House Hunting Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Our favorite house hunting tips will have you home in no time.

It’s house hunting season. If you’re a first-time buyer, snagging the right home in this competitive market can feel intimidating. Don’t sweat it. With the right tips and tools at your disposal, buying a home during peak season can be easier than you think. Take a look at our top house hunting tips and you’ll be better prepared to make home happen.

Find a good real estate agent

We’ve said it before but it really is important to find a good real estate agent, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. A good agent is going to have your back at all times in the process, fight for your best interest when it comes time to negotiate, and scour their resources for homes that fit your wants and needs—even homes you can’t find online. With all their industry connections and exclusive resources, finding a stellar real estate agent should be one of the first things you do when you start house hunting.

Here’s a helpful house hunting tip: don’t get too attached to what you see online.

Don’t get too attached

If you’re like most home buyers, you’ve started your home search online. And if you’re like any normal home buyer, you probably fell in love with a home or two. Here’s a helpful tip: don’t get too attached to what you see online. It’s good to know what’s out there and even better to find houses on the market that check off everything on your list. But if you haven’t seen it in person, can you really be sure it’s the right home for you? Hold onto those online finds loosely and take this next house hunting tip to heart.

Go in person

You know what they say: looks can be deceiving. Online house hunting is no exception. To help you get back on your feet after you’ve fallen for an online listing, schedule a home walk-through with your real estate agent to see the house in person.

The fact is that sellers want to sell so they’re going to do everything they can to make their house look appealing. And with high-definition photography and photo-editing programs at their fingertips, this task is not that hard. Even without too much technology, staging achieves the look just as well. In pictures, a home may look clean, pristine, and brand new, but when you get there, you might find a whole slew of problems not present in their high-quality photography.

Here’s a few red flags to look out for when you do a home walk-through:

  • Bad smells such as backed-up sewage, mold, garbage, and the like.
  • Humidity (especially in the basement or crawl space) and moisture spots like bubbled drywall.
  • Poor craftsmanship, especially in renovated homes. Look closely at the corners and edges for lines that don’t match up or look bowed. Check to make sure cabinet doors and drawers close correctly.
  • Sounds and surroundings. Is there construction across the street or a problematic corner store? Is their neighbor’s yard a mess or is there a loud barking dog that’s been left outside too long?
  • Rooms that looked big online are actually more like the size of a closet. Don’t let the wide-angle lens fool you.

In addition to seeing homes with your agent, you might want to see some on your own time. If there’s a particular house you’re eyeing, drive to it during different times of the day and observe what’s going on in the neighborhood. At 2:00 p.m. on a workday, is it quiet and empty, like everyone’s at work? Or are there people hanging around? At 10:00 p.m. on a Saturday night, is it peaceful or is there partying? What these impromptu visits reveal will indicate what type of neighborhood you could possibly be living in and should help you make a decision faster if you’re between homes. Ultimately, when it comes to seeing homes in person, the more you see, the more realistic your expectations will be.

If there’s a particular house you’re eyeing, drive to it during different times of the day and observe what’s going on in the neighborhood.

Be patient

Patience is so necessary during the home buying process. First-timer or not, the process is unpredictable and will take time! At Cardinal, our goal is always a smooth, seamless process that gets you to the closing table fast. But next to preparation, patience is key to the ride. Because when you’re patient during the home buying process, you don’t make impulsive decisions—a mistake many home buyers make. With these house hunting tips in your tool belt, hunting for (and buying) the right home can be simple!

Got any other house hunting tips to share? Give us a shout out on social media!

About the Author

Laura is one of our blog authors. Currently living in Charm City, she's a Great Lakes native who likes salsa dancing, brews a mean cup of Joe, and reads the Chicago Manual of Style for fun. As a young first-time home buyer, Laura likes writing educational pieces that dispel mortgage myths and give helpful hints about what the home buying process is really like.