000 to $250,00) and with 4 or more Bedrooms, a Pool or a 3 Car Garage. It only takes one click for a “canned” search, which is especially helpful when working with a small screen phone or tablet. Check it out: www.InsideTucsonRealEstate.com.
Okay, now you have set up a search that is showing you the kinds of home you may want to purchase, so what’s next? If you have not done so already, now is the time when you must have a Realtor represent you. Let’s go look at homes!
This article is the third in a new series, “Buying a Home: Advice from an Expert”. Although it is labeled “Step 2”, the first article was about making a decision to buy, “First Time Buying a Home. Are You Sure?” Additional Articles will appear weekly.
Next Article: Step 3, Making an Offer
Previous Article: Step 1, Meet with a Lender
Rob and Catherine Hallberg are Associate Brokers with Long Realty, a Berkshire-Hathaway Affiliate and Southern Arizona’s largest Brokerage. Since 2008, they have been ranked in the top 5% to 8% of all U.S. REALTORS®. Send Rob and Catherine an email for a fast response to your questions; for an even faster response, Call (520) 407-8667.