There is nothing quite as exciting as buying your first home. It’s such a big deal – life-changing, in so many ways. You want to get it just right, and that means considering the surroundings as well as the house itself and the property it sits on. After all, you’re going to live here. Fortunately, there are many useful online tools that can help you get a feel for what it would be like to live somewhere before you sign a mortgage.
These sites can help you find a home that fits your budget, your needs, and your vision of daily life at home. Your own home. You can research options even before you contact a real estate agent, or keep looking for new houses that come on the market even if you’re already working with someone.
Looking at homes for sale is a great way to get a better idea of which features and amenities appeal to you most. With so much to think about, it’s smart to make a list – three lists, actually:
- Features/amenities you simply must have
- Features/amenities you’d love to have if your budget allows
- Features you consider deal-killers (busy street, for example)
When you find a house that looks like a winner, compare it to your lists.
This site is a wealth of information. You can check out homes and communities anywhere in Minnesota. Search for individual homes for sale just by browsing, or enter your key criteria and let the virtual Scout find matches for you. This website has also done a lot of your homework for you. You can explore different cities and compare specific neighborhoods based on 200 different traits.
As you look, you’ll realize you have a lot more questions than expected. That’s good, because the more questions you ask, the happier you will be in your new home.
- How expensive is it?
- What is the community vibe like?
- What about crime?
- What are the schools like?
- Where’s the nearest coffee shop or fitness center?
Since our mission is to help first-time homebuyers, our own website is a must-visit resource. You’ll find homes developed by Twin Cities Habitat for sale. Plus, you can learn about financing your home purchase.
This tool was created a long time ago to help real estate agents sell each other's homes they had listed. But prospective buyers like you are big beneficiaries. The Multiple Service Listing (MLS) provides a comprehensive, up-to-date list of all homes for sale in whatever area you designate – city or ZIP code, for example. You can refine your search to zero in on homes that might make sense for you.
Niche.com is another great website for uncovering behind-the-scenes details about various communities. This is not a real estate site, so you won’t find listings of homes for sale, but you can see what the median home value is. You can also learn what amenities the town has to offer and read reviews and ratings about everything from schools to shopping. You’ll get an idea of what it’s really like to live there.
Considering a specific home? Just enter the address, and Google’s Street View lets you literally drive down the street to see what the other homes look like. You can also get a bird’s-eye view of where your potential home sits in relation to the rest of the community.
As You’re Considering Homes . . .
As you consider possible homes, keep in mind your own abilities or interest in DIY projects. Houses that need some TLC or a modernizing upgrade typically cost less. If you can roll up your sleeves and do some or all of that work yourself, you will save even more money. (And you’ll be so proud of the results.) Craigslist and Habitat ReStores are treasure troves of used building materials and supplies, even furniture, all at budget-friendly prices.