If you’re logging a gazillion hours stalking your next home online and feel especially exhausted by the sheer volume of homes that you eliminate each day because they simply do not meet your criteria, this may be the blog for you! Stick with us while we help you narrow down what is important and how to find it faster.
Welcome to the 4th post in our Buyer Series, today’s topic is: Setting your Search Criteria
Having done a bunch of research on the matter we can tell you that we are not exactly in agreement with what most of our colleagues and contemporaries in the real estate industry have to say on this topic. If you have been following our blogs and video series, you now know that not being on the same page as our colleagues in matters of real estate is not unheard of for us!
As with any decision we are called upon to make in life, there are certain super important “MUST HAVE” criteria that must be taken care of, no exceptions. “Must Haves” are followed by “LIKE-TO-HAVES”. These are things that would improve your lifestyle but can be delayed or even disregarded without negative impact to your lifestyle. Lastly there are those things that are “NICE-TO-HAVE…”, these are luxuries that you can live without but would enjoy them if you had them.
No home buyer is exempt from the benefits of carefully laying a clear path for making smart home-buying decisions. The search criteria we suggest apply to EVERYONE, including:
- first time home buyers,
- all those buyers who are past the first home phase and have moved to “yikes my family has grown” and if I don’t move I am going to go mad!,
- “ahhh, I finally have some savings, the kids are older, and I can afford my dream home”,
- “Wahoo! I see a second summer/winter home in my future”, and
- “it’s time to downsize, a small place with little to no upkeep sounds just about right to me.”
Take care of these things first and in this order!
- Financial Ability and Options/Mortgage Pre-Approval – Few people can afford to buy a home without taking out a mortgage. If you happen to fall into this category, you rock and congratulations!!! Your job at this step is to determine where the cash to purchase will come from and to make sure that it is liquid enough to pull out when the time comes.
For most of us taking out a mortgage is mandatory. If this is you, make an appointment with your lender to find out how much you can afford to spend on a new home and get pre-approved for a loan. You will need to have this pre-approval in hand when you are ready to put in an offer on you new home.
Regardless of whether you are taking out a mortgage or self-financing, this dive into your financial ability must include how much you are willing to spend on your new home having regard to all the other factors that affect your financial health. Just because your lender approves you for a $300,000 home does not mean that you are or even should be comfortable borrowing that much money! Look at the whole financial picture.
- Location, Location, Location – There are so many facets to these criteria, what state, what county and all the way down to what neighborhood. For most of us there will be important criteria like a job or family or something big that will narrow down the criteria very quickly for others this may take some soul searching and self-discovery. Now that you know how much you can spend on your new home, you can use that information to help you decide what neighborhoods make sense given your budget.
Once you have the general location narrowed down, we recommend a “best neighborhood” search for things, such as the quality of the schools if you have children, the availability of activities you enjoy (hiking, biking, golf), crime rates, public transportation, anything that is or may be important to you.
While you are narrowing down the neighborhood you want to live in, keep in mind that you can change a house by renovating it, but you cannot change its location. Homes in “preferred” locations retain their value better than the most beautiful homes that are located poorly.
Then take care of these things: There are literally hundreds of different home specific criteria to look at when finding a new home, they range in priority from things you cannot live without to things that are shiny and nice, but you could easily and without sacrifice live without them. This is the point where I ask you to prioritize what you need in your new home. So, get out a pen and paper, or start a note one your phone or however you keep track of lists, get it out and start making these lists:
- Must Have: these are the non-negotiable factors in your housing search, here are some things it might include:
- list price (the price above which you will not go)
- number of bedrooms
- interior/exterior levels
- Like to Have: you are a little more flexible and may not agree with your partner on these features. This category may include things like:
- extra garage stalls
- upgraded appliance package
- large walk-in closets in the master bedroom
- Nice to Have: these are the things that are nice to have but not essential like:
- swimming pool
- vaulted ceilings
The importance of one factor over another is personal! No two people are alike; you need to develop your own list and keep referring to it. You may even find that your list changes over time. Keep in mind that at this point it is critical to keep your search criteria to a minimum, you should have no more that 2 or 3 “must haves” and a few “like to haves”. Keep in mind that the more criteria you have, the fewer homes will be available for you to see. You do want to eliminate all homes that do not have your “must haves” (there is no point in wasting time on homes that will not work for you), and you may want to relax more on the “like-to-haves” and eliminate the “nice-to-haves” until you know what inventory is available to you.
Once you have created your list of criteria, give it to your REALTOR®, he or she will be more than happy to set-up a customized search that will eliminate properties that are not right for you and help you to see and narrow down those that work. You can now begin the process of visiting neighborhoods and homes that are within your budget.
At this point you are well on your way to finding that perfect home!
Do you have a question you would like us to answer? We want to hear from you; leave us a note in the form below.
Remember, if you or anyone you know is looking to buy or sell their home, please give us a call! It’s always the right time to make a wise move with the Wise Move AZ Team.