House Hunting 101

  • Kim Hodges
  • Feb 24, 2017

Searching for a new home can be one of the most exciting times of your life, but first you need to make sure you're prepared for the journey.  This is one of the larger investments you'll make and it can be overwhelming at times.

First Steps

Money is required - Start saving today because the home buying process includes more than the down payment and purchase price of your new home.  Be prepared for an inspection and other out-of-pocket expenses in addition to closing costs.


Saving Money


Credit - Check your credit score months prior to shopping for your home.  One of the first steps in qualifying for a mortgage loan is having a good FICO credit score.  By checking early, you have the opportunity to clear up any errors or discrepancies that you are unaware of.

Talk to your banker - Find out how the process works including an idea of what your monthly mortgage payment might be.  Be sure and ask how long it normally takes to complete the process and what type of mortgage options they offer in addition to the documentation you will need to gather for the loan application.

Budget - Create a budget and stick to it.  Take a look at the amount of money you earn each month, minus your expenses and determine the amount you can easily afford for your new house payment.  Keep in mind; you will need to set aside money for unexpected repairs or updates that may occur.

Determine your needs -  Buying a home can be an emotional experience, but if you've already identified your needs the process will be easier.  Several questions to ask yourself are:  What school district do you want to live in?  How many bedrooms do you need?  How far am I willing to drive each day to work?   Can I really take on a 'fixer-upper'?  What's my style?  Do I have room to expand?  What's the difference between a WANT and a NEED?  Remember, you can change the color of paint and carpet, but you can't change the layout of a home.

Shopping for your home -  Realtors have the training necessary to make the process go by smoother and will assist with the offer process and providing tips of the trade they've learned over year of experience.  They can arrange times for you to view properties once they know what your ideal home might be.  Take your time, look at many homes, take notes and ask questions.  Don't be afraid to take a second look at properties that are on your short list.

A few online sources to preview properties are:, and

Drive through the neighborhood and look for 'for sale' signs and either call the number or have your agent call for a personal showing.

How to look at Houses

Water...where it shouldn't be: Look for

  • Stains on basement walls
  • Stains on ceilings
  • Moss, mildew or stains on lower siding
  • Stains or mildew on underside of roof
  • Soggy areas in yard
  • Eroded areas in walkway or driveway

Building lines that are not straight or true: Look for

  • Roof that sags in middle
  • Walls that curve
  • Windows or doors that look crooked
  • Porches that lean or sag

Structural problems.  Look for:

  • Diagonal cracks above doors and windows
  • Slipping or shifted foundation
  • Floors that feel spongy or uneven
  • Inside doors or windows that don't fit
  • Houses that are built on wood posts or sill beams on ground

Utility systems problems.  Look for:

  • Very high heating or air-conditioning bills (ask to see the bills)
  • Leaking plumbing, especially the main water line (turn on the water and look at the pipes)
  • Main electrical services that is too small (turn many lights and appliances on at the same time to see if they blow a fuse or circuit breaker)
  • Odd smells, such as sewer gas
  • Single-pane windows that offer little insulation
  • Lack of insulation in attic (there should be thick insulation)


Serious finish problems. Look for:

  • Signs of termites or ants
  • Old, flaky paint on sills or trim or exterior
  • Floor covering that is worn in large areas
  • Siding that is wavy or spongy
  • Underneath room cover that is seriously worn or has many layers

(Information courtesy of Realizing the American Dream * NeighborWorks America)




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