Friday Favorites: House Hunting

Friday, August 31, 2012

On the rare occasion I lived in a place that had cable television you can be certain I wasted several hours glued to HGTV's series about finding a home. The premise is, an agent shows three homes to a individual/couple, then said individual/couple decides which option best suits their budget and needs. Simple. Real estate on the domestic front is mostly suburb after suburb. But those international options...Wow! Why yes, I'll take a rustic cottage in the French countryside with exposed wooden beams, a gourmet kitchen, and lavender garden. 

Everything is more glamorous on the big screen.

Real home owners, of which camp I've yet to join, probably have a different story about the process of buying a home. I have had a fairly transient adult life, which means I've been a renter for the better part of 15 years. Depressing, I know. Tomorrow we leave for a brand new city hoping to find something that works for us for the time being. (Buying is still a little ways off.) We have one week to make our selection. (Okay, that's not 100% true. Fortunately, GH's work will provide temporary housing for up to 30 days if we don't find anything. Phew! At least we won't be slumming it under The Arch.)

With moving on the brain, here are some of my go-to house hunting tactics. 

1. Location. Duh. Where do you want to live? What's the neighborhood like? What will your commuting distance be? Is it a walkable community? Does it have the staples you enjoy (e.g., grocery story, library, post office, gym, hip restaurants, places to volunteer, etc.)? Generally, when I move to an area I'm unfamiliar with, I just drive around neighborhoods that I like, looking for those rare, but totally helpful, "For Rent" signs. It works. Of course I also look at Craigslist and other online real estate sites just to cover my bases.

2. Non-Negotiables. Make a list of things you simply cannot live without in a house. For me that means a washer and dryer or at least hook-ups; quarters are for casinos, not my delicates. Having a gas stove on the other hand, well, that may not be a deal breaker.

3. Take Pictures & Notes.This is especially important if you are looking at a lot of places.  We created a spreadsheet for our St. Louis house hunting expedition; it contains fancy columns with headings like rent cost, square footage, location, type of unit (condo, townhouse, apartment, single family home), contact person, and a notes section. 

4. Talk to People. Seriously. Tell people you are looking for a place to live and ask them if they know of good neighborhoods or where they live and if they like it. Talk to strangers at the grocery store, church, or next door to places you actually look at. If people like where they live they might talk for an hour. No big deal. Ask probing questions and think of it as investigative house hunting journalism.

5. Budget. Set your limit and stick with it. 

I think that about covers it. Anything you'd add to this list? 

We're off. Wish us loads of house hunting luck!


  1. "quarters are for casinos, not my delicates"---Love it! :)


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