Mood of the Market
Most of the time, buyers start communicating their vision with some sort of boilerplate house-hunting form, checking boxes for the numbers of beds and baths, etc., that they want. Starting with a free-form vision of home before you move to that level of detail will help you get clear on the big picture you're trying to achieve with your home and, in turn, help you communicate the overarching goals and details of your house hunt in a clearer way to your agent.
If you're comfortable with it, you might want to go so far as to let your agent review the results of this exercise, or cover the big picture it creates with her; this gives you the advantage of putting your agent's experienced mind and networks to work to creatively spot properties that might work for you. If you don't feel comfortable sharing your life vision, though, feel free to boil it down to a list you can share of your house-hunting wants, needs and deal-breakers.
5. Good, bad, ugly feedback sheet. Once you're actively working with your agent and viewing properties, you might need to fine tune and course-correct your agent's understanding of what you're looking for.
One of my favorite tools for doing that is to simply give written feedback for each property, bucketing that into the good, bad and ugly (i.e., deal breaker-level disadvantages) of each home, as you see it. Then, at the end of every property tour, you can more readily remember what you liked and disliked about each property, even if you saw five or eight or more, and you can communicate those likes and dislikes in a way that empowers your agent to constantly uplevel the listings she shows you in terms of her alignment with your wants and needs.
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman's Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com. Ask her a real estate question online or visit her website, www.rethinkrealestate.com.
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Real estate market recap, May 25-29
What's Your Home Worth?