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The more house shopping you do the tougher it will be to keep your priorities straight and to remember what you’ve seen. In fact, as you see more homes you can actually lose track of what matters.
For example, you might remember that one house had a wonderful kitchen but you can't remember exactly which one. Or you do remember a house you loved but you think it was listed at $50,000 more than you can afford.
This is where you really need to have a checklist. Probably the easiest way to do this is with a spreadsheet. Use the left-hand column to list the things that you really must have. This could include number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, type of garage, a well-lit kitchen, proximity to schools, ample storage space and so forth. Following this you could have a list of your "dream" features like granite countertops, upgraded appliances, a patio, a water feature, a three car and so on.
Use the right-hand columns of your spreadsheet for the addresses of houses as you visit them. When you go through each one check off your "must haves" and your "dream" features. This will not only help you keep straight as to the houses you saw but will also help your real estate agent navigate through the home buying process faster and with less confusion. But don't let your checklist straitjacket you. There's an old saying in the real estate business that "buyers are liars." What this means, as any real estate agent will tell you, is that many buyers often tell them one thing but then buy something entirely different. You could end up falling in love with a house that has few of your "must haves" but is outstanding in some other ways. You'll be living in that house for many, many years so it's important that you love it – even if it doesn’t have a well-lit kitchen.
Find the right real estate agent
There are real estate agents that are true stars in the business and can work miracles. Unfortunately, there are also some that are less than stellar. All it takes to get a real estate license in most states is pass a background check, take a course in real estate and then pass a written exam. Unfortunately, the sad truth is the skills that are required to pass a written test don't necessarily correlate to what it takes to be a great real estate agent. Look for an online directory of real estate agents in your area with profiles, ratings and reviews. This should give you a better sense of the agent's specialties and qualifications. You could also ask friends and family members for recommendations. And be sure to ask any prospective real estate agent for her or his references.
As the following video emphasizes, you need to choose an agent that specializes in the type of home that you want to buy and the neighborhood you’ve chosen. And watch this video for more tips on how to choose the right real estate agent.