Once you have determined that you're ready to buy and you've secured a trusted lender, it's time to start looking. Finding the right property requires a realistic outlook on price, location, features, and needs/wants. Viewing homes can be tedious. There are a lot of options, so it's best to have a plan.
Price Range and Other Details
People are looking for granite kitchens, large bedrooms, close to freeways, and priced at a steal. When you carefully consider what you need and what you want, it's a good idea to also assign priority for these details. If price is the most important component, you may need to bump condition and/or location a little further down the list. Nobody is giving away prime real estate these days, and they never really have.
Another strategy used to set up your price range, is to consider how much work you may be willing to put in. There may be a home in a price range $20-$30K lower than what you plan to spend. You may choose a lower down payment amount and put those funds into upgrading the kitchen/bathroom/basement/landscaping to create your dream home. By the time you're done, you could have a home valued at or above your original price range, but with a lower monthly payment.
Visiting Homes for Showings
Your real estate agent can provide you with information about every listing that is available. When a home is interesting to you, it's time to set up a showing. Scheduling will depend upon your availability to go see it, the seller's willingness and availability to show it to you, and the availability of your agent to accompany you. Try to find several potential homes and schedule them consecutively in an effort to both find one, and also eliminate others. People rarely buy the first home they view, but it does happen. If you don't find the one you're looking for on your first excursion, the feedback you provide to your agent can better help narrow down the search. Many times, your agent can "pre-view" homes and use your previous feedback to either help eliminate or highlight a property, which will save you time on rearranging your life around diving out to look.
Open houses and new construction model homes often provide a unique opportunity to view homes without your agent. In both cases, it's still best to have your agent accompany you. Attending an open house with your agent will add to the feedback that your agent uses to locate the right home, or can get the offer started if you've discovered "the one." Say nothing. Let your agent do all of the talking to the seller's agent. If you love the house and seem really eager, the seller's agent will use that during the negotiation to get a better outcome for his seller. There is also a sense of urgency when writing up the offer and a tremendous advantage to being able to discuss those details with your agent on the spot. In a multiple offer situation, your agent meeting the seller's agent at the open house can be to your advantage. Don't view homes without your agent.
When you attend a new construction model home, their agent will do their very best to get you to agree to exclude your agent. This benefits the builder tremendously, and they will explain that it will benefit you too because they will offer some kind of discount. Your best bet is to have your agent negotiate the best outcome for you. Your agent knows exactly where the wiggle room is on upgrades, and will also negotiate the best price. There is a reason that the builder wants the buyer to go into the transaction unrepresented. The builder's agent acts in their best interest. Unrepresented buyers tend to take the offer without much negotiation, which makes more money for the builder and their agent. Think of buying a home like you're going to court. Your agent is like your defense attorney. Every buyer should absolutely have an agent acting in their best interest. It costs a buyer nothing to be represented by a professional negotiator.
Once you have successfully found the house you want to buy, it's time for you and your agent to negotiate the details.
Ready for more? Read Buyer Series #3 - Offers and Negotiation here!