Here’s to happy hunting! These smart house-hunting tips can help narrow a search

Searching online listings at or elsewhere on the Web can bring up an overwhelming number of hits — page after page of possibly perfect homes. These smart house hunting tips can help you narrow a search from the many to the few and, hopefully, to the one.

Separate needs from wants

Before beginning a home search, make a list of the amenities you need — the must-haves. Separate those from the amenities you’d like. Let’s say, for example, that the required list includes three bedrooms, a family room and an eat-in kitchen. Preferred, but not essential, are hardwood floors, a large backyard and a fireplace. Keeping those distinctions separate makes your priorities clear and allows for a more focused search. Should you need to compromise to stay within a price range or school district, some preferences can go.

Location, location, location

You’ve heard it before, but when it comes to buying a home, location is the elephant among factors, both for determining daily quality of life and, should you ever sell, your eventual return. Whether you have children or not, it can make fiscal sense to buy in a district with good schools. “Strong school districts are a top priority for many home buyers, and that can make your home more marketable when it comes time to sell,” explains Bill Scott, Senior Vice President with Weichert Real Estate Affiliates in Florida.

When it comes to appraising quality of life, don’t overlook neighborhood crime statistics. A beautiful home can become an albatross in an area subject to frequent burglaries.

Neighborhood at night

Make sure to visit the neighborhood at different times of the day to get a feel for commute, overall feeling of safety, etc.

Morning, noon and night

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to a few neighborhoods, drive through at different times of day. What is the commute like at rush hour and before and after school? Is there a noisy or stinky business nearby? Will festivals or seasonal businesses interfere with your desire for privacy and quiet?

Zoning and restrictive covenants

“Look at a given neighborhood’s master plan to see what the area is expected to look like in the future,” suggests Ken Teixeira, the top real estate agent for Weichert Realtors Hallmark Properties in Winter Park, Fla., for more than six years in a row. “You can see plans by contacting local city or county governments, or you can ask your real estate agent to point you in the right direction.”

If local authorities have been approving zoning-change requests on a given street, consider whether the changes are in line with your personal preferences. How will they affect values? Check with local officials about any developments that are in the planning stages and whether area roads will be widened or rerouted. These changes can affect the size and shape of property easements, which in turn can affect privacy, noise levels and valuations.

Do any of your chosen neighborhoods have restrictive covenants? For example, if you have multiple pets or want a pool or garden shed, make sure they are allowed.

Painting interior wall of house

Painting walls and changing carpets may be worth the effort if it can help you negotiate a better price.

Move-in ready?

While most people prefer a move-in ready home, a place that requires cosmetic repairs might be a better deal. Gutting the kitchen, replacing the roof or building a family room addition can be costly, but painting the walls and replacing carpeting are relatively affordable fixes. A real estate agent can show you options within your price range and help you make an informed decision.

Using the Internet

The Internet is the number one source for finding homes for sale. Here at, you have access to listings by city and price, and we are constantly enhancing the search process, as well as adding helpful tools.

Professional help

The Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings, but “it’s not the same as boots on the ground,” explains Scott Kline, a member of the National Association of Realtors for more than 30 years. “An agent who is familiar with the neighborhood and its property can tell you whether the home is on the lake or across the street from it and whether the backyard is large or small — things you can’t always tell from an Internet listing.”

Are you looking for a home? Find a local realty expert who can help with the hunt, or explore homes for sale with our real estate listings.