Man going over his home buying checklist

House-Hunting Checklist: Your Key To An Organized Home Search

Erin Gobler7-minute read
UPDATED: March 05, 2023

Buying a home is an exciting process. Unfortunately, it can also be an overwhelming one. Not only are there budget considerations, but you also feel the pressure of finding the perfect home for your family. And the unprecedented housing market during the past 2 years has only made the process more nerve-wracking.

Finding the perfect home is easier when you’ve got a house-hunting checklist by your side. We’ve put together a checklist to help you stay organized on your home search and feel confident in your home purchase.

Using This House-Hunting Must-Haves Checklist

A home is likely the largest single purchase you’ll make in your life, so it’s important to be thorough and ensure you’ve found the perfect space for your family.

There’s a lot of work to be done before you get to the point of buying a home. A few important steps to complete include:

  • Set your budget and figure out just how expensive of a home you can afford. A lender or online home affordability calculator can help you to do this.
  • Make sure you find a trusted real estate agent before you start shopping. The right agent can make your home buying process far easier and can help you find a home that meets all of your requirements.
  • Get preapproved for a mortgage. You’ll know that you’re shopping within your budget, and home sellers will take your offers more seriously.

Once you’ve taken all the steps necessary before looking at houses, you can use the checklist below to find your perfect home. As you work through the checklist with prospective homes, rate each item on the list from 1 – 5, with 5 being the best score and 1 being the worst. By rating each checklist item for each home you’re considering, you’ll have an easier time comparing them and deciding which home is a better fit.

House-Hunting Checklist: Neighborhood

A home’s neighborhood is one of the most important factors to consider when deciding if it’s the right fit. As a homeowner, your location affects many parts of your life, from the stores you frequent to the school your children attend to how safe you feel.

Here are a few factors you’ll want to consider:

  • Schools: If you have children, what local school will they attend? Even without children, the quality of the local school can affect other neighborhood factors, including home values and property taxes.
  • Shopping: How far are the nearest stores? Will you have easy access to all the shopping you need?
  • Parks: Are there local parks and open spaces your family can enjoy?
  • Accessibility: Are there sidewalks or bike trails in the neighborhood? Is there public transportation available, including roads, bus routes, trains, etc.?
  • Environmental factors: What are the local weather patterns, and does the area frequently experience natural disasters?
  • Costs: Does the neighborhood have a homeowners association that requires regular dues?
  • Crime rate: Is there a lot of crime in this neighborhood (and if so, what kind)? Ultimately, will you feel safe living here?
  • Other factors: Some other neighborhood aspects you may want to consider include local zoning, proximity to industrial or utility sites and more.

Neighborhood trends at your fingertips.

Check your local market.

House-Hunting Checklist: Home Specs

When you’re shopping for your new home, each house’s specs are some of the first information you’ll look at. These specs are usually readily available in the listing and allow you to choose or rule out certain homes without going to an open house. The most common home specs you’ll likely consider include:

  • Square footage of the home
  • The number of bedrooms
  • The number of bathrooms
  • Whether there’s covered parking (and if so, how many spaces)
  • Whether there’s a finished basement
  • The home’s floor plan

When it comes to analyzing a home’s specifications, there are no right or wrong answers. It’s helpful to go into the house-hunting process knowing what specs you’d like in a home so that you can easily look at a listing to determine if the home is worth your time. You can easily rule out those that aren’t big enough – or are too big – and don’t have your must-haves.

House-Hunting Checklist: Exterior

The exterior is one of the most important factors to consider when shopping for a home. And unfortunately, home buyers often spend too much time worrying about superficial characteristics, and too little time paying attention to the things that really matter. Here are a few things you’ll want to consider when it comes to the exterior of a home:

  • Foundation: During a home inspection, you can learn about the state of the home’s foundation. A poor foundation is usually a dealbreaker and may cause the home to fail the inspection.
  • Paint: Consider not only the color of the home’s exterior but also the quality of the paint job and whether it will need to be repainted in the near future.
  • Roofing: What is the condition of the roof? When was the roof last replaced? Answering these questions can help determine if you’ll need to replace the roof soon.
  • Landscaping: Has the current owner done any landscaping? Pay attention to the condition of the lawn, whether there are trees, shrubs, or gardens to maintain, and the existence of any sprinklers or irrigation system.
  • Yard: How big is the yard, and is it fenced in? Buyers with children or pets often prefer a fenced-in yard.
  • Deck or patio: What outdoor living space does the home have? Does it already have what you need, or will you have to pay to put in a deck or patio?
  • Pool: Does the home have a pool? Some people want a home with a pool, while the presence of a pool may be a dealbreaker for others.
  • Garage: Does the home have a garage? Is it attached or unattached, and how many vehicles can it hold?

House-Hunting Checklist: Interior

In addition to the exterior of a home, it’s also important to pay attention to the interior. Not only is the inside of the home where you’ll be spending most of your time, but it can also be expensive to repair or replace features inside the home. Some of the internal characteristics of a home that you should consider include:

  • Flooring: What type of flooring does the home have and what is its condition? Old or low-quality flooring could be expensive to replace.
  • Walls and trim: What is the color and quality of the walls and trim in the home? Would you need to paint or complete any repairs?
  • Kitchen: In the kitchen, consider the size, appliances, presence of a pantry, and the quality and style of the cabinets, countertop, etc.
  • Living room: How large is the living room, and is it large enough for your family? Is it a separate room or does the home have an open floor plan?
  • Dining room: Does the home have a dining room, and if so, is it large enough for your family? Is it a separate room or a part of the kitchen?
  • Primary bedroom: How large is the primary bedroom? Does it include an attached bathroom, walk-in closet and other features you want?
  • Other bedrooms: Are there enough bedrooms and are they large enough for your purposes?
  • Bathrooms: What conditions are the bathrooms in? Pay attention to their size, style and fixtures.
  • Other rooms: What other rooms does the home include? Is there an office, bonus room, den, etc.?
  • Basement: How many square feet is the basement and is it finished? Consider whether it works for the purposes you want it for.
  • Storage: What storage is available in the home? Is there enough for your family, or would you have to pay for storage elsewhere?

You know your dream home.

We’ll help you find it.

House-Hunting Checklist: Systems/Wiring/Plumbing

While the aesthetic features of a home are important, it’s also important to pay attention to the systems within your home and how they’re working. Your home inspection can help you to address most of these questions. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Electrical: Are all the outlets and switches functional? Have you had the electrical system inspected and is it up to code?
  • HVAC: How old is the home’s HVAC system and will it need to be repaired or replaced anytime soon?
  • Smart home features: Does the home have any smart home features, and if so, what is their condition?
  • Energy-saving features: Does the home have any energy-saving features, and if so, what is their condition? These could include LED bulbs, a tankless water heater, rainwater capture, low-flow pumping fixtures, and EnergyStar
  • Security: Does the home have a security system installed? Are there other security features included?
  • Plumbing: What is the condition of the home’s plumbing system, including the toilets, showers and tubs, sinks, faucets, water heater and more.
  • Insulation: What type of insulation does the home have? Low-quality insulation could result in increased heating and cooling costs.

House-Hunting Checklist: Miscellaneous

In addition to the important aspects of your home’s interior, exterior, specifications and neighborhood, there are a few other factors to consider that don’t quite fit into one of those categories. Here are a few other things you’ll want to consider when you’re housing hunting:

  • Storage shed: Your home may come with additional structures on the property, including a storage shed or additional garage.
  • Solar panels: It’s becoming increasingly popular for homeowners to install solar panels, which can increase the value of the home and reduce your energy costs.
  • Skylights or solar tubes: These features can help to brighten the home, but aren’t a desirable feature for everyone.
  • Termite or pest inspection: It’s important to know if the home has a history of infestations, especially if there has been any resulting damage.
  • Technological upgrades: Many homes come equipped with technological upgrades such as intercoms, home theater rooms and more.

House-Hunting Checklist: Red Flags/Dealbreakers

When you’re searching for the perfect home, it’s important to know what red flags or dealbreakers to look out for. These red flags can include problems with the home, financial or documentation problems and more. Some of these red flags will be dealbreakers altogether, while others are things to keep in mind, though you may still buy the home. Here are a few to look out for:

  • Problems with the home’s foundation
  • A home that hasn’t been well-maintained
  • Strange odors coming from the home
  • Foreclosed properties
  • A history of flooding
  • DIY improvements
  • A seller who refuses an inspection contingency
  • Many homes for sale in the same neighborhood

The Bottom Line

Home buying is an exciting process, but it’s also a complicated one, and it’s important to go into it with a level head. When you start house hunting with a checklist in hand, it will be easier to evaluate each home and determine if it’s right for your family. And if you need help finding the perfect home, you can contact a Rocket HomesSM real estate agent to help you through the process.

Need a real estate agent?

Match with a local expert.

Erin Gobler

Erin Gobler is a freelance personal finance expert and writer who has been publishing content online for nearly a decade. She specializes in financial topics like mortgages, investing, and credit cards. Erin's work has appeared in publications like Fox Business, NextAdvisor, Credit Karma, and more.