For most of the United States, we've turned a corner. The sun is shining, the snow is melting, and the tulips are poking their heads up through the ground and a brutal winter is winding down.
Beside your tulips, the incipient balmy weather is likely to bring another species out of hibernation, commonly known as the North American house hunter. These intrepid souls, no longer trapped indoors by snow banks and freezing rain, will soon begin venturing out in search of new lodging. And like all explorers, North American house hunters must be properly outfitted for their searches.
First and foremost, you house hunters need a means to plan their search. Finding a Realtor you like is key, as Realtors are invaluable guides who will provide you with detailed advice on how to search for and buy houses. Finding a Realtor, will help you to ask her to search for home listings geographically, as well as by price, type of home and number of bedrooms and bathrooms. A good Realtor also has invaluable information on home financing, inspections and insurance plus tips on owning and maintaining your home.
It's also a good idea to buy a map of the city where you're planning your home search. Sites like Google Maps and Mapquest can help you plan your search route, but nothing beats an old-fashioned foldable map for getting a sense of your potential commute and the layout of your future neighborhood. For that authentic explorer vibe, you can even tack it up on the wall and mark the locations of the homes you find listed online.
Once you're actually on your search, always keep a pad of paper and a pen with you. These are useful for jotting down homes you see with For Sale signs on their lawn. By the way, if you find a home for sale by a company other than your Realtor's, pass the address and phone number onto your Realtor so they can dig up the history and relevant information about the house for you.
You should also keep your pad and pen with you once you actually start touring homes. Take notes of things you like and dislike about the homes you see; this is important because you're likely to look at a lot of homes, and they're likely to start running together in your mind. Taking notes will not only keep you engaged and interested in the homes you're looking at, and will give you a frame of reference when you think back over your search to start narrowing your choices.
Finally, house hunters should always take a digital camera with them on their search. Like your notes, pictures will help you remember, and keep separate in your mind, all the houses you've looked at over the course of your search. You should also use your camera to snap pictures of specific things you like or dislike about a home. Again, these will help you make your final decision after narrowing down the houses you're particularly interested in