House hunting requires you to develop the ability to see into the future. It’s hard to predict what you’ll want in the long term, though, especially if you’re a first-time home buyer.

The process of buying a home can be arduous and frustrating to begin with, especially for first-timers. To complicate matters further, most of us have fantasized about what our dream home would be like since we were children.

Our house hunting checklist will guide you through the process of preparing to make that big leap, and most importantly, finding your dream home.


young couple looking at laptop and papers

Get Organized

After a long time of living in apartments or other rental properties, you’ll probably want to buy a house and get the process over with quickly. Who wouldn’t? Unfortunately, house hunting and house buying is a months-long process.

Before you jump feet-first into your new living situation, it’s important to get organized. Here are a few simple ways to prepare:

Check Your Credit Score

Your credit score directly affects the kind of interest rate you’ll get on your mortgage. The higher it is, the lower your monthly mortgage payments will be.

Find a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent does more than just take you on home tours. Your agent is your advocate during the processes of home hunting and buying.

Take the time to find a seasoned agent who you connect with to help you through this frustrating time.

Find a Mortgage Lender

This step sounds scary, but it will save you a lot of grief down the line if you meet with mortgage lenders to find a mortgage that will work for you.


Work with Your Real Estate Agent

Even though many websites list homes for sale, working with a real estate agent is still very necessary. Your agent is your greatest ally when it comes to house hunting.

Finding an agent that you click with is just the first step. Here are some tips on making the most of this professional relationship:

Be Able to Communicate

As in any relationship, communication is key.

In your first few meetings with your agent, start outlining what you want and need in your home. Your agent will use these specifics to help you find your dream home.

Maintain stable contact with your real estate agent, and convey any questions or concerns as they arise.

Be Honest About Budget and Expectations

Once you’ve worked out what you want your agent to look for, you need to define a budget.

It can be an uncomfortable conversation, but be up front about your budget. After all, your agent’s goal is to put you in a house that you can afford.

Be Flexible

Your realtor may show you a house that feels absolutely wrong for you. Instead of worrying that you may have picked the wrong agent, consider their choice.

However, it’s okay to tell your agent that the house they showed you is not what you want.


person writing list

How to Make a Want vs. Need List

Figuring out what you need in a house can require a little bit of forward thinking. When visualizing your ideal home, it’s important to consider your future.

A Want vs. Need list is similar to a pros-and-cons chart. It helps you weigh your options before you commit to a situation.

On the Wants side of the list, enumerate the features that you wish your ideal home would have. On the Needs side, list the features that you cannot compromise on.

The following are factors that might be helpful to consider when you are creating your Want vs. Needs list.

Sizes of the home

Small. Tiny houses are all the rage right now. Look into a small home if you don’t plan on growing your family, or if you’re looking for a manageable space.

Average. According to a recent Census Bureau report, the average American home is currently about 2,467 square feet. This is often the standard “three bedrooms, two baths” living situation that suits most home-buyers and allows for room to grow.

Styles of the home

There truly are as many styles of houses as there are houses themselves.

Choosing a style is entirely a matter of personal preference, but here are the two categories that most houses tend to fall into, regardless of style:

Historic. Historic homes are just that—historic. They’re reminders of another time, and they can be elegant and unique. However, they can also require a lot of costly upkeep work to maintain.

Contemporary. Contemporary houses are built with today’s technological advances. These homes are newer, and their designs tend to emphasize energy efficiency and sustainability. Each house’s actual appearance can vary widely.

While being able to specify what you need in a home is very important, don’t forget to balance your needs with what you want. If your heart is set on a particular style of house that isn’t in your perfect neighborhood, it’s okay to make compromises.


hand holding transparent 3-D map

Location, Location, Location

Unless you plan on moving into an RV (no judgement here), settling on a location is probably the most important decision you’ll make while hunting for your dream home.


If you’re like most Americans, both your job and your social life are located here. A house in the city may be pricey, but your commute will be significantly shorter.


If you’ve been living in the city for a while, it might be nice to have a change of pace. A suburb offers proximity to larger metropolitan areas while being away from the hustle and bustle.


If you truly want to get away from it all, consider moving to a rural area. Living in a rural area brings its own challenges, but it can also provide space and quiet that the cities and suburbs cannot.

Bottom line: Finding and buying your dream home is a long, arduous process that involves a lot of compromise and future planning. Getting organized, making a list of wants vs. needs, and communicating with realtors and your family will help the process go much more smoothly and help get you your dream home.