Shop for a Home Helping homebuyers learn about and shop for their first home.

Shop for a Home
Shopping for a home is the most exciting and critical step of all. At this stage in the homebuying process you should have already invested a significant amount of time and energy in order to be prepared for homeownership. Before you start shopping, you first should have completed the following steps:

  • Completed a homebuyer education training course 
  • Saved up the extra cash you will need to obtain for a home inspection, down payment and closing costs
  • Concluded that you are prepared for and ready to become a homeowner
  • Determined that you are not likely to move in the next few years 
  • Researched and selected a mortgage loan officer or broker
  • You have been pre-approved for a specific purchase price range and loan amount
  • Discussed and determined your wants and needs in a home 
  • Narrowed down the price, type, size and location of a property that you want to buy
  • Interviewed and selected a real estate agent to be your buyer's agent

If you have not done all or most of the above steps, you really need to get them done before you actually start shopping for a home or interviewing and selecting a real estate agent.

Select a Buyer's Agent
One of the most important steps you need to take before you seriously shop for a home is to select a buyer's agent. A buyer's agent is a real estate agent that you select to represent you throughout the homebuying process and negotiations. While it is permissible to work directly with the real estate agent hired by the seller, referred to as the listing agent, it is not advised because of their potential for a conflict of interest. You are strongly encouraged to get a buyer's agent who works just for you.

Also remember that it is the seller, not you, who pays the real estate agents fees when you buy a home!  So in other words, you don't have to pay a dime to have your very own buyer's agent working just for you.

Window Shopping
At this stage you probably have done some window shopping for properties on the internet and may have been driving around the neighborhoods you are seriously considering. This research helps you narrow down the type and location of house that you like and can afford. Window shopping also helps you get a good sense of what the local market is doing in the specific neighborhood where you want to buy.  It is important for you to develop your understanding of the selection of properties that are available in your price range and desired neighborhood.  This will help ensure that you have reasonable expectations of the types of houses you can afford to buy in the neighborhoods that you want to buy them.  Window shopping is helpful so that you are prepared to make an offer when the right house comes along.  

A Buyers' vs a Sellers' Market
Your home shopping experience can vary quite a bit depending on the state of your local real estate market and the specific neighborhood where you want to buy.

There are two general types of real estate markets: a buyers' market and a sellers' market.

A buyers' market is when there are fewer buyers than sellers and prices and inventory of properties favors the buyer. The buyer and their buyer's agents have a greater selection of homes to choose from and extra negotiating leverage with the seller's agent.

In a sellers' market the opposite is true: there are fewer homes than there are buyers and the seller has the upper hand on price and negotiations. Your real estate agent will advise you on the type of market you are in for the area you want to buy and advise you accordingly.

Listings
Getting and reviewing listings from your real estate agent is one of the most exciting and important parts of the whole homebuying process. A "listing" is essentially a fact sheet about specific homes that are for sale right now in the neighborhood where you want to buy!  A home's full listing is accessible and obtained by your real estate agent through a local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Real estate agents subscribe to their local multiple listing service who collect and distribute property information about most of the homes that are currently for sale in your area.  The multiple listing services do not include homes that are For Sale By Owner (FSBO).

Searching for a Home
Using your local multiple listing service your real estate agent will be able to search for properties by city, zip code, neighborhood, school, bedroom size, lot size, house size, type, age, and other property charateristics. Your real estate agent will easily be able to help you pinpoint the type of property you want to buy in the area you want to buy it. The clearer you are about what you want to buy, the more specific and detailed of a search your real estate agent will be able to prepare for you.

Comparing Homes
The real excitement begins when you and your real estate agent start visiting properties. Your buyer's agent will arrange time with you to show you properties that meet your search criteria. Most agents will e-mail you the listings in advance and you so you can decide which of the homes you want to see. To see occupied properties, your agent will need to make special arrangements in advance so plan accordingly.

After you have seen a few different properties, they may start blending together. To remember whish house is which, you will need to use some type of system to keep track of which homes you like and details about them so that you can refer back to them later. Your agent or homebuyer education provider probably has a tool for you to use at this stage in the process.