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How to Find Your Dream Home—Without Losing Your Mind

Finding your dream home is an exciting adventure that, at times, can also feel all-consuming. “Not only will a pre-approval make it easier to eventually make an offer as a serious buyer, but it will also help you narrow down your property search criteria so you can focus better,” notes Jackie Hinton, a real estate broker for Center Coast Realty in Chicago. “Before you start looking, write down the non-negotiable features your new home needs. And the more specific the criteria, the better, contends Kate Herzig, an agent with Golston Real Estate in Arlington, VA. “For example, where I live, garages are really hard to come by, so if a garage is an absolute must-have, that is an easy way to narrow down your list of potential homes,” she says. If you’re not careful, all of a sudden you might find your “must-have” list has grown from “3BR/2BA and a decent commute” to a new lust for a chef’s kitchen when you barely cook. “You might find that you don't like an area as much as you thought you would because it’s impossible to find parking,” she says. “Every type of house has its own unique style, so you can eliminate homes that won’t suit your needs,” says Nick Woodward, a real estate agent at Keller Williams in West Hartford, CT. For example, if you have several younger kids and don’t want your bedroom on a different level, steer clear of Cape Cod–style homes, which typically feature two or more bedrooms on the upper level and the master on the main. “Taking a picture of the ‘For Sale’ sign or front of the property first makes it easy to later distinguish between sets of photos,” notes Wasson. Take notes on the listing sheet so you can easily remember what features you were trying to capture in the photos, and you’ll have a great play-by-play of the house to relive later. Remember only the top three contenders “I tell my buyers that a home is either a contender or not,” says Brian Adams, real estate agent with StarPointe Realty in Killeen, TX.