6 Foolproof Tips for Organizing Your House-Hunting Process, According to Experts

published Feb 2, 2021
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Buying a home requires you to juggle a lot of different tasks at once — tracking down financial documents for your lender, clicking through new listings regularly, scheduling virtual or in-person showings, and reviewing complicated legal documents — all while tending to normal life responsibilities like work, school, and childcare.

As a result, being organized is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself during your home search. Below, we’ve tapped real estate agents across the country for their time-tested organizational hacks that can help simplify your life while you’re buying a home.

Make a Spreadsheet

A spreadsheet is a simple way to keep track of all the homes you’re interested in, as well as each home’s stats and information — square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, price, and HOA fees. A cloud-based spreadsheet like Google Sheets takes this idea a step further, since you can access it from anywhere and multiple people can view or edit the document.

You can create special labels or filters for homes, too, like “Want to See” or “Scheduled,” says James McGrath, co-founder of the New York City real estate brokerage Yoreevo.

Give Homes Nicknames

Instead of trying to memorize each home’s address or vaguely referring to “that one house with the big backyard,” give them all a unique nickname you’ll remember, says Andrea Morgan, a real estate agent in Georgia and Florida. This will help create a firm mental image of each home in your mind, which will help you better organize your thoughts as think back through homes you liked. (Nicknames can also make conversations with your partner or agent easier, too.)

Write It Down

Even in our high-tech modern world, there’s no substitute for good ol’ pen and paper. While you’re touring a home, jot down anything and everything that comes to mind — you can always transfer your notes to a digital format later, but you don’t want to forget your spur-of-the-moment thoughts and observations. Taking notes on your phone can work, too.

“Keep a notebook or a folder,” says Morgan. “Print out listing info and write on the printed sheets so that you can get to the specifics about each home quickly. Take the folder with you to every home visit so that you can quickly compare previous homes to the current contender.” 

Follow the 80/10/10 Rule

In order to streamline the top homes in your search, consider following the 80/10/10 rule, which real estate agent Danny Chhan recommends to all of his clients. 

For a home to move forward as a serious contender (and, potentially, be one that you put an offer on), you have to love 80 percent of it as-is, says Chhan, an agent with Aviara Real Estate near Los Angeles. You can change 10 percent of the home, but you must be willing to live with the remaining 10 percent.

Unless you are specifically looking for a complete fixer-upper, if a house doesn’t meet this specification, it’s not a good fit and you should move on, Chhan says.

Set Up Alerts

Rather than refreshing Zillow, Redfin, or other home-buying sites multiple times a day, create a filter for what you’re looking for — price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, neighborhood, HOA, etc. — and set up email or text alerts. This way, you’ll be notified right away when a home that meets your criteria pops up on the market. (Your real estate agent may also offer a similar service.)

Take Photos

While it’s tempting to rely only on your memory and the listing photos, it’s always a good idea to snap your own photos during a home tour, says Chris Haro, a real estate agent in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Your phone is pretty much always with you and naturally organizes your photos together by date and location, so you can quickly refer back to homes you’ve toured. 

“Properties rarely look the same in those fancy fish-eyed listing photos as they do in real life,” Haro says. “And once you see three or four properties, they can start blending together. Snapping even one or two cell photos from each property showing can provide an easy reference to help keep properties, locations, and showing times straight in your head.”