If you’re like many people, a new home is on your 2019 wish list. But that doesn’t mean you’re ready to hire a real estate agent tomorrow and start touring houses next Saturday. Sometimes the house hunting process needs time to ramp up. We like to call it “pajama time.” You need to do some research, check out some house hunting websites, make sure your credit is in order—preferably from your sofa!
If this sounds like the homebuying stage you’re at, this is the article for you. We’ve mapped out three ways to jumpstart your house hunt online. All pajama friendly!
Scope out local neighborhoods
You may already have potential neighborhoods narrowed down to a few prospects, but if you’re more up in the air or are relocating from out of state, you may want to invest in a subscription to NeighborhoodScout.com. This comprehensive website lets you enter any address and discover neighborhood demographics, crime, schools, average home values, employment trends and more. If you don’t want to shell out the funds, here are some other websites to use when evaluating neighborhoods:
Greatschools.org is the place to go for school ratings, test scores and reviews. You can find out if the school is progressing, the demographic information about the student population, how many years of experience the staff has, and so much more!
There are several sites available for learning about crime in your area. First, make a stop at SpotCrime.com, where you can view recent crimes and arrests on a map view.
It’s important to look at neighborhood stats, but don’t take for granted something much more subjective—livability! Your needs will vary by your lifestyle preferences. Is walkability important to you? Check out WalkingScore.com. Put in an address and this site will tell you how walkable and bikeable the neighborhood is and what kind of transit options are available. To scope out entertainment, hit up TripAdvisor.com. You don’t have to be on vacation to use this site! Type in your city, select Restaurants or Things to do and select View Map to navigate to the neighborhood you’re researching. From there, you’ll get reviews of parks and dining options!
Explore floor plan choices
Once you’ve narrowed your search to a couple of neighborhoods, it’s time to think about the actual home you’ll be living in. First, it helps to make a wish list of must-haves for your new home. Either start with a blank piece of paper, a blank document on your computer, or download our Ultimate Moving Pack, which contains a house hunting wish list and other helpful worksheets. At a minimum, please ask yourself the following questions:
- How many bedrooms do you want or need?
- Would you need fewer bedrooms if a study or tech center is included?
- How many bathrooms is optimal?
- What is your current living space’s square footage? What kind of space do you need in a future home?
- How many garage spaces do you need?
Once you have your basic wish list stats down, we recommend going straight to the builder sites if you’re planning to buy a brand new home (here’s ours). There you’ll be able to find communities in your neighborhood and explore the floor plans available at each location. The ability to reference a floor plan both before and after you tour the model home is a big advantage over resale. You can revisit the layouts frequently and really think about how your family would function in the space.
For tips on reading floor plans and a complete floor plan glossary, check out our Floor Plan Basics Guide.
Start your financing journey
Though scoping out neighborhoods and floor plans is the most entertaining part of your pajama-friendly house hunt, we urge you not to neglect your finances. It’s important to know what your price range is before you get too far down the road. Here are some tips for starting your financing journey:
Make sure your credit is in order
A better credit score could get you a better mortgage interest rate, which has the potential to save you thousands in interest payments over the life of your loan. You may need to do a credit clean-up. To learn how to check your credit score and maintain/improve your score, be sure to read this article.
Play around with a mortgage calculator
A mortgage calculator can give you a basic idea of how a home’s sales price will translate into a monthly payment. Plus, it may give you an idea of what other expenses could affect the size of your monthly payment, such as property tax rate and size of your down payment. Learn more here: Making the Most of a Mortgage Calculator.
Though estimating with a mortgage calculator can be helpful, it doesn’t compare with the accuracy of getting prequalified with a mortgage company. Fortunately, this process can also start from the comfort of your own home! We recommend getting in contact with our affiliate, HomeAmerican Mortgage Corporation, by filling out this quick questionnaire.
So there you have it…three ways to jumpstart your house hunt online. It’s time to take the first steps to make your American Dream a reality in 2019!