When buying a home, finding a neighborhood and home worthy of your family can seem like an impossible task. Settling into a nice neighborhood in just the right area (in a great school district, one close to family-friendly activities, by the right daycare, etc.) makes house hunting incredibly overwhelming. Furthermore, finding the perfect gem of a property within your budget can make this important task even harder.
The internet is a great place to begin your search, and so is connecting with a realtor. However, finding the perfect home for your family can take more than an agent and a search engine. Having the right tools at your fingertips can be just what you need to find that one dream home. We have compiled a list of the best tools to help you hone in on the best property for your family and how to utilize them for maximum benefit.
Type "mortgage calculator" in Google, and you will get hundreds of billions of results. Not all of these results will be an exact match, but many of them will. Before starting your home buying journey, you must know your family's budget. A mortgage calculator can help you determine your home budget and help you understand the loan amount you may be approved for. Pretty much any loan calculator online will do.
Along the same lines....
While checking your credit score is a good idea, anyone else whose name may be on the home loan should also get their credit checked. Not all credit scores qualify for a home loan. The better credit, the better mortgage rates.
Before even going online and searching on your own, hiring a real estate professional can also help you on your home buying journey. While you don't want to rely on your real estate agent 100% to find the perfect home for you, they can greatly help you find your dream home. Asking friends and family is the best way to learn who is the best agent within the area. However, if you are looking for a home in a specific area where you have no connections, going online and looking for real estate agents in that zip code with good reviews/ratings may be your best option. Rate My Agent is a great website to find an agent in most locations.
Arguably the most famous real estate search tool, Zillow is a great resource for anyone looking to buy a home. Zillow filters can help you locate a home within your budget and area of interest.
On Zillow, you can include specific search terms in the search bar under the "More" dropdown menu. Additionally, you can search for a specific address or even choose a region with a map feature to search. They even send notifications when new listings in your selected region go on the market.
Once you find a home that you are interested in, Zillow can provide you with information about that home. Zillow provides a Zestimate at the top of the home page you are interested in. It's their estimate of how much they think the home value is.
A home's special Zillow page can also include tax information, a walk and bike score, nearby schools, and the school's ratings.
Run by Zillow, Zillow Home Loans is a good option when taking the first step to finding the best lender for your home buying situation. There are multiple loan options, including conventional, FHA, and VA loans.
Zillow Home Loan has a convenient "Purchase a Home" button that will ask questions to help determine the best lender for your situation. They even help fill out the paperwork if you complete the "Purchase a Home" section.
A website owned by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), Realtor.com is an excellent resource to use during the home buying process. This real estate searching platform includes 99% of all MLS-listed properties in the United States. In addition, Realtor.com can help you search and find a home, get pre-approved for a loan, and search local information by zip code.
Another website run by Zillow, Trulia is an American online real estate marketplace. Trulia is another way to find homes and neighborhoods across the United States by providing listing and property details on homes listed for sale throughout the United States.
Address Scoop is another site that specializes in finding detailed property information.
This includes some of the same information found on Zillow, such as property value, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, square footage, year built, tax history, sales history, owner history, etc.
However, Address Scoop offers something that Zillow and other property information sites do not. Not only does Address Scoop offer detailed property information in their reports, but they also provide detailed property owner information.
This information can be valuable during the home buying process if you want to contact the homeowner. Additionally, it can be helpful to search your potential neighbors to learn more about who you might be living near. You want to ensure that your neighborhood has compatible neighbors for you and your family. Finding out what your neighbors are like (no one wants to end up with bad neighbors) will be another important step in finding your dream neighborhood and home.
Now that you know more about the neighborhood, you might want to take a nice slow walk through it and check it out. You can notice many things about a neighborhood by walking through if someone plays their music too loud, if the neighbors are kind to one another, if the yards look kept, etc. You may even want to drive by at night to see how peaceful the neighborhood is. But, as always, approach with caution. Even after researching, you still don't know the neighborhood well yet, so be safe while doing your research.
Another way to safety check the neighborhood and local area is to look up area sex offenders. To search any location in the United States for public sex offender information, the National Sex Offender Public Website is a great place to start. Run by the Department of Justice, it allows anyone with computer access to search the latest sex offender information by location in the United States and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and some Indian tribes.
However, some states do not provide geographic coordinates for addresses to NSOPW. For example, when searching Minnesota, there is no available information. Therefore, in some cases, you will have to search a specific state's sex offender website or reach out to the county to see how you can search for sex offenders in the area.
Knowing what offenders are in the area, you are considering a move to help you better make the decision and protect your family.
You can ask your agent if the home you are interested in is in a flood zone. They should know about the area and how to move forward if your home is in a flood zone. You can also go to FEMA Flood Map Service Center online and simply enter the home's address.
A home inspector's job is to inspect the home and give you a non-bias opinion. An inspector will also provide you with what they think is the true value of the home they inspected. The average home inspector costs around $300, which is worth paying to avoid surprise problems or paying more than the home is worth.
If you have a solid game plan for home buying, it will help you find the best home for your family. Putting in the effort might seem like a hassle, and it might seem like it's not worth it, but the reward is well worth the work that is put in.
Buying a house is similar to any other large purchase. Simply identify what you want in a home, find a professional to help you, and do lots of online and offline research. Hopefully, our above suggestions will make this process easier for you.