Oh, technology! It’s easier than ever to browse for your dream home online. Sites like Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia put thousands of for-sale homes right at your fingertips, so you can start your home search without even setting foot inside an open house.
Whether you’re in the casual scrolling phase or starting to get serious about buying a home, here are four steps you should absolutely take before you enter the world of online house hunting.
1. Make your wish list
Even if you’re a first-time buyer, there are probably home features you’re seeking in your new home—and a few things you’d rather avoid. Make a list of everything you’d want in your ideal home. Start with the basics: type of home, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and overall square footage. Continue with more specific items, like a three-car garage, a home office, or a fenced backyard.
Once you have your list, categorize each item as a “need” or a “want.” A “need” should be something that’s an absolute must-have—you won’t consider a home that doesn’t fit this criteria. Your “wants” are things that would be nice to have. Here’s an example: You may want a recently renovated kitchen, but you’d consider a house with an older kitchen if it checked all your other boxes.
2. Find out what you can afford
While it’s fun to search for homes online with a pie-in-the-sky budget, it simply isn’t realistic for most potential homeowners. A quick consultation with a HomeStreet Bank Loan Officer can be a great way to narrow down your budget and understand what your monthly costs would be at that price point. Depending on how serious you are about moving forward, now might be the right time to get a pre-qualification letter.
Remember your wish list? Now that you know your budget and what type of home it can get you in your area, you may want to revisit your list and re-prioritize as needed.
3. Narrow down neighborhoods
According to Fannie Mae, researching the area where you want to buy is the first step taken by 52% of potential buyers—and they’re on the right track. If you’re looking to buy outside of your current neighborhood, it’s important to research not only individual homes, but the local area as a whole. How are the schools? Even if you don’t have kids, school districts play a significant role in resale value. What would your commute be like? Do nearby amenities fit your lifestyle and needs?
4. Learn more about the home buying process
Whether you’re a first-time buyer or you’ve purchased before, the home buying process can be complicated. Knowing what to expect ahead of time can ease stress and make decision-making easier down the road. Ask friends and family members about their home-buying process. Reach out to a real estate agent to get your initial questions answered. Our HomeStreet Bank Loan Officers are a great resource for learning more about the home financing process. Finally, we also offer free Homebuyer Seminars in cities where our branches are located. They’re a great way to learn more about the process of becoming a homeowner and are led by loan officers and real estate professionals.
All loans subject to approval.