How to Simplify Your Search for the Perfect Home

Finding the perfect home isn’t always easy. This 3-step system simplifies the search so you can stay organized and maximize the use of your time. Also includes a printable House Hunting Checklist!

This post was sponsored, and paid for, by SunTrust Mortgage.  All opinions are my own.

This house hunting checklist is an absolute lifesaver! I definitely needed help when I told my realtor about a house and she replied: "...again?" I had completely forgotten I had ALREADY SEEN THIS HOUSE! I wish I had read this post on how to find the perfect home months ago!

When we relocated 1,300+ miles from New York to sunny Florida, I promised myself this was our only cross-country move.

Apparently, I didn’t realize how hard wanderlust would hit after only 4 years in the Sunshine state. While I love the beach and don’t mind scorching temps, part of me really misses those mountains. The plan isn’t to doing anything major right away, but in the next 3 years we hope to settle somewhere in the Carolinas…after a highly anticipated RV road trip, of course!

Meanwhile, I can’t sit still and do nothing. Curiosity has me checking listings, just to see what the housing market is in various cities, and what features are available for a what price. It reminds me of the endless search for our first two homes, and how overwhelming that whole process was.

It’s a wonder I’d even want to do it again.

However, it’s not as stressful when you have a system in place to simplify the search. Digging into my memory bank gave me some ideas I can share with you, just in case you’re searching for a new home, or think you might in the next few years.

1. Define Your Must-Haves

It helps to have a list of non-negotiables {features you won’t budge on} and semi-negotiables {features you’d like to have, but not totally necessary} before you start your search. There are a LOT of options out there, and this narrows down the window to a more manageable list.

Once you exhaust all those options, you can wait until more houses pop onto the market, or adjust your list. But at least this gives you a good place to start!

Here were the non-negotiables for the house we live in now:

  • At least 1,200 square feet. Any less than that felt really cramped.
  • 3 or more bedrooms so I could turn one into my home office.
  • A private backyard.

Our semi-negotiables were:

  • To live on a street with an actual name. I know it shouldn’t matter, but our city is grid-based and filled with names like SW 34th Place, NW 22nd Ave, etc. I wanted a pretty address!
  • A real or gas fireplace. Yep, I’m a wimp and 50 degree days in Florida are no joke.

In the end, I got ALL our non-negotiables, as well as the pretty address from our semi-negotiable list. Yay!

2. Stay Organized with a Dedicated Tool

Next, you need a tool to organize all the houses you want to see. The easiest way to do this is with a house hunting app {which are usually free}, and all you have to do is plug in the criteria mentioned above for it to populate results within that range.

However, if you prefer old-fashioned paper and pen, you can use my favorite method—a dedicated three-ring binder! I am binder-obsessed, and even have one to help me decorate our current home.

Here’s how to assemble your notebook:

  • Organize your binder with dividers according to city/town.
  • Print out each listing you want to see, hole punch it, and file in the appropriate section of your notebook.
  • Print a few copies of this House Hunting Printable to have in the front of each section. This gives you an at-a-glance look at all the houses you want to see in a specific location, as well as a quick “why-you-do-or-don’t-like-it” note section.

As you see each home, bring your notebook along so you can take real-time notes and decide whether the home is a “maybe” or a “no”.

If it’s a “no”, don’t throw away the listing yet. Move it to the back of the divided section in your notebook, and highlight that listing in a different color on the House Hunting Printable shown above. You will be surprised at how much they all blend together, especially after viewing 40-50 homes, and you’ll want to remember which houses you already saw.

Once a home is under contract or has been sold, you can remove it from the notebook and recycle the paper.

3. Save Time with “Drive-By’s”

I like to preview each home’s location before getting the realtor involved. This prevents time wasted on a home that looks great in photos, but is located in a not-so-great neighborhood. Plus, you get a feel for how long it takes to travel to and from regular stops.

For instance,

  • Where is closest grocery store?
  • Are there parks nearby for walking, picnics, and play?
  • How long will it take to go to the gym, church, school, etc?

While Joseph and I don’t regret purchasing our home, we did not factor in the travel time as much as we should have. We are located about 35 minutes away from church, and since we are there once or twice a week, it wasn’t too smart to pick a place that was so far away. Live and learn!

Once you settle on your top picks, work with a real estate agent to schedule a showing and take extra photos on your phone if there’s a specific feature you want to remember. Just be sure to label the photo with the correct address from your notebook so you don’t mix them up.

The Bottom Line

Finding the perfect home seems like never-ending, impossible process. I wondered whether we would ever get out of our crummy apartment and find our dream home! But we did. In fact, when I walked inside the home we have now, I said,

“This is it. This is my home”.

And to do that, you’ll want to understand all the in’s and out’s of the home buying process so you can be confident that THIS is the home you’ve been searching for.

SunTrust Mortgage offers a FREE Guide to Home Buying to help you learn about different mortgages, what you need to qualify for one, and printable worksheets that take a snapshot of your finances so you can estimate the the price range you are most comfortable with.

They have a team of experts dedicated to help find the mortgage that is right for you., which is awesome, because all those details make my head spin!

I hope my house-hunting method inspires you to keep your approach simple and organized, whether you’re searching for your first home, or your fifth. Don’t forget to save this post to Pinterest or Evernote—you’ll want to reference these tips when you need them most.

Let’s chat about house hunting:

Are you in the middle of a home search, or plan to be soon? I’d love to know what your non-negotiables are and what area you’re looking to buy in!

Owning a home is one of the largest financial milestones and with understanding comes confidence. SunTrust Mortgage is committed to helping future homeowners find a mortgage that fits their life, as well as understand the ins and outs of the home buying process. Talk with a SunTrust Mortgage expert today.

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Rest assured, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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