House hunting? Don't leave home without this handy printable checklist! -

As an accountant, my mind is wired in a way where I need everything to make sense. I ask questions about pretty much everything – big or small; for entertainment or for necessity. Writing out pros and cons isn’t unusual, either. This is all because I want to be able to analyze the possible outcomes in order to make an educated decision.

So when we went to purchase our first house many years ago, we were house hunting in an area a few hours from where we lived. It was Los Angeles… Everything was a few hours from where you lived. Anyway, we needed to make the most of every meeting with the real estate agent, so I sat down and made a checklist. Each time we have moved since then, I’ve amended it to make it fitting my current interests or needs.

House hunting? Be sure to print out this handy checklist to help you with your search! -

As you know, we used to live in Los Angeles but decided to relocate to Iowa after the kids were born. House-hunting requires actually seeing the house so we needed a plan. Our trip to Iowa was only a few days and part of that time was dedicated to actually seeing family. In our schedule, we had allotted one full day for house hunting. Before our visit, we talked with an agent. Thankfully, I still had trusted contacts from my days as a Chairperson on the Chamber of Commerce Small Business Council. We told her some of our basic requirements: school district, minimum house size and three car garage. If it met those requirements, we wanted to see it.

When it came time to meet her, she had a stack and assured us we wouldn’t be able to make it through all of them. She had NO idea who she was dealing with.

As we pulled up to a house, we made notes of the exterior and initial impression. If we didn’t like the location or feel of the neighborhood, we moved along. It took a handful of houses before our agent got the feel for what our process was: walk in, look for our checklist points, document and… Next house, please.

If you’re house-hunting and want to do it Brady-style, here is what you’ll need:

  • A good agent who will let you control the pace
  • A digital camera or smart phone for taking photos/short videos
  • Our handy-dandy house hunting checklist. Print a stack of them so you have one for each house you plan to visit. Print out a few extras in case you tour an open house or add a last minute one to the list.
  • A stapler. Attach the completed checklist to the listing provided by the agent as well as any flyers or information you pick up for each house.

To help ensure the success, here is the process you will want to implement:

  • Examine the neighborhood If good, tour the home
  • Take a few photos to help jar our memory if it ended up a front runner
  • Make notes on the spreadsheet about pros and cons
  • Rate each house on a scale of 1 to 10.
  • Revisit the front runners for follow-up walk-thrus; talk to some of the neighbors, if possible.
  • Go to the house AT NIGHT. You learn so much about a neighborhood when people should be home and sleeping. In a neighborhood with garages, seeing a lot of cars parked in the street isn’t a good sign. How about noise levels? You may notice there is poor lighting or even see street lights that beam into your house that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
  • Make an offer
  • Become owner of a new home

Our agent said she had never had done a marathon like this but thought it was great. Of course it was, we were efficient and had a goal. There is nothing more valuable to a person working on commission than their time.  We knew that. She knew that. She quickly learned what was on our checklist and called out things she noticed (like gas or electric appliances or ceiling fans in the bedrooms.

Thanks to our worksheet, we were able to walk through 28 houses in 5 hours, narrow it down to 3 and make an offer for one with an offer for a second house prepared in the event the first owners didn’t accept our offer. Ultimately, our first choice offer was accepted (thanks to the agents making up the shortfall since neither of us would budge on our price) and we still live in that same house!

What tricks and tactics do you employ when you make big decisions?

122 thoughts on “House Hunting? Print out this Checklist

  1. This post couldn’t have come at a better time. We may be house hunting shortly. I just mentioned to my Hubs that we live in this big house and he wants to travel more.. We need a smaller house that is less needy than the one we are in now.

  2. This is a great post. I wish I could have used this when I was house hunting. This should benefit those who are in the market. Thanks for the information!

  3. Wow, this is a fabulous check list! My fiance and I just purchased a home, but I wish we had come across this sooner. This would come in very handy and be very helpful to use as a reference. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. What a handy checklist! It could be easily adapted to work for people looking for an apartment also. We recently moved after living in the same place for 18 years and let me tell you, keeping track of all the features we wanted (and needed) was quite a feat. AND remembering the things we liked (or didn’t) about all the places we looked at was no easy task either. So having a checklist to look back on would have been a huge help.

  5. This is a VERY handy checklist… Wish I saw it sooner. I was just house hunting and am closing on my new house on Tuesday, haha 🙂

  6. What a great printable to take with you when looking at houses. When we were looking for our current home after a while I couldn’t tell one house from the next. A list like this would have made it easier to keep track.

  7. You have such a fabulous list of house hunting ideas! Thank you for sharing that:) I am not in the market for a home at this time, but this is definitely a list to save and keep handy for future use! 🙂 Thanks!

  8. Sounds like everything worked out for you. It has to be hard purchasing a home when you are moving somewhere that is a long distance away. You give some very well thought out, organized tips that will certainly come in handy to many.

  9. what a great way to streamline the house hunting process. Believe me, it can get super frustrating. thanks for sharing. I know folks that I can pass this along to

  10. This seriously couldn’t have come at a better time for me! Really appreciate the share. We’re getting ready to go house shopping and I’m already feeling overwhelmed!

  11. Los Angelas to that’s a switch! We are not moving for a long time….however, this checklist will come in handy for my parents as they will soon be downsizing.

  12. I wish I had known all this info before, when we bought our house, we run in to so many problems and made so many mistakes, Great post!

  13. This is a great checklist! This will be really handy for my daughter, who will be searching for her first house soon.

  14. When I grow up I want to be just like you. I am not kidding. I am pinning this just so I will know where it is, and probably saving a copy to my junk drive. I need it because in a few years when I look for a house I am going to do it Thanks.

  15. This is such a good checklist of things to be aware of during house hunting! We just purchased a house last month and a lot of your tips would have made for some good advice! I like the one about checking out the house at night too.

  16. This is an amazing review. I LOVE making lists and this just seems like the perfect way to house shop. My husband and I are going to be building next year and I think I can adapt this idea for when we meet with people to go over floor plans. When we first started thinking about this, the company we were dealing with told me there were over 50,000 plans to look at. Definitely overwhelming and time consuming but if we can make a list of some of the “must have” items I think we can be more efficient.
    Some of the things I do when making a big decision are make lists, take time to consider how truly important those items on the list are and finally get a 2nd opinion!
    Thanks for the awesome post!

  17. This is an awesome idea! I hope to NEVER move again…this may not be the house I thought we’d end up in but I HATE moving…LOL. I’ll keep this information for years till my daughter is ready to buy. Such great ideas and ones I never thought of in all my years of buying houses!

  18. With luck, we’ll be looking for a house in the spring, hopefully in a state with a climate that does not include long, cold, snowy winters. Anyway, your checklist is awesome–you’ve thought of everything! I’ve pinned it so I’ll have it handy when we need it. Thanks!

  19. I had a similar sheet when I was hunting, along with aggregating property details in a table to filter and sort them.

  20. I think you could use this info to help sell a house as well. If you know what the seller is looking for this will help you sell a house faster too.

  21. You mentioned that as you pulled up to a house, you made notes of the exterior and initial impression. This is a great idea! My husband and I want to have babies soon, which means that we need to move out of our small apartment and find a single family home. I’ll remember these tips for when we start house hunting!

  22. This is the best checklist I’ve found & I’m surprised how few pages took anything like this approach.

    What I’m really looking for is a grading system, so my wife and I can put our relative pros and cons to each house down and dscuss them after we come back from a scouting expedition.

    1. Thanks for the feedback! We graded them as we went along. In addition to writing notes/comments at the bottom we also would add a quick reference note on the top margin above the address. A quick 1-10 rating system based on initial reaction. We used the travel time between locations to discuss each one and add additional notes while simultaneously comparing to others we had already toured. If you’re able to use it, drop back by and let me know how it worked out for you! Best of luck in your house hunt!

  23. I LOVE making lists and this just seems like the perfect way to house shop. My husband and I are going to be building next year and I think I can adapt this idea for when we meet with people to go over floor plans. When we first started thinking about this, the company we were dealing with told me there were over 50,000 plans to look at. Definitely overwhelming and time consuming but if we can make a list of some of the “must have” items I think we can be more efficient.

  24. I like your tip about bringing a digital camera or smartphone for taking photos. I will definitely remember this because I want to remember exactly what the house looks like. My husband just got a huge job offer across the country. He is going to accept it, which means that I need to look for a real estate company to help us out before then.

  25. Thanks for bringing up the importance of checking on your potential house at night to see what the neighborhood is like when it’s dark outside. My wife and I are looking for a house that our child will be able to grow up safely in, and we want to make sure that we do not regret our decision. We’ll be sure to keep this article in mind once we find a real estate agent to help us look for a house.

  26. You made a great point about examining the neighborhood and making sure that it is good for your family’s needs. My family is moving to Lynchburg, VA and I wanted to find good house hunting tips for our search for a home. These tips will be useful after we find a real estate professional.

  27. I like how you mentioned that you should take a couple of photos when searching for a home. My sister and her husband are wanting to find a home so that they can have room to start a family. I’ll make sure to pass this information along to them so they can know what to do when house hunting.

  28. I liked your tips to bring a camera to remember houses by and make a checklist to see if the neighborhood, exterior, and interior of the house is the right fit for your needs. My brother and sister-in-law are going to start looking to buy a home in Orlando, FL since they are expecting their first child. It’d be perfect if they could find a real estate service to help them in their search.

  29. I was surprised when you said that we should make sure the neighborhood is good before even touring the home. My husband and I have decided to start looking for a single-family home since our current space feels too small since we had our second child. Thanks for sharing these tips we can use to make the process of house hunting more structured and less overwhelming!

  30. Great list of idea’s! Also, always check out the neighborhood in person in this day and age of buying everything on the internet. Be sure to talk to the neighbors – they will be the ones your spending time in the area. And always, always get a home inspection – know where the water and power shut off’s are – not just on paper but physically inspecting. Get a short subscription to the local paper – it will tell you a lot about what is going on in the community!

  31. I bought a house recently. I called a loan officer that was suggested to me. She pulled my credit report and told what things I could do to improve so I could get a lower interest rate. I worked on those things for a year then got in contact with a realtor a friend recommended and started the long process of hunting. No use in looking at houses until you have the loan side worked out. It’s a long process but worth it.

  32. My best advice would be to know what you’re looking for – or failing that consciously try to use the houses you see to narrow down what you want.

  33. I would tell people not to rush and also dont call it yours until you have all the paperwork bc i had one i thought was mine that unfortunately fell through at the last second

  34. Yes always use a real rstate agent I bought from a private indavidual and had to fight in court for a year because they owed on the property it sat on .

  35. I would definitely say to hire your own inspector instead of the one your realtor recommends , they have people that ‘ aren’t deal breakers ‘ .

  36. Good list to have. The only tip I have is be flexible on location. Right now we have a housing shortage, and if you don’t want to get something you are not really happy with, then you might have to move a town or so away.

  37. I like to have “pro” and “con” columns to help narrow down what really matters to us as that changes as our family changes. When we had young children, school district made the top of the list, but now that the nest is empty our priorities have changed to place more emphasis on climate, amount of yard work and distance to an airport.

  38. Great tips. My real estate agent checked out the Meghan’s law website and proximity to schools and freeways etc. but I didn’t pay enough attention to the neighborhood at night. It wasn’t until after I moved in that I discovered why the pervious owners moved out. My next door neighbors partied almost every night for 10 years until they quit drinking. Also if you go at night look to see if there is parking on the street. It sucks when your guests have to park a block away and you don’t even have room to put your trash cans out because your neighbors have more renters than available parking or a neighbor is a “home mechanic”.

  39. Know what you like and don’t like on a home. Get the most bang for your buck and pay cash if you are looking for a fixer upper. Look for a bigger yard and a house to grow if you are a new family. I live near a school so our taxes are more.

  40. My favorite tip is to make sure your completely happy with it. I hope to purchase my first house soon so I haven’t gone through the process. I do know people who settled on houses that they weren’t completely happy with and they regretted it. When you find “THE HOUSE” you will just now. If you don’t have that feeling then keep looking.

  41. In my family, when making big decisions, everyone has to be onboard. Pro and cons have to be weighed first.

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