There are probably few things in life that are as exciting--or as nerve- racking--as the search for a house. All the good emotions and the bad emotions seem to converge when the house hunting begins. Don't worry, this is a normal reaction, and is found in seasoned home buyers as well as those who are looking for their first home. One of the first decisions you need to make is whether you want to do your house hunting on your own, or by using an Agent. If you decide to go it on your own, you will be able to see (and buy) those houses that are For Sale by Owner (known as FSBO's). Depending on your area and the overall market, this will be around 20% or so of the total homes available (the other 80% are the "listed" properties--being sold through an Agent. Those homes you can't buy--or even see--on your own).
With an organized house buying plan, you can minimize a great deal of the emotional impact. By determining your buying power, your wants and needs, and having an organized search plan, your chances of a stress-free experience are much better.
Once the decision to buy a home has been made, take the time to prepare before you go on your home search. For example, much of the information on this Web Site should be very familiar to you before you go looking for homes. Yes, it is very tempting to rush out and actually look at houses, but to do so without full preparation can be both disastrous and expensive.
Get your financial house in order first! We can't stress this enough--it will save you an enormous amount of time, aggravation and heartache. Determine what your budget will comfortably allow and stick to it. Don't spend yourself into a "house poor" situation.
Get preapproved for a mortgage. This will not only give you a clear idea of how much a lender will approve for you, it will make your homebuying process a great deal easier (and save a lot of time later).
Get familiar with the different housing types available to narrow your search.
Determine your minimum requirements as well as any desired additional features--your needs and wants.
Take note of any items that you don't want in a house.
Determine the desired location (schools, work, public transportation, etc.)
Familiarize yourself with the mortgage process.
Don't just buy a home for your present needs. Make sure to take into account future considerations. As you are looking, use a scorecard to compare homes. A scorecard is a great tool when it comes time for comparisons (and for remembering which home had which features!)
Get familiar with the inspection process--especially the personal inspection aspect, so that you can weed out unacceptable houses quickly.
Maintain your perspective--and your cool! You may find an acceptable house on the first day--or the tenth. The important thing is to get the home that is best for you!