There’s a reason it’s called house-hunting, not house-shopping — finding the perfect place is a lot of work.
If you’re thinking about buying a new home, you probably have a pretty good feeling about what you’re looking for. The tricky part is taking that feeling and finding a house on the market that matches it. Even once you’ve found a possible candidate, do you know what to look for when you’re actually inside a house and trying to vet it?
Clever is here to help. If you’re reading this, it means you’re taking the possibility of home ownership seriously. We’ve put together a free house-hunting checklist that you can print off and take with you to every listing.
This guide will not only remind you what to be on the lookout for, but it will help you record your thoughts about every feature and issue you come across. If you take a copy of this checklist to every listing — and a camera for quick reference pictures — you’ll be well on your way to finding a house that meets your personal needs.
And if you’re serious about house-hunting the right way, considering partnering with a local real estate agent. A good agent can help you figure out what you want, accompany you on walk-throughs, and provide expert guidance about issues you may not even know to ask about.
How to Do a House-Hunting Walkthrough
The Clever House-Hunting Checklist lets you track your specific thoughts and impressions about the most important features of a home. We’ve split it up into major categories to make it as simple as possible to use.
By the time you’ve decided to walk through a house, you should already have some idea of the neighborhood it’s in — HOAs, school districts, amenities, etc. Now’s your chance to get a real, personal sense of the location itself. How does the area make you feel? Is the neighborhood well-maintained? Are there lots of people around or very few? Is the street well-lit? Is there enough street parking?
If everything checks out, turn your attention to the house’s exterior. Take note of the size, type of home (single-family, duplex, townhouse), orientation (where does sunlight come in?), and construction material (wood, stone, brick). Look for any signs of damage like cracks or peeling paint.
Lastly, how does the yard look? Is it landscaped? Well-kept? Is there a deck or porch? Is it private? Make sure you also take note of any special features like fences, fire pits, pools, automatic sprinklers, and outdoor kitchens.
Whew! That was a lot work just to make it inside a single house — and there’s plenty more to go.
Again, your biggest focus at this stage should be on general quality. Keep an eye out for any signs of structural issues, age-related damage, lack of proper care, and pest problems. Also check basic features like water pressure, cable connections, and cabinetry to make sure everything’s in order.
If there are no glaring issues, you can turn your attention to more subjective matters. How do you like the layout? Do the rooms seem big enough? Are there enough of them for your family? What’s the flooring situation — carpet, hardwood, tile? Are the walls painted or papered, and would you want to redo them if you decide to move in? At the end of a long day looking at houses, these are the kind of personal features that will really let you weigh one property against another.
Don’t forget to note extra interior features like an HVAC system, alarm system, skylights, energy-efficient windows, utility sinks, wet bars, and more. Maybe you need these things or maybe you don’t, but they affect the value of a property and it’s important to know what you’re paying for.
Understanding Real Property Values
A comprehensive house-hunting checklist is the most effective way to measure one listing against another.
Of course, keeping good notes is just the first step. It’s always best to find as much additional information about a neighborhood and property as possible. If you’re able to, do some research about the areas that stick out to you. Drive around the block, talk to neighbors, come back at night to find any noise or lighting issues.
Better yet: get in touch with a local real estate agent who knows the market, neighborhoods, and features that matter when house-hunting. You can be sure that all the hard work you’re putting into home ownership is being matched by a professional who has your back every step of the way. And if you team up with a Clever Partner Agent, you may qualify to get a kickback of 1% of the final purchase price of your home as a Home Buyer Rebate.