Organizing the Hunt

Streamline the search for your new home

If you grocery shop the way I do, haphazardly running back and forth from one end of the store to the other, then that, my friend, is the perfect an example of how not to house hunt. My husband, on the other hand, is exactly the guy whose grocery shopping strategy you do want to emulate on your house hunt. He even organizes his list in the order of where things can be found in the store.  That way, he avoids any backtracking, which, when driving around town looking at houses, can become a major, gas-guzzling annoyance.

Again, if you’re anything like me, when you find a house you like online, for instance, your impulse is to toss on a cardi and jump in the car to see it immediately.  Or, if you find one while strolling through your favorite neighborhood, you might be inclined to get on the phone and schedule the first available viewing. Trust me when I tell you that going about it this way will eventually make you crazy.

Instead, take a deep breath, and follow these steps to organize and streamline your house hunt:

 List it

Start by creating three lists.

1) Your top five must-haves (Location? Number of bedrooms? An eat-in kitchen? It’s up to you.)

2) Your top five wants (The extras you’d love but can live without)

3) Your deal breakers (For me, any less than two bathrooms was a big NoGo.)

These lists are important and should be kept in a folder or an app on your phone (Evernote’s a good one) and referred to often.

 Scout it

Start collecting addresses you find on sites such as and, from listings sent by your agent, and those you find while out and about. Print out the listings and put them in your folder along with any flyers you’ve picked up along the way. (If you’re using Evernote, do an online search for “house hunting with Evernote.” You’ll find some great how-to’s for saving listings and taking notes.)

Map it

Plug the addresses into your favorite web browser and map out a route. This step may feel a tad tedious, but in the long run, it will save you gas mileage, time and the headache of a haphazard run-around.

Drive it/Walk it/Snap it

This step is not for the visit, it’s just for an initial drive-by.  If you have scouted several properties in the same general area, park your car and walk to some of them if you can.  This will help give you a feel for the area as well as the property itself.  Bring your folder with you and take notes on the flyer or the listing you’ve printed out. Snap photos of the neighborhood to remind yourself later of things you especially did or did not like. You might end up crossing a property or two off your list.

View it

Contact your agent and schedule viewings of the places you want to see more of. Don’t overwhelm yourself.  If you try to fit more than ten in one day, you’ll exhaust yourself. Plan it over a couple of days, if necessary. If you’ve done a good job with your map and your drive-by, you’ll already be familiar with the route and you might have even staked out an eatery for some mid-day chow.

Score it

After each viewing, score the property according to your initial lists. Give each must-have a rank of 1-to-5 or 1-to-10, and add two points for each want.  Write the total score at the top of the printout or flyer. Deal-breakers will, of course, eliminate the property from your list of potentials altogether.

Review it

At the end of the day, look back over your notes, upload any photos you may have taken, and organize your folder with favorites on top. Don’t toss those that have lost their luster.  Put them in a back-up folder in case you want to refer to them later.

If it sounds like a lot of work, well, most house hunts are. But if you follow these steps, your well-organized folder eliminates the need to keep all the information in your head.

So your head is now free to daydream which Kelly Wearstler designs you’ll use in your new home.

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Elizabeth Salaam
Along with her work as Senior Contributing Writer for Girl's Guide, Elizabeth Salaam writes for the San Diego Reader. Her work has also been published in Elle Magazine. | Most inspired by: Contradictions. | Favorite room in my home: The Master suite. The windows have views for days! | Best design idea I may never do: Adorn my enclosed toilet room with library book wallpaper and a chandelier. | Will never: Bungee jump. | Have always been: Rebellious. | Dying to: Live in a Paris flat with herringbone wood floors.
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