Previously I talked about how we got our finances in order to be ready. Took us little over 2 years, but we did it. So how did we start our search?
Where to start when searching for a new home
Step one: I did what most people do and I searched online. I used Zillow, Realtor.com, and tons more. Now understand, we live 2,200 miles away from where we were wanting to move. So searching online and relying on a Realtor and our children there was our only choice. My kids also sent us photos and addresses of properties for sale if they saw them while driving around. I even put the word out to friends in the area that we were looking and asked to keep an eye out.
I also searched for a real estate agent. Not all are created equal! The first two were not very responsive when I inquired about something. Days, even weeks would go by with no response to inquiring about a property or wanting to set up an appointment for one of the kids to go and check out for us. I was really disappointed.
Then, after 6 months of looking, while talking to my son about it, he said don’t you know so in so’s mom is a real estate agent? Ummm NO! LOL. He got me her contact info and all was good from there out. Very timely responses, got all info she could when I asked about a property and got us appointments for the ones we had narrowed down and wanted to see. Unfortunately some of them were already sold by the time Barb came on board. But… I tried to remain positive that something better was waiting for us. Boy was I right! More on that later. But point is, ask people for a reference or if they know someone. Would have saved us a lot of time if we had done that first.
So how do you start to search? Start broad first. Of course price limits are important. Know what you can afford. You should also be talking to a Lender about getting pre-qualified so you know exactly what you can do. I’ll share more on this later of some options we learned about that 90% of people don’t know.
Then narrow more by number of minimum bedrooms you want, amount of land, in the area you want. All those sites let you create a free account and you can save them to a list. Narrow your search as you read more info on each one keeping in mind your must haves and don’t want at all lists.
This should give you a good feel for what is available out there.
When you start to narrow down to a few do a search for the address. Amazing what you can find out using Google. And while using Zillow, you can see when the house last sold and for how much and most have direct links to a county website for the information. Sometimes you can find out additional information this way too. Take notes on each one.
Something VERY interesting while doing this… half the time the County records don’t match things on the property listing. These are things you will want to question later if a house makes it to your final list.
ALSO, check out the address on Google Maps. You can see arial views and a lot of times street views. It may not be completely up to date, but usually it’s within a year or two. Later you can do this on the County websites too some times after you are digging deeper into a specific property.
When you find something that looks good to you, schedule an appointment to go see it. Or like we did, we asked our kids to go see it with our Realtor or at least do a drive by and see if it would be worth looking at. Even on a few, the realtor had already seen it and could give us some insight too. If they know your Wish Lists, then they have a good idea what you’re looking for.
On the first visit: This is more of getting an overall feel for what’s there. On the drive to and from, note things in the neighborhood. Traffic, stores, neighbors… anything that might be important to you to have or not have. Example: If it’s located next to a railroad track or not. Or if the neighbors yard looks like a junk yard and it’s spewing over the property lines. Yes, seen it. Might have bought it. LOL. Or maybe there’s a flea market across the street. You know what traffic will be like on weekends then.
Now, I do Inspections. So I tour a property different than most. I don’t let emotion interfere either. I look at a property in a very particular way. Structured really. If I always work counter clockwise, I won’t miss something. With this “Home Inspector’s” style of doing this, it will help you see, and remember, all that is really there. I highly recommend you do it the same.
What and how to look at a potential home and land to buy
When you step out of the car, have camera in hand. Now think of the property like a clock face. Work Clockwise or counter clockwise and walk the whole perimeter of the property. Take photos of anything you want to remember. Like confirming if that tire pile is on your side or neighbors. Or if there is a creek or pond if that’s important to you.
Walk the ENTIRE property! Work again around the clock same way as before narrowing the circle and do it around the house last. Step back and take photos of EACH side of the home and any other buildings on property. Believe me, that camera sees a lot more than you do.
Some things to watch for while walking that property would be like standing water up against the home. Foul smell coming from a pond or septic systems. The huge power lines running next to the property. Or the existing garden in a perfect spot. lol Or that cemetery next door that didn’t show up on the maps if that bothers you. The list could go on. But taking photos and walking it really helps you become aware of the surroundings and get a good feel.
Entering the home, keep that clock in mind and walk through home taking photos of each room and close ups of anything of concern or in question. Staining at a ceiling line, or broken windows etc. Or if appliances are included with the sale, take a photo of each one. Are they working? New, old… just note it as it is something that will come in handy later.
Now, I’m one of those who also relies on how a home feels. I’ve walked into homes that just out right gave me a bad vibe and walked right out. I also like visualizing to see myself living there. Look beyond personal belongings. They won’t matter. But I want to feel it. Can I see my things there? Can I see us living there?
And depending on the season, you can also feel if a home is drafty or cold. Are icicles hanging from the gutters or hot spots showing up on the roof? But for now, this is just the first walk and you just want an overall view and feel but taking the photos helps you remember the home later. And if you are tech savvy, use your phone to voice record notes. Or even better! Take a video while talking into it about something you want to remember later. Our Realtor did this for us. Was a HUGE help! Just one word of advise, take several smaller videos instead of one big one. File size may be an issue. LOL. If that’s not your thing, maybe a notepad will help.
As soon as you get home, write down everything you want to remember. Look through the photos as you do this. It’s amazing what you see in a photo or video that you didn’t see while walking. 😉 Make your list of questions now too while all is fresh in your mind.
I’m very computer oriented so I kept a file folder for each property and within there I would put the printout from the realtor’s site, save photos and maps I found online too. Then I would have a word file with all my notes and questions and download my photos in there. Made it a LOT easier when trying to decide our next step.
We did this until we narrowed it down to 1-2 homes. Many were voided out just from driving by or upon entering the home and seeing severe damage. Remember, we were looking for a Fixer Upper. Saw a few that I was shocked were still standing. LOL Good bones was important to us.
Then I sent my kids out with a list in hand to “inspect” for us on a second visit. Remember, we are still 2,200 miles away. I have to rely on them. But this post is long enough and I will do a whole other post on that process. We’re going to get into details there.
Want a little FREEBIE check list for your first walk-thru?
I have one for you! Inspection-First Visit
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