Saturday, April 27, 2013

How To Sort Through Houses Before Going House Hunting

I am sure there are many, better, easier ways to do this, but this is the way I have done it.

So! I discovered that I was doing things out-of-order! The House-Hunting Notebook is going to be very helpful while I'm on my trip, but first there were many, many houses that needed to be sorted through, because they would not all fit in the notebook.

There are lots of websites listing houses for sale. I've mostly been using this one and this one.

Because I didn't know exactly what my options were going to be, I started searching with a broader range of requirements than I wanted to end up with: a little smaller square footage than I wanted, no specific yard size, slightly higher than the price we can afford, a wide variety of locations. These criteria brought up MANY, MANY results, so I needed a way to narrow the results down further.

In our case, there is a pretty large area where we could live, so the number of listings I was looking through was overwhelming because of that. I finally decided to pick a location based on the school ratings; although I home school, there is a good chance we will be moving again in a few years, and we will need to sell this house, so, during this entire process, I have had to keep that fact in the back of my mind and choose a house that I hope think will be likely to sell when we have to move. If this was going to be the house we stayed in for many years, my search criteria would be different. A Lovely Person helped me find the school ratings by looking here. Note: I realize there is no perfect way to rank schools. This particular site uses test scores to rank, and I know that test scores are not an accurate reflection of quality of teaching or student knowledge, but I have to work with what is available.

With the school rankings in mind, I picked the top 3 locations that had been on my list. This helped narrow down the number of houses a little bit, but still: SO MANY.

I went through all of the listing results that came up and briefly looked at each one, keeping in mind the different categories in the notebook. If, after this initial look, I thought the house could work, I copied and pasted the web address (which, for the site I linked to above, included the street address) into an email draft with the subject: houses to look at later. I chose an email draft because, with the email program I am using, it allows me to keep lots of different windows open at the same time, but you could also use a word processing document. This part took a lot of time at first because of the number of houses available. I suggest doing this 3-4 weeks before you go house hunting.

After I had made it through all of the listings for my areas from my initial search, I've gone back about once a week to see if there are any new listings; this doesn't take NEARLY as long as the initial search.

Next, it was time to look at the houses more closely, to narrow the selection down. In my case, I had about 60 houses left at this point. I opened another email draft and gave it the subject "deleted houses" because I know my lack of memory, and all of these houses blur together after a while, so I knew I needed a way to check if I had already looked at a certain house. Every time I took a house off of the list of "houses to look at later", I cut the web address out of that email and pasted it into the "deleted houses" email; underneath that, I made a little note of why I had cut that house, so that I would remember when I looked at it later.

Then, I opened G00gle maps. As I went through the list of "houses to look at later", I clicked on the link for each house, copied the street address, and pasted it into G00gle maps. I got directions from that house to Husband's work and made note of the time. I zoomed in on the house to see it closer.
  • Was it on or near a busy street?
  • How close was the house to the neighbor's houses?
  • Were there any streams or lakes nearby?
  • Was the yard going to work for us?
  • Was there a fence (this could have changed because I don't know how old the g00gle pictures are, but I made a note of this anyway)?
Some of the maps, offered a street view, so I looked at that too. A few houses were cut off the list after looking at the map.

Then I went back to the house listing. Underneath the web address in my email draft, I listed this information: # of bedrooms, square footage of the house, size of the yard/lot, school district, whether or not it had a basement, and price. On the line underneath that, I put things I noticed as I looked through the house pictures:
  • Was there a nice kitchen?
  • Would we need to buy a refrigerator?
  • Were the rooms nicely painted (in colors I would enjoy and not have to paint myself)?
  • What kind of flooring in the main house and bedrooms?
  • Were there mature trees in the yard?
  • Was the laundry room a cave or did it have a window and cabinets?
Anything that caught my attention about that house, I wrote it down.

I looked up the information for our current house to help me compare. We need more space in the house and the yard, so any houses that were too close to our current measurements were cut.

I still had too many houses on the list, and then I remembered Swistle's tier system for rating chocolates and thought something similar could work for houses too! I decided to dream big and make the requirements for the top tier very specific and as close to dream house specifications as I could force myself to because, in my experience, dreams don't really come true and if they do they turn out to be nightmares. I opened another email draft and gave it the subject:
  • Tier 1: x+ bedrooms, x+ square feet, x+ acres, certain school districts, basement
I was quite surprised, when I had finished cutting each house and its information from the "houses to look at later" list and pasting it in the "Tier 1" list, that I actually had about 13 houses!

Not believing that it would ever actually work out for me to buy one of those glorious houses Just in case all of those houses sell before I arrive, for the houses that were close to Tier 1 status, I opened another email draft and gave it the subject:
  • Tier 2: x+ bedrooms, >x square feet, >x acres, certain school districts, may or may not have a basement
There are about 20 houses on this list.

So! About once a week until I leave, I will do a new search and see if there are any new listings that meet Tier 1 or Tier 2 requirements and add them to the appropriate list.

As soon as Certain Persons make certain decisions/arrangements Soon I will contact a realtor, tell her what I'm looking for, and send her my list so she can start making arrangements for me to see some of these houses.

The week before I leave to go house-hunting, I will be making CDP Exch*nge assignments, yay =)! put the Tier 1 houses that are still available in the House Hunting Notebook.

Now, what are the chances I will actually be able to buy a house in a one-week period of time? (Don't answer that.)


Anonymous said...

Wow, you are so much more organized than I am.

Your realtor should also be able to help narrow down choices. She can tell you which builders to avoid, which areas might not be good for resale, etc.

Also, once you provide him/her with your list of possibles, she can get a feel for what you're looking at and offer suggestions.

Do you have a selection of realtors to choose from?

ACK! This is really happening!

Doing My Best said...

Mrs. Irritation-So far, I have one realtor recommendation from a Twitter person. I'm happy to write down others in case she's too busy!


twisterfish said...

You are the most organized and prepared person I have ever known! With this much preparation, I'm sure you'll find the perfect house for your family! (I think whatever realtor you end up working with with be so happy that you've done so much work ahead of time.)

d e v a n said...

Wow, good luck! I hope one of your favorites works out!

Doing My Best said...

Twisterfish- *bows head modestly* It's a gift *cough*reaction to severe stress*cough*.

I have to believe that if I'm organized enough, I will be able to take care of this in the one week I have. (Please, nobody disillusion me.)

el-e-e said...

There is some really good advice here and I THANK YOU, because I want to start looking at houses, too, but I have had no idea where to start. Do I drive around first (I already have my location narrowed down), or do I look online first? I might not have thought of G. maps. Good idea!

Good luck to you! I hope you find just what you want, with pleasant paint (hee hee)!

Doing My Best said...

el-e-e: This experience has been SO STRESSFUL for me, I'm glad that I've been able to make the process a little less stressful for you =)!

Jessica said...

I think your odds are pretty good to be able to buy a house in a week! You're SO awesomely organized, it'll be a breeze!