Searching for a home is a notoriously exhausting process. A real estate agent can accomplish the bulk of this work for you if needed, but perhaps you don't know what your options are, or what a home in your price point actually looks like. Luckily for you, there are numerous ways to kick off the home search yourself. Some of them use new technology, while other methods have been around for a while.
With the wealth of real estate websites now available online, the Internet is by far the best tool to begin the home search. There are multiple listing websites that each have their own unique brand or special tools that may make searching easier, but first, you need to refine your search. Sorting through all the listings in your area is far too time-consuming, so it's best to include keywords to limit your results to exactly what you're looking for. Trulia compiled a guide of the best ways to narrow your online searches to find the real diamonds in the rough. Their first suggestion is to get familiar with common real estate terms. A few common words or phrases can steer you in the right direction, or lead you in the opposite direction. If you are looking for a move-in ready house, look for words like "showplace" or "modern." Listings that mention "TLC," "vintage," or a curveball like "blank canvas" usually signal a fixer-upper. If that's what you're looking for, then have no fear. Otherwise, look for the small details in listing descriptions and titles.
Sometimes, keywords in listings aren't so mysterious. If you're looking for a condo or apartment unit with a good value, consider including "end unit" in your search. This should show only units that are on a corner and thus have just one neighbor, which increases value. Looking for something that doesn't need much work? Just search for "new" properties. If privacy is a top priority, "private" is also a popular keyword. Real estate search engines have gotten much smarter and more able to recognize casual language, so if it's on your mind, chances are there's a way to narrow your search to find that special detail.
The old-fashioned way
If you're not particularly Internet-savvy or just prefer a more hands-on approach to finding your dream home, there are several time-tested methods for real estate searching that you can look into. Quicken Loans suggested a few of these in a guide on home buying. These methods could be used to begin your search, or narrow things down a bit once you have a few listings in mind. Finding a beautiful home is one thing, but unless you're in the middle of nowhere, you're going to have neighbors, and the atmosphere of the area will be a big factor in your overall satisfaction. If you find some listings you like, consider stopping by and talking to any neighbors you see out and about. If you don't see anyone out on a nice day, it might be a tip-off to a less lively area. Driving around the neighborhood at various hours of the day can also give you a good clue about what the area is like.
The city hall of the town in which you're searching can serve as a wellspring of juicy information. A listing will tell you the things you want to hear about a home or neighborhood, but the records at city hall will tell you the rest. Perhaps there's some redevelopment in the works near the house that will make for some noisy mornings. Or maybe the previous owners did not acquire the proper permits for a renovation. This information could prove vital to narrowing your decision, deciding on a home inspection or even negotiating a lower sale price, if you have this knowledge at your disposal.
If you're working with an agent, it will certainly be helpful to come to them with a few specific listings that work for you. To make the process as easy as possible, make sure you are working well with your agent, too. Be upfront about your expectations, and the gems will come your way.