Most buyers purchase a home that does not match their original criteria 100%. It’s important to start your home search early because if you start looking too late, you might buy the wrong home. It makes sense to start looking and exploring long before you are ready to buy to give yourself time to learn and think about what you see. Your criteria for your next home will evolve and change as you look at homes. Meet with a good real estate agent and tell him your criteria. Then spread out a map and ask him what areas are appreciating, and what areas to avoid.
Your broker will start sending you properties by email. Sort through them and pick the ones you like the most. When you have time, drive by these homes and see what you think about the neighborhood, the shopping, the commute to work. You will find neighborhoods you never knew existed. At this stage you are trying to figure out in which geographic area you want to live. If, while driving around, you see a “for sale” sign in front of a property you like, ask your broker for more information.
Continue to look for homes on Realtor.com and the search page on your broker’s web site. You will find homes you like that do not meet your original criteria. No problem. Tell your broker about these, change your criteria if you want to, and he will send you more homes to consider.
If you see a home you absolutely love, call your broker and tell him you want to see it ASAP. No harm in looking, and if it is the perfect home, maybe it makes sense to move a little earlier than you planned.