I can remember the first time I was just starting a home search.  So many people were telling me what to do, what not to do, it was very confusing.  On top of that, I really needed to move.  I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for a home purchase, I needed something quick.  If you’re just starting a home search, take a look at some of the stuff I’ve mentioned below.  It should help you find a bit of clarity.

When Should You Start A Home Search?

There isn’t some sort of hard and fast rule about when it is best to start a home search.  I’ve listed 10 scenarios below where it might make sense to start the home search.  It isn’t an exhaustive guide or anything like that.  If you’re just starting a home search, it’s likely that you have your own reasons for starting a search.  Keep in mind that unless you are paying 100% cash, you can expect a 30 to 45 day window from the time that you’ve gotten an accepted offer on the home of your dreams and the day when you will actually move into it.

  1. You are running out of room in your current space. Want to buy that new television but have no room for it?  Did you see a great deal at a local yard sale but you can’t add one more thing to your home?  That’s probably a sign that it’s time to start a new home search.  If you can buy stuff but you can’t get your stuff in your house, something is going to have to change.


  1. You’re adding to the family. For years real estate agents have known that the addition of a family member is a prime time to expect a move.  This makes sense.  After all, if you have a two bedroom home and child number 4 is on the way, you’re probably going to need a bit more space.  This is the perfect time to start a home search.


  1. You’ve moved up in your employment. Have you at a company 10 years ago and now have some more money?  It’s probably time to take a look at your housing situation.  Maybe a city apartment made sense a decade ago, but what about now?  Just starting a home search might make a lot of sense in this instance.


  1. When the home of your dreams isn’t the home you’re in. You’ve always wanted that riding lawn mower and you’ve got the money to buy it.  There’s only one problem: You don’t have a yard!  Even if your current home is perfect, it’s never going to have that yard and you’re never going to be able to enjoy the outdoors with your friends.


  1. When your neighborhood is headed down but you are headed up. It’s highly disappointing but sometimes the addition of one or two awful neighbors makes starting a home search a necessity.  While it’s cool and all that your neighbor has a boat, parking it in his front yard isn’t going to help home values.  And, that neighbor who is really quiet next door is wonderful, but their fear of leaving their house makes the landscaping atrocious.  Sure, you could complain to the homeowners association, but maybe it’s just time to start a home search instead.


  1. When the cost to update your current home is more than what it would cost to move to another one. Maybe you bought a home in a great deal in 2009.  You’ve done nothing to the home since, and prices have only gone up in your neighborhood. Maybe it’s time to remodel a bathroom or kitchen?  Or, maybe it’s just cheaper to move somewhere else and let someone else deal with the contractor hassle.  Sometimes, it just doesn’t make sense to upgrade the home you are in.  This is a perfect time to be just starting a home search.


  1. When it’s time to downsize. So, you bought a 3,000 square foot home as a family with 6 family members.  The kids have gone.  You really only occupy 3 rooms in the house.  You have a basement but haven’t had the need to go to it in two years.  It’s probably time to consider downsizing.  Less work cleaning can mean more time socializing with friends.


  1. You don’t seem to fit into the neighborhood anymore. You have two kids, but the average age of the subdivision is 75 years old.  When the kids go out to play, they’re greeted with shrieks of “get off my lawn!”.  You see a ton of ambulances, but never a school bus.  This can be the perfect time to start a home search.


  1. You spend more time on your commute than at your home. If you are spending more time on your commute than actually being at your home, you should think of starting a home search.  With high gas prices and horrible traffic, there’s probably a better and closer alternative.


  1. Looking for a new start. For whatever reason, you’ve gotten into a bit of a rut.  You’re ready for a fresh start in a new community, new neighborhood.  This is the perfect time to be just starting a home search!  Think about all the places you might move.  You can move closer to the beach, closer to a park, closer to your friends.

How Do You Start A Home Search?

Starting a home search isn’t difficult.  Begin by asking yourself a few questions related to buying a home.  For example

What are your needs?  What are your wants?  Let’s say you are a doctor on call and need to be within 20 minutes of your work at all times.  That’s a need.  Let’s say you really want a fireplace because you always remember the one at your parents on cold winter days.  That’s a want.  If you are moving, you are going to need a two car garage and you are going to want a fireplace.  This forms the basis of your home search, as you can now eliminate any homes without two car garages or fireplaces.

What style of home do you want?  Always wanted a ranch style home?  Now you can eliminate two story homes and townhouses.  Looking for a brick Tudor style?  Now you can eliminate any homes with siding.  In this way, you are refining your search and getting a clearer picture of what your dream home will look like.

What type of neighborhood do you want to live in?  Neighborhoods and parts of a community all have different styles and attitudes.  When you have a good sense of the type of neighborhood you want to live in, you have a better chance of actually finding it.

Asking yourself the question above takes a little bit of time and a little bit of introspection, but it’s a good way to start the home search.   In this way, you are setting up a profile that will help you guide your search.

Where Can You Start A Home Search?

Your Local Newspaper  – I know it’s 2019.  You might be a first time homebuyer who has never even seen a newspaper.  It’s OK.  Usually, your local newspaper is going to have a style section, or a home section on the weekends.  This can be a great place to start your home search.  If you’re super adventurous, the New York Times has a real estate section.  Take a look at what is going on in the world and see what is possible.

Magazines  In St. Louis, we are blessed with a few magazines that show homes, real estate, and style.  The Ladue News has an “abode” section.  The Riverfront Times also shows homes currently on the market regularly and often writes on up and coming neighborhoods and restaurants.   Finally, St. Louis Magazine has a “property” section, which shows homes on the market and asking prices.  Any of these magazines will give you a peak into what is trendy and fresh in the St. Louis real estate market.  Look around in your market for these types of magazines as well.

Drive a particular area  The best way to get a sense of an area you might consider living in is to drive the streets.  What do you like about the homes you see?  What are your concerns?  Do you have friends or family in a particular area you’ve heard good things about?  You are going to have to get off your couch if you are just starting a home search.

The Internet  The internet has become the dominant place most people start looking for homes.  According to the National Association of Realtors 50% of home buyers found their home on the internet.  From listings portals to buying advice, starting your home search online might make great sense, although maybe Zillow isn’t the best way to start a home search.

Call On A Local Real Estate Agent  I’m biased as a real estate broker in St. Louis.  We all know that finding a Realtor can be hard, but when you do find a good one, they are going to save you a ton of time.  Have a lot of questions about the process?  A good Realtor is going to answer all  of them and will get you up to speed quickly.  Many people are afraid to call a Realtor.  Everyone seems to have a story about a pushy real estate agent.  All that means is that real estate agent isn’t the one for you.  A good real estate agent is going to be a professional.  A good real estate agent is going to be an expert.  That’s who you want when you are just starting a home search.

One Last Thing When You Are Just Starting A Home Search

One piece of advice I would give to you when you are just starting a home search is that you should consider the home buying process as a journey.  Don’t get disappointed if things don’t go as smoothly as you thought they would.  It’s common to feel overwhelmed, and no one expects you to have all the answers.  It’s OK.  If you are going to end up buying the home of your dreams, you can begin by just starting a home search.