Figure out what you can afford. Think carefully about all the costs of owning a home — not just the down payment and mortgage. Don’t forget about homeowners association fees, maintenance costs, taxes, and private mortgage insurance, if you need it. Be honest with yourself and your agent about how much you are willing and able to spend. It’s best to be preapproved or at least prequalified for a certain mortgage amount before you start home shopping.
If you’re in a hurry to find a new place, your agent needs to know. If you have plenty of time to search, agents will handle that differently, perhaps sending periodic listings that match your exact wish list.
Be prepared to tell your agent where you want to live, being as specific as possible. It may be a larger search, such as a radius around a specific location, it may be a particular town or city, or it may be as specific as a single neighborhood. Also, let your agent know if you need to be close to public transportation or in a specific school district. He or she may know of an alternative location that you may not have considered.
Type and Size
Do you want a single-family home, a condominium, or some other type of property? Size is also an important factor. For example, how many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? Do you have certain square footage in mind? Do you want a small yard or acreage? Think about how much space you need and what is right for your lifestyle. Are you planning a large family? Do you want to maintain a large home or piece of land?
It’s a good idea to create a wish list and rank items from most to least important. You may have a certain style of home that you prefer. Many people want a home that is move-in ready. There may be amenities that are important to you. Some of the most common wish list items include updated kitchens and bathrooms, hardwood floors, open floor plans, and big yards. Depending on this list, you might be able to find a home that satisfies all your wants and needs for the right price. But often, buyers need to make tradeoffs.
All homebuyers have certain things they just can’t live with — or without — in a home. Maybe it’s being located next to a busy road or having a driveway on a hill. Or perhaps you must have at least three bedrooms. Whatever your deal breakers might be, tell your agent upfront. You’ll save everyone a lot of time and effort.