House hunting can actually be an enjoyable experience if you take your time and do your homework. Really! In my years as a REALTOR, Investor and just a plain old looker before that I discovered the following ways to make house hunting less stressful and more effective.
Key to it all is first deciding where you'd like to live, then making it your business to learn as much about schools, hospitals, grocery stores, shopping, medical facilities, recreational amenities and so on.
Once you've done that you're ready to investigate about the crime rate. Is it a safe location, or do you need to be considering another location?
And as awkward as it may be to talk about, you want to assess the quality and character of the people who live in the area. Obviously, you can't interview them, but you can get a fairly good sense of their character by the condition of their homes and from the activities you might observe.
For example, if your prospective neighbor has discarded auto parts, household appliances and other stuff in their front yard you might want to reconsider your choice. A poor location when you buy will definitely be a negative factor if and when you decide to resell the home at a later date.
But once you've zeroed in on a good location, you're ready for the next step of finding your dream home. can start to think seriously about searching for your dream home. But instead of spinning your wheels by looking at houses randomly, you should determine what you really want in a house beforehand and be guided by those things in your search.
Make a list of things that are important to you. Do you want a single story house, or do you prefer two stories? Will 3 bedrooms and 2 baths do, or do you really need 4 bedrooms and 2 & 1/2 baths? Making a list will not only save you time, it will also be a big help to your REALTOR in planning your viewings.
Next comes the biggie. Get pre-qualified for a mortgage loan before jumping in the car to tour houses. You need to know how much house can you afford, which most people don't know.
Affordability is based upon income, credit status, interest rates, down payment, closing costs and the type of loan selected. By getting pre-qualified by a lending institution you will know what you can afford to spend, which will save you time by establishing the price range you should be looking in before you begin your house hunting tours.
Once armed with information about how much house you can afford you're ready to begin looking at homes. Make notes after each viewing each property, because after 2 - 3 homes they'll start running together and you won't be able to remember the details of each one as you think you will.
Finally, you need your own REALTOR; someone who is working for you and is looking out for your interests. When you call the REALTOR on a "house for sale" sign you're speaking to the seller's agent, who represents the seller and will be looking after the seller's interests.
Like I started out saying, house hunting can be an enjoyable experience when you take your time and do your homework, but when done wrong it can be a terribly stressful situation. Fun and easy, or difficult and stressful. You decide!