ERA Real Estate Professionals
Phone 800-201-5318
Search The MLS
View All Listings
Get New Listings when they go on the Market. Sign Up For Free
Shop for a Home


Free VIP Membership

Free Home Evaluation


Contact Us


Shopping for a home: It's more fun than you think!

New homes, old homes, big homes, small homes – they're all waiting for you to come take a look. It’s tempting to think of shopping for a home as a huge, time-consuming and potentially terrifying process – mostly because it is. Will you find the perfect house? Will you be able to afford it? Will you lose out on your dream house at the last minute to a higher bidder?

But it’s also the ultimate shopping trip, with you browsing through all kinds of houses in all kinds of neighborhoods – one of which you will eventually call home. How cool is that?

Consider your real estate agent to be your adventure guide – or personal shopper, depending on how you see the home-shopping process.

  Where do I begin the process of looking for a home?

The first thing you should do is to begin focusing on what you're looking for in a home. You can start by establishing priorities in the following three areas:
  • Location: Are you relocating to a new town because of a new job or to be closer to your current job? How will the location of schools, shops, and transportation affect your choice of neighborhood?
  • Personal Tastes: How large of a home do you need? What style of architecture do you prefer? What type of lot do you prefer? Depending on where you move to, you may have a choice of homes in dozens of styles, sizes, and settings.
  • Budget: How much home can you comfortably afford?
    As you consider these issues, do a little research of your own. Look through magazines for ideas about home styles and features. Drive through neighborhoods that appeal to you to see what's available. Read the real estate listings in the newspaper to learn about current prices in the areas you're considering. Talk to friends about the features that you'd really like to have in your home. The more knowledgeable you become, the better your final decision is likely to be.
    Then sit down and consider carefully all the things you're looking for in a home. The Homebuyer's Wish List worksheet later in this section is a good starting point. When you've filled it out, you'll begin to get a good idea of what you'd like your dream home to be. 
  What should I think about when I'm deciding which community I want to live in?

Good city services, nice parks and playground facilities, convenient shopping and transportation, a track record of sound development and good planning — these are just a few considerations that are important to many people when they choose a community in which to live.

As for individual neighborhoods within a village or city, there is no better source of information than your real estate professional. Sales professionals know the people and the communities they serve, and chances are they can help you find a neighborhood that really fits your family's needs.
  Where can I get information about local schools?

Again, a good real estate professional is perhaps your best source. They know where the local schools are and can provide you with valuable information about school districts, including test scores, extracurricular activities, bus service and more. If you're relocating, a sales professional may even be able to put you in touch with teachers and principals when you visit the area. And if you want to do a little searching on your own, the Internet may also be a good place to start. has a special link to neighborhood information, including information about area school districts.
  How can I find out what homes are selling for in a given neighborhood?

In most areas, home sales are a matter of public record — you can get all the information you want about recent sales, including prices and listing times, by calling the county Recorder of Deeds.
An easier way is to ask your real estate professional. If you're interested in a particular home, a sales professional may be able to provide you with a list of comparables — sale prices of homes in your area that are roughly the same size and age as the home you're considering. Although there will certainly be some differences between the homes — the house next door may have an extra bedroom, or the one down the block may be older than the one you're looking at — it's a good basis for evaluating the seller's asking price. 
  If I'm moving a considerable distance, is there any way I can screen homes before I start traveling?

Yes. Today's Multiple Listing Services (MLS) — which include as much as 90 percent of the homes listed in any given community — have made it relatively easy for buyers to access detailed information on homes for sale practically anywhere in the country.
ERA Real Estate has taken the MLS concept into the next generation with, our Web site, which features over 50,000 domestic listings. It's a powerful way for buyers to find the perfect home. The site also includes ERA® International listings, allowing interested buyers to expand their search to other countries without ever leaving their home. 
  When I start visiting homes, what should I be looking for the first time through?

The house you ultimately choose to call home will play a major role in your family's life. A home can be an excellent investment, but more importantly, it should fit the way you live, with spaces and features that appeal to everyone in the family.
As you look at each home, consider these important factors:

  • Is there enough room for you now and in the near future?I
  • Is the home's floor plan right for your family?
  • Is there enough storage space?
  • Will you have to replace the appliances?
  • Is the yard the size that you want?
  • Are there enough bathrooms?
  • How much maintenance and/or decorating will you need to do right away? Later?
  • Will your present furniture work in this home?

  How many bedrooms should I be considering?

Whether you are married or not, or have kids or not, spare bedrooms come in handy when family and friends come to stay. And when you're not having guests, extra rooms are useful as a library, den, or TV room.
Another good reason to choose a home with extra bedrooms: extra space will make your home more appealing to a larger number of interested buyers when it comes time to sell.

  Is an older home as good a value as a new home?

It's a matter of personal preference. Both new and older homes offer distinct advantages, depending upon your unique tastes and lifestyle.
New homes generally have more space in the rooms where today's families do their living, like a family room or activity area. They're usually easier to maintain, too.
However, many homes built years ago offer more total space for the money, as well as larger yards. Taxes on some older homes may also be lower.
Some people are charmed by the elegance of an older home, but shy away because they're concerned about potential maintenance costs. Consider a home warranty to get the peace of mind you deserve. The ERA® Home Protection Plan® protects you against unexpected repairs on many home systems and appliances for a full year or more after you move in.

You can assume that any appliances listed "as is" are on their last legs.

  What do I need to bring along when I'm looking at homes?

Bring your own:

  • Notebook and pen for note-taking
  • Flashlight for seeing enclosed areas
  • Tape measure for checking room sizes, clearances, etc.
  • Camera (digital or 35mm)

Be prepared to investigate a little. After all, you want to know as much as possible about the home you buy. Sellers understand that because their home is on the market, it will be looked over pretty thoroughly.
If you need to go back to a home for another look, your sales professional will be happy to schedule an appointment. Also, be sure to ask any questions you have about the home, even if you feel you're being nosy. You have a right to know, and the serious seller will not mind making you feel more confident that you've chosen the right house.

  What should I ask about each home that I look at?

As a rule of thumb, ask any questions you have about specific rooms, features, or functions. Pay particular attention to areas that you feel could become "problem " ones — additions, defects, areas that have been repaired. And above all, if you don't feel your question has been answered, ask until you understand and are satisfied.
In most cases, your real estate professional will be able to provide you with detailed information about each home you see. You can also use the Home Features Worksheet in this section to note room sizes, features that need a second look, and other comments.

  What should I tell the sales professional about the homes I look at?

Tell the sales professional everything you like and don't like about each home you see. Don't be shy about discussing a home's shortcomings. Is the home too small for your needs? Let the sales professional know. Was the home perfect except for the carpeting? Let the sales professional know.
However, remember that there can be two types of sales professionals involved in a real estate transaction; those working for the buyer, and, frequently, those paid by and working for the seller. The seller's agent is obligated to help secure the best price for the seller. In addition, seller's agents may also report any confidences you share with them — including any willingness to pay a higher price should the seller not accept your initial offer(s). This is why you may want to be represented by a buyer's agent, because he/she will keep your input confidential. A buyer's agent puts the interests of the buyer — not the seller — first.

  How many homes should I look at before I buy?

There is no set number of homes you should look at before you decide to make an offer on one. That's why providing the sales professional with as many details as possible up front is so helpful. The perfect home may be waiting for you on your first visit. Even if it isn't, the house-hunting process will help you get a feeling for the homes in the community and narrow your choices to a few homes that are worth a second look.
If you're looking in more than one community, try to make the most of each house-hunting trip. Stop by the local Chamber of Commerce to pick up promotional literature about the community or ask the sales professional for welcome kits, maps, and information about schools, houses of worship, and recreational facilities. Also, be sure to take along a camera and snap some pictures of all the homes you're interested in. That will make it easier to remember and reach a decision.

  When you find a home you may be interested in buying, make sure the sales professional asks the owner the following questions:

  • How much money do you pay for monthly utilities?
  • Have you had any problems with water or dampness in the basement?
  • Are there defects or problem areas that need to be fixed right away?
  • How old is the furnace and the central air conditioning system?
  • How old is the roof? Have you experienced any leaking?

  When I've found the home I like, how do I make an offer?

When you've found a special house you want to call home, you'll probably feel excited and a bit nervous. Let the sales professional know you're ready to write an " offer to purchase" — a written document that declares how much you are willing to pay for the home provided that certain conditions are met. Because it's a legally binding contract that you will sign and date, it may be a good idea to have a lawyer review it, within the grace period noted in the contract.
This is the time when it is most important for you to keep in mind that, unless you have specifically retained the services of a buyer's agent, the sales professional is working for the seller. As the legal agent of the seller, he or she is obligated to help the seller get the best price, and will report to the seller any confidence you share.
It's best to make your offer without sharing with the agent your willingness to offer any higher price if the seller does not accept your offer.
Your offer should have a time limit for the seller to accept it, reject it, or make a counter-offer. If a counter-offer is made, you will have some time to respond. Often, several offers go back and forth until an offer is accepted, or one party decides to end negotiations.

  How do I determine the amount of my initial offer?
There is really no rule to use in calculating an initial offer. Naturally, the buyer wants the best value and the seller want the best price, but negotiations can be influenced by many factors, such as a seller who may be changing jobs and wants to sell quickly, or a buyer who is set on a specific home.
After you've looked at the home's features, asked questions, checked comparables, and talked about it with your sales professional, you should have a good idea of what the home's value is in the current market. Consider what you can afford, and make an offer that you consider to be fair.
Most buyers and sellers negotiate on price, with both sides "giving" a little until both agree.
At that point, you typically will begin the process of arranging for an inspection and applying for a mortgage. See the "Financing" section of this book for more information.

  What is "earnest money" and how much do I need?
When you sign an offer to purchase, your sales professional will ask you for " earnest money." This refers to a monetary commitment that shows you are serious about wanting to buy. Usually, you will be asked to write a check for one to 10 percent of the sale price.
This money will be held in a special escrow account. If your offer is accepted, your earnest money will be included as part of your down payment. If your offer is not accepted, you'll get back all your earnest money. But keep in mind that if you back out, you may forfeit the full amount.

  Is there any way I can protect myself against emergency repair bills in my new home?

Yes. Home warranties offer you protection against many potentially costly problems not covered by your homeowner's insurance. Such warranties have become increasingly popular in recent years, and for good reason. The coverage can save you thousands in the event of a major mechanical breakdown at a time when your cash reserves have been depleted by your down payment and moving expenses. For more about home warranties, see the information on the ERA® Home Protection Plan®.

Back to Top

Beat Out Other Buyers By Joining Our Free VIP Buyer Membership


Ask The Broker
* Notes Required Fields