How To House Hunt Like A Pro

By Rochelle Hubbard, May 10, 2017, Family, Moving

Moving anywhere new can be an exciting event, especially if you are moving to TEXAS!  But trying to find a lovely home, in a great neighborhood, can also be a bit daunting, especially when moving to a large, sprawling metropolis like Houston or Dallas.  A major part of a successful move to a new city is finding a good neighborhood.  Before you begin your home search, you should find the community that best compliments your lifestyle and fits the needs of your family.  To help you with your long-distance house hunt, here are some helpful tips to finding the best neighborhood.

How To House Hunt Like A Pro | Bounce Energy Blog

Rent or Buy?

First you’ll need to decide if renting or buying your next home is your best option. For a lot of people, renting is a great first step to discovering a new city. Many real estate agents recommend renting for at least for six months first to get to know the area.  Renting is also a good option if you have not had advance time to visit the area and select a home in a neighborhood that suits you.  Also, the type of home you’re interested in may help narrow down your choice to rent or buy. If you definitely want an apartment/condo in a high-rise building, that might be available only to rent, not purchase.

Renting before you buy may also increase your chances of making a better home-buying decision. Though online real estate databases and virtual tours make it easier to shop for homes from afar, there’s still no replacement for inspecting a neighborhood (and a home) in person. Trying to buy a home while also juggling all of the other issues involved with a move can be a rushed process that doesn’t produce optimal results. Once you have a rented home base in your new neighborhood, you’re likely to have more time, energy, and resources to devote to a thorough, well-researched home search.

If you are certain that you prefer to buy your home, choosing your new neighborhood can actually be more important than the structure itself.  You can always do renovations to change a property’s style or features, but once you commit to a mortgage in a certain neighborhood, you could be stuck.

Set Your Priorities

When looking for a new house or apartment make a list of all the important features you want in a home (a spacious yard, an open floor plan, three bedrooms, etc.). Rank these features in terms of priorities and make sure the home you choose meets all the points in the upper part of your requirements list. Think about whether it is the house itself or the neighborhood that matters more to you. For some people, living in a particular neighborhood takes precedence over everything else. For others, the house itself (comfortable, affordable, in good condition, etc.) is more significant than its location or the surrounding community. You need to determine what is more important to you and decide on the compromises you’re ready to make.

How To House Hunt Like A Pro | Bounce Energy Blog

Research Your Options

Once you decide on the type of home you’d like, whether you are going to lease or buy, start researching neighborhoods that match your criteria.  The Internet, of course, is the best place to start. It allows you to preview properties online before you try to arrange a visit. A lot of online listing sites have virtual tours, video content, and other features to help you screen properties and get a quick sense of specific areas, as well as see local housing prices.

Turning to social media connections, like Twitter and Facebook, is another good way to widen your circle and solicit the advice of your digital friends. You might be surprised to find that an old classmate went to college in the DFW area, or that a former coworker has friends in Houston who can recommend an agent or provide information about specific neighborhoods.  If you are moving because of your job, your new company may provide resources to assist you with relocation needs.  Or, your new supervisor or coworker may be able to offer some insight on some of the surrounding communities near work.

Nevertheless, working with a real-estate agent is one of the best ways to determine the options available to you in the area. The agent will be familiar with master-planned communities and other neighborhoods throughout the area and they know about the prices and availability of the homes that you are interested in.  They can help you set up appointments (if you are able to visit the area prior to your move), and offer advice about neighborhoods, schools, public transportation and other important quality-of-life details.

Most likely, you’ll have to condense your house hunting into a few days, so make sure to mention this to real estate agents before you select one.  Ask them if they have experience helping long-distance clients, and find out if they can handle the compressed pace of your housing search.

How To House Hunt Like A Pro | Bounce Energy Blog

Learn the Lay of the Land

Most Texas communities are as diverse as the population. Areas like Downtown and Uptown attract those focused on urban living, while suburban neighborhoods are right for people who want to be in town but have a little more space. So, what makes one neighborhood better than another?  Some factors might be cost of the homes; school district ratings; shopping, entertainment and dining; commute times to work, airports and unique features of each area.

Once you have the lay of the land and can narrow down the area for your home search, you can get specific about your likes and dislikes of each property. Learn more details about items such as the property taxes, new construction, local utilities and overall safety rating of each community you’ve selected.

Try to arrange a visit to the neighborhoods that made the top of your list.  If you can’t visit in person, use Google Earth to get a feel for the neighborhood and work with a reputable realtor (or someone you trust) to help with your search.

If you are moving to the Houston-Galveston area, remember to look up Houston a flood zone map, which is a crucial step during your house hunt, since some areas are prone to flooding during heavy rains – it’s called the Bayou City for a reason!  These maps can be accessed through county websites and may include flood prediction modeling.  If you do choose to buy a home in a flood zone, you will need to buy flood insurance.

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