June has been house-hunting month for Manoj Mehta. I started my search around the 1st of June, and 30 days later, I have narrowed my search down to 2 places, which I toured today once again. During the tours, I recorded all my observations, took a multitude of pictures, and gathered the opinions of all involved, but I still can't choose one place over the other. The experience has taught me a lot though, and if you're in the market for a house, here are some tips:
1. Be Patient - I toured approximately 50 houses over 4 weeks, and shortlisted 2. Would I have it any other way? No. I am glad I saw 48 houses that didn't make the final cut; seeing things I didn't like helped me figure out what I liked, and compared to some of the dreadful places I toured, these last two were like breaths of fresh air.
2. Shop Around - This is a buyer's market; everyone involved in a real estate transaction wants your business. You can negotiate prices, the mortgage interest rate, agent commission, et al.
3. Take Notes Once, Read Them Twice - I'd recommend that you take detailed notes while touring places, and review your notes the same evening as the tours. Doing this will ensure that the details of all the places you visited are fresh in your head as you undertake the task of separating the "chaff from the corn", so to speak.
4. Go with a Real Estate agent, someone that is invested in your well-being and can be contacted at "your convenience". I got lucky because my agent Maureen Khan is awesome; let me know if you are in the market for a house, and I'll give you her contact info.
5. Leverage the WWW - there are great online resources at your disposal when looking for a house - Mortgage Calculators, FAQs about everything you want to know about the process, maps that give you directions from any point to your proposed home, MLS listing aggregators - and I am just skimming the surface with this list. Speaking for myself, Redfin and Trulia were indispensable to my property search. I must have browsed more than 200 listings, and I swear by the "Search on the Map" Redfin feature - set your search criteria, and as you move around the map, the view of the neighborhood is updated with listings that match your criteria. Voila!
6. And finally, forgot the age old idiom, "if it sounds too good to be true, it is..." Builders' inventory has never been higher, and they are desperate to sell. Go for the jugular when negotiating down the listing price, and you won't regret it.
Finally, Good Luck; I hope you find a house that says "HOME".