House Hunting 101

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t commit a first time home buyer mistake by ignoring the basics.
  • A little more than half of homebuyers in America find their purchase through house hunting sites.
  • You won’t want to miss these easy-to-follow house hunting tips to keep on hand.

Preparing for the house hunting process can be quite the exciting time, especially if you are a first time home buyer. Perhaps you have spent several years building up your financial profile while saving up for a down payment. Maybe you are about to embark on a new journey of entrepreneurship in real estate. Unfortunately, the process of buying a house can be long and arduous for some, especially for those who enter into the experience unprepared. Prevent yourself from encountering a house hunting buzzkill by soaking up all the tips and tricks offered below.

Home Buying Basics

Any house hunting checklist should include the process of getting pre-qualified, and then pre-approved, as a prerequisite to any house hunting activity. One of the most common first-time homebuyer mistakes is when an individual starts looking at houses without having any idea of what their actual budget might be, or how much house they can afford. Individuals who are just starting to think about buying a home are encouraged to get pre-qualified by a mortgage lender, which will help provide a rough idea of how large of a mortgage they can qualify for, and what improvements they can might to their financial profiles. Once they feel ready to start house hunting, they can get pre-approved for a loan. This process is more extensive, and results with a pre-approval letter stating how much the lender is willing to loan to the borrower. Having this letter helps demonstrate to sellers that the buyer’s offer is credible.

It is also important for house hunters to have a clear idea of what they want, or do not want in a property. It is helpful to create a clear list before attending open houses or looking at online listings, which can help prevent from feeling overwhelmed by different options, as well as keep things in perspective. When comparing a wishlist to a property, be sure to understand the difference between structural qualities and cosmetic qualities. It is easy to dismiss a great property based solely on cosmetic issues that can easily be changed down the line. Instead, be sure to pay close attention to the quality of the structural aspects of the property that cannot be addressed easily.

Finally, buyers should keep in mind that the home purchase is nothing but their own. It will be easy to feel befuddled by other people’s opinions, or feel badly for the real estate agent if you do not make a decision quickly. At the end of the day, they should never feel pressured to pick a property until they find the one that feels like the perfect fit. Read on to find out about additional home buying mistakes, and how to avoid them.

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House hunting checklist

First Time Home Buyer Mistakes To Avoid At All Costs

Becoming a first time home buyer is an accomplishment within itself, but the house hunting process is yet another hurdle to overcome. It is easy to get overly excited when looking at different properties, as well as make a decision out of haste. Below is an overview of common first time home buyer mistakes to avoid:

  • Not obtaining a pre-approval letter
  • Not working with an agent
  • Not having a clear wishlist
  • Not managing expectations
  • Not managing unwanted opinions
  • Not checking every nook and cranny
  • Not paying attention to the location

The section above addressed the difference between getting pre-qualified and pre-approved, and how a pre-approval letter can provide house hunters with significant leverage when negotiating with sellers. Conversely, not getting a pre-approval letter means looking at houses while being in the dark in regards to exactly how much the lender will be willing to provide. This could result in making an offer on a property that cannot be afforded, thus wasting everyone’s time.

According to the National Association of Realtors, roughly 87 percent of all buyers work with a real estate agent when looking for their new home. One may argue that working with an agent is especially critical during the first time home buying process; these professionals are extremely knowledgeable about the home buying process, are up to date on the best neighborhoods and market trends, and have access to property listings that are not publicly available.

Home buyers should also take time to reflect on what makes up their absolute must-haves in a property, as well as things they absolutely do not want. Those with partners may need to find a compromise on some of these items. Having a clear list helps with staying focused while looking at various listings.

While creating a specific wishlist is extremely helpful, it is also important to manage expectations. The harsh reality is that a limited budget, combined with the inventory available on market that fits that budget, may not match up to every homebuyer’s hopes and dreams. Being realistic and sensible while creating a house hunting checklist can help prevent disappointment.

Anyone from friends, parents, extended relatives and coworkers will want to offer their advice and opinions when they learn that you are in the process of buying a house. Because buying a house is such a personal experience, it is important to filter through unwanted, biased and excessive opinions.

Another colossal mistake for buyers to avoid is failing to check every nook and cranny of a property during a walk through. It is easy to focus in on cosmetic features that could have easily been fixed or updated. There is nothing worse than obtaining the home of your dreams, or so you thought, only to realize that there are a plethora of underlying issues that are expensive to fix. When attending an open house, take enough time to inspect the property in detail, including exterior areas. Bringing along a home inspection checklist may prove to be helpful.

Many real estate professionals will argue that the location is just as, if not more, important than the property itself. The location is one of the main factors contributing to the property value, how quickly the value will appreciate, and the value and ease of selling the house down the line. In addition, be sure to make note of the surrounding neighborhood to ensure convenience and compatibility.

Best House Hunting Sites

The ever-increasing availability of data and information on the internet has given rise to house hunting online. Even though the majority of homebuyers work with a real estate agent, a little over half of all home buyers find the home they purchase via the internet. Below is a selection of some of the best house hunting sites and house hunting apps available:

  • This official site of the National Association of Realtors provides a credible source of over 4 million listings, updated every fifteen minutes.

  • Homebuyers can find listings across many categories, from rentals to foreclosures, along with guides and resources.

  • Individuals who provide a more visual approach to searching through listings may enjoy this user-friendly site.

  • This site makes it easy to browse through listings based on the desired location, price range, number of bedrooms, and property type. It also offers several “how to” guides.

  • Those looking for detailed data, such as demographics, market analysis, average commute times or even local amenities will enjoy this detail-oriented resource. Site visitors can also receive pricing estimates for each specific listing.

  • is a platform specifically for homeowners who choose to sell their property without a real estate agent. The site provides yet another user-friendly source of listings for buyers.

  •’s core competency is providing property value estimates using publicly available data. The site provides over 110 million listings across categories, such as homes for sale, homes for rent and even properties not currently on the market.

House Hunting Tips You Won’t Want To Miss

  • Get pre-approved
  • Interview real estate agents
  • Research market trends
  • Identify up-and-coming neighborhoods
  • Prioritize the location
  • Manage expectations
  • Look past cosmetic issues
  • Keep a critical eye
  • Watch out for hidden costs
  • Don’t skip the home inspection

It is no secret that looking for the house of your dreams is not always an easy feat. Explore these helpful house hunting tips to keep in your back pocket:

House hunting


Experiencing the house hunting process can be easy and exciting, as long as you go into it with research and preparation. Knowing what to expect, as well as how to avoid common mistakes and pitfalls, can make it seem like you were a house hunting expert all along.

Have you ever received great house hunting advice? Feel free to share in the comments below:

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