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First-Time Home Buyer's Guide
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Chapter 3
how to shop for a new house
3 min read

How to Start Looking for a House

Once your budget is in place and your mortgage has been pre-approved, it’s time for the fun part — house hunting! Though it’s an exciting pursuit to find a home to call your own, it’s important you keep some best practices in mind to get the most out of shopping for a home.

Take a look at the following list of key steps to take when house shopping:

Research Home Options

Start with some preliminary research to help you find out the types of homes that are available in the area you want to live in, common home features you like, as well as the average asking price in the market. Doing this will help you better understand your options during the home buying process.

Determine Wants and Needs for Your New Home

Another way to be most efficient, realistic and organized when looking for your new home is to make a list of needs and wants. Your needs list will include things your future home absolutely must have, while your wants list should include things that would be nice to have, but you can live without or add later on. This list will be informed by the initial research you did and will be incredibly helpful when working with a realtor.

Find a Realtor

Speaking of realtors, now is the time to find a realtor that you trust to walk you through the process of shopping for and purchasing a home. Your realtor will schedule home showings, draft up purchase documents and monitor new homes in the market. Handing over that wants and needs list will help your realtor understand your expectations versus what you can actually afford. With their help, you’ll be confident about which homes you want to make an offer on.

Visit Multiple Properties

Now that your realtor knows the type of home you’re looking for and your price point, they’ll find listings that you can visit. Your realtor will walk you through the home so you can tour the property and ask questions. Shopping for a home takes time and patience. You may fall in love with the first home you visit, but keep in mind other people are placing offers just like you. Take the time to visit a number of properties so you have options in case you don’t get the first home you want.

What to Look for When Buying a House

It’s understandable that you’ll be attracted to certain features more than others in a home, but there are key features you’ll want to pay attention to when touring a home:

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Old or damaged roof

An old or damaged roof will need to be repaired or replaced, which isn’t usually a cheap upgrade. Keep this in mind when viewing homes and making your offer.


You want your new home to be comfortable, right? Temperature features can help with that. Make sure the furnace is in good shape and up to date, as well as any heating and cooling systems, since those can be expensive to repair. Investing in a well-insulated house can reduce heating and cooling costs, so make sure the home is properly insulated by checking areas like the attic and heating ducts.

Pipes and plumbing

Though you probably won’t be able to see the pipes and plumbing, it’s important that you have the pipes checked for leaks or damage. Here’s a closer look at how to check plumbing.

Foundation issues

Large gaps, uneven floors, cracks above windows — all foundation issues that could be expensive to repair down the road. Pay close attention to the foundation as you tour each home.

Though a home inspector will be completing a professional, in-depth review of the home, paying attention yourself and recognizing damage in the home will be useful when choosing your initial bid amount and you’ll be more mindful of potential necessary repair costs that may arise.

More Chapters in This Guide

Found the home of your dreams and want to place an offer? Read our tips for making an offer on a house and learn how much to offer to stay competitive in the market.
What can you expect from the home appraisal and inspection process? Our homebuyer guide is here to help demystify home inspection and appraisals. Check it out today!
Choosing homeowners insurance is another important step in the home buying process, first time or not. Learn about how homeowners insurance works and find the best coverage for your home today.
Closing on a home is both an exciting and hectic time. Learn about what to expect during a home closing, with a checklist of what you need for a successful closing day.
Congratulations! You’ve closed on your home and can start making it your own. But there are a few final steps you’ll need to take. Use the following resources to make your transition into your new home as smooth as possible.
Buying a home for the first time? Our first-time home buyer guide explains the process of buying your first home, step by step. Read more today!
Buying a house but confused by financing? Learn about the different types of home loans and mortgages with our first-time home buyer guide.

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