Learning your local real estate market is the best way to get started.

Learning the local real estate market takes some tiem

You may not be an expert in the real estate market when you begin your home search. But you can learn more than enough along the way to help you make smart decisions.

Study homes online

You’ve created your search criteria (location, price, home stats), and now you’re ready to browse for homes online. Whether you realize it or not, thus begins your education of your local real estate market. Window-shopping for homes online will give you lots of listings to see and help you to understand what is available and what you get for the money. It’s a great way to start the "dreaming" phase or simply get educated. Read blogs and get data about the real estate process. Know that some information might be general or generic and not appropriate for your particular search or local market.

Learn from your agent

You can get the most out of your home search by working with a local real estate agent so he or she can answer questions and share his or her insights and experience on things like the possible direction of the area’s home values, how the market works and what is to be expected as you move towards the home buying process. Personal anecdotes from the agent’s experience representing buyers in particular neighborhoods are invaluable in painting a more complete picture.

Attend open houses

Going to open houses will help round out your education. Besides helping you further clarify what you do and don’t want in a home, open houses give you a visual understanding of what characteristics increase and decrease home values and how that relates to price. This will help you later when you prepare to make an offer and negotiate.

If your agent goes to an open house with you, he can teach you what amenities to look for, what adds value, such as new energy-efficient windows versus original, single-pane windows or the possible presence of original hardwood flooring below the wall-to-wall carpeting. If the agent is very familiar with a particular neighborhood, he may also have an inside scoop and know, for instance, other homes that may come on the market or the contract price of a home that recently received an offer.

Use what you learn

Each step you take in your search for a home can lead you to a greater understanding of your local real estate market. That, in turn, will help you find a great home, make a solid offer and negotiate with confidence.