However, finding a home anywhere in the US can be done similarly regardless of state as sellers and real-estate agencies tend to work alike regardless of location. The best ways for finding property to buy include: websites, real estate agencies, driving through neighborhoods, newspaper classifieds (very popular, especially in the Midwest), and personal contacts.
In the US, 77% of those looking for a home to buy use the Internet to find it. While sites like Craigslist and even eBay are gaining in popularity when it comes to buying or selling property, more established websites include:
However, most property websites (including those of realtors) tend to work on a state, rather than national level. So the best option is to search online for websites that are specific to your state.
Real estate agents
In most states, real estate agents have to be licensed. This means that they need to become familiar with all the rules and regulations regarding the buying and selling of property in their state, and need to pass an exam proving their knowledge.
In the US, when you decide to hire a real estate agent, you're hiring an expert that is well positioned to help you with every single aspect of buying property in your state. Obviously, this is not cheap and commissions often run high (at a rate of 6%).
While in many agreements the seller pays for the commission, the argument goes that the buyer is always responsible for this payment to the real estate broker. The reason behind it is that the commission is included in the sales price of the property. In fact, in cases where the seller did not sign an agreement to pay a commission, the price of the house is often lower. However, the buyer will then have to cover this cost.
This is why it's so common to find property listed as “for sale by owner”. In this case, prices are lower as neither party needs to pay a real estate fee.
Driving through neighborhoods
If there's a neighborhood you like, then it's worth driving through it to see if there are any homes for sale there.
It is often the case that potential sellers will test the market before advertising their house. They do that by putting a 'for sale' sign on their house around one month before contacting a real estate agent or advertising their home by other means.
The logic goes that this is a potential way of selling property quickly and easily before having to hire a real estate agent.
Your local or state newspaper is full of property listings that are added either by sellers themselves or real estate agents. To get the freshest listings, you should make sure to check the property classifieds on Sundays. As this is the day with the highest circulation for most local newspapers, this is when new listings usually appear.
To make sure that you get to view the house before anyone else does, contact the seller or real estate agent immediately (many work on Sundays because of this), or first thing Monday morning.
If you've already made some contacts in your new home country, it's worth asking them if they know of any homes that might be going for sale soon. This uses the same logic as that of driving through neighborhoods, as many home owners will often tell friends and family of their intention to sell their homes before contacting a real estate agent. Not only do you get to be one of the first to see the property, but if you decide to buy, you also get to skip the real estate agent fee.