Now that you have a better idea of your budget, find out where you want to live.
1. Choose a neighborhood
What makes a good neighborhood? The answer to this question will be different for everyone. But you can quickly narrow down your options by focusing on a few key factors:
Where can you afford a home?
What is the duration of your commute to work?
Do you want to be close to good schools?
Talk to friends and colleagues about where they live. Then visit the shops and restaurants in the neighborhoods you are considering to get a better idea of the place, including the general vibe of the community and whether you could be friends with the people who live there.
If you like a certain area, come back at different times and days of the week to get an idea of what the traffic is like at rush hour and whether that seemingly quiet city at noon is the center of the party at night. Some real estate companies have expanded their services by offering seminars and guided tours of the neighborhood. (You may also want to take a virtual tour of the neighborhood using Google Street View.) There are also online tools designed to help you find the right neighborhood.
2. Comparison shop
Once you’ve determined where you’d like to live, start browsing websites like nytimes.com/realestate, Realtor.com, and Zillow, to see available homes in that area. Eliminate the sections of the city you have chosen that do not have the style or size of home you want at the price you can afford. Setting up alerts on these sites based on your criteria can help automate some of the work. Many research sites show how long a particular list has been on the market, whether the price has risen or fallen, past sales, and other useful data that can help determine if a list is overpriced or languishing in the market. . From there, find out which houses you want to see.
3. Time to visit
Visit a variety of open houses to narrow your preferences. This will help you get an idea of the accommodation available in the area and what is meant by a kennel or railway apartment. If there is a crowd at an open house, you can also get information from questions and comments made by other potential buyers.
When you have a better idea of what you want, schedule some private screenings. A private screening with a real estate agent will allow you to take your time in one place without the pressure or distraction of competing buyers. Tip: If you can, schedule a visit during the week before the open house so that you can use the open house for your second visit.
During your tour:
Open cabinets to control storage space.
Draw the curtains to consider the view.
Take a walk in the yard and consider the maintenance needed to keep it fit.
Ask a lot of questions: How far is the house from trains and buses? Why do sellers want to relocate? When were the latest improvements made? How much do utilities cost? Have offers already been made?
Open houses can also be a great way to meet real estate agents you might consider working with.
4. Find a real estate agent
You can find homes for sale on your own, but a good broker can help you make the right decisions and guide you through the home buying process. They can also help you access homes as soon as they hit the market, before they appear online.
To find the right broker for you, talk to friends and family who have recently bought or sold in your area. Find a broker who has a history of cooperating with buyers in your situation and will contact you immediately. Keep in mind that your broker’s commission, usually split between 5 and 6 percent with the seller’s broker, will eventually come out of the proceeds of the sale. So even though you may not pay your agent directly, you can expect that commission to be counted in the list price. And remember: your broker works for you, but he doesn’t pay you unless you buy a house.