Best Place to Live
Pay special attention to districts with good schools
(high teacher-student ratios and graduation rates
are among the hallmarks), even if you don't have
school-age children. When it comes time to sell,
you'll find that a strong school system is a major
advantage in helping your home retain or gain value.
Try also to get an idea about the real estate market
in the area. For example, if homes are selling close
to or even above the asking price, that shows the
area is desirable. Your real estate agent may also
be able to show you listings. Incidentally, if you
have the flexibility, consider doing your house hunt
in the off-season -- meaning, generally, the colder
months of the year. You'll have less competition and
sellers may be more willing to negotiate.
Next, take your search to real estate sites like
which let you search for property that matches your
requirements. If you see a house you're interested
in, save it, print it, add it to your bookmark or
favorites list, and take note of the listing code;
your agent will want that code to arrange to show
you the home in person.
Focus on the details
When you actually start touring homes, bring a
notebook and a digital or Polaroid camera to help
you remember details. Your real estate agent should
supply you with a description of each house and the
lot it sits on, the property tax assessment, the
asking price, and sometimes a diagram of the rooms.
Your camera and notebook are there to record other
details, ranging from the cost of heating to the
view out the rear window.
One note: Don't automatically reject a house just
because it doesn't measure up to your desires,
either in features or price. You can always add a
deck, for instance, or update a kitchen. Since the
asking price is just a starting point for
negotiation, you will be making offers and
counteroffers as both parties seek an acceptable