Assemble all of your information and develop a good idea of what you want before you begin shopping.
Your house hunting will be more efficient and less stressful if you take the time to organize yourself. Make sure you know what you can afford, where you want to live, and what features you want in your new home.
Where Do You Want to Live?
Think about the communities in your area and decide which ones you like and why. Consider schools, recreational facilities, and access to work and shopping. Write down the various features you like and dislike about each community; then review the list to decide which areas are right for you. It's important to know where you want to live from the start - otherwise it's too easy to get excited over a great house in the wrong location. Don't forget to consider price range when narrowing down your choice of locations - you'll want to spend your time looking where you'll have a good chance of finding something appropriate.
Make a Features List
List the features you want in your new home, including rooms, room dimensions, lot size, architectural style, access to schools, recreation, etc. Use this wish list when viewing homes to help evaluate each property.
Determine Your Financing Options
Finding the right mortgage is almost as important as finding the right house. There are many financing options available in today's marketplace, so it pays to take the time to find the right type of loan. Many lenders offer pre-approval programs that allow you to secure a loan before you even find your home - giving you a real advantage when negotiating with sellers.
Prequalify for Your Loan
Many lenders allow you to apply for a mortgage before you even find a home. Once prequalified, the only major requirement for your loan is a satisfactory appraisal of the property to be purchased (once you find it). Prequalifying can not only give you peace of mind while shopping; it can really give you an advantage in a tight market - where a seller may preference a buyer who has funding secured.
It's important to be 100% candid with yourself about what you want and expect in your new home. Think about your everyday routine and list the items that are important to you. The time to do this is now - before you get caught up in the excitement.