House hunting? Finding the right community is key.

People want to know about more than just the number of bedrooms, commute times or even schools when it comes to looking for their next home.  Searching for a home can be frustrating. It can feel endless.

The first step is to find a good real estate agent. Sure you can go out on your own. Peruse a few neighborhoods. Hit up a few For Sale by Owner homes. But do you really
know what you are getting or even looking for?  If you don’t, you may be in for a surprise later on. So how do you go about doing that?

The interview process.

Interview more than one real estate agent. Talk to friends, go to open houses (a great way to meet one before committing), go to their website, visit their Facebook page, check out the brokerage they work for, and finally, interview them in person.  Have the agent show you a home. After one showing you will know whether the match is a good one. Finally, commit to a real estate agent. It always amazes me that people would want to go into a home purchase process without a licensed brokerage to represent them. Ok…so now you have a great agent with knowledge of the market so what’s next? Today’s real estate agents need to know so much more about you and the area you are looking in.  It goes beyond square feet or number of bedrooms and baths. She needs to understand your hopes, dreams, and desires. Here are some things she will want to know. Narrowing the area. What is your preference? Commute time is usually the first thing that pops up when I start discussions with clients.  Most people prefer a relatively short and painless commute. Others may want easy access family, shopping, and other community services.
Educational needs or requirements. Schools are another important consideration when purchasing a home.  Parents are often interested in how the schools are ranked. Greatschools.com is a useful app that refer my clients to so they can make do their research and make an informed decision on the school district. Home values may be affected by the desirability of a school
district. Families will move in or out of a neighborhood based on the rankings the school district. No parent wants to accept that their children might not get the best education
possible.

Safety or background check.

This is something that comes up frequently.  Is the neighborhood safe?  I advise my clients to drive the neighborhood at different times of day. This is also a great opportunity to see how many entrances and exits the neighborhood has. There are also helpful websites can look at such as familywatchdog.com, to check for local sex offenders. Recent criminal activity can be found on crimereports.com, neighborhoodscout.com, and spotcrime.com.

Special circumstances.

Sometimes home buyers have special considerations when looking for a community. Perhaps it’s a medical condition or special schooling needs for their child. A good real estate agent should be able to drill down and make certain that they understand their clients’ special needs or requirements. Prestige and the gated community. Of course, not all gated communities provide all of the bells and whistles such as country clubs and golf courses or water features surrounded by luxurious homes or estates. These prestigious communities come with high price tags; which is great if you can afford them. Which brings me to the next big question and perhaps the most important…

What can you afford?

Are you looking in an area that is out of your price range? Maybe the payments would make life uncomfortable. Being house poor is no fun. You don’t want to go into massive debt and then play keep up with the Jones’ later on. Also, nothing is more frustrating than looking at homes out of your price range and then having to “settle”.  To avoid this issue, I recommend that my clients to talk to a lender before starting the actual search. Many real estate agent have a few good lenders that they work with. We don’t get any kickbacks; we just want to make sure the process goes smoothly for you. So go ahead and get that pre-approval letter. Now that you have narrowed down the right area with your real estate agent, it’s time to look at different homes in a couple of different communities or neighborhoods.

Finding the right community. Do you have a type?

Some clients I have worked with prefer a master-planned community with a golf course, neighborhood pools, a community center, and HOA. Other clients don’t want the higher HOA fees associated with those types of communities. Some prefer established older neighborhoods with large trees. Others want newer developments. Most of the time past experiences will drive their choices. This is where your real estate agent’s expertise comes into play. Her knowledge of what types of specific amenities local communities offer can help you to narrow the search quickly.

Which pictures catch your eye?

Different types of homes appeal to different people.  Some examples are younger homes vs. older homes, mid-century modern vs. traditional, one-story ranch vs. one-story Spanish-style hacienda. Some people want a two story home while others will only look at one story options.  The way to really find the right match is for you and your real estate agent to put together a list based on what you like and maybe throw in a few that aren’t your typical choice. Go on the Internet, look at the pictures, and then talk to your real estate professional.

Round one.

Now your real estate agent will take you out and show you some homes. I always advise my clients to look at no more than 5 houses at a time. Otherwise, they will get overwhelmed even if they write down specifics. Revisit and revise the list after you have looked a few.  My clients are sometimes surprised to find that they have changed their mind about the type of home or neighborhood they prefer.

Round two and beyond.

Go out again with your real estate agent.  View the homes on your list more than once. Have your agent do some more research and talk to the listing agent to answer any specific questions you may have. This is critical to narrowing down what you like. It may take a few times, but with your real estate agent’s knowledge and expertise, you will be able to find the right place to call home. Who knows? You might even discover that you prefer the mid-century modern over the traditional home you had before or find that you like an older more established neighborhood with lots of trees.

Happy hunting!!!

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