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6 Hacks To Get An Affordable Home Without Leaving Your Neighborhood

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Learn the best ways to find a new home that’s within your budget — without having to move across town.

You love your neighborhood and would never want to live anywhere else — but your home situation is another story. If you want to ditch your rental status for that of homeowner, upgrade from a starter home, live on a less-busy street, or be closer to local restaurants and bars, you might need to find a new home.

Good news! Since you’re already well-acquainted with your neighborhood, you can take advantage of some under-the-radar hacks that can help you find a home for sale in Seattle, WA, or Miami, FL, all within budget, right in your current neighborhood. Here’s how to do it.

1. Tap into your local network

Be the one who gets the scoop on homes that aren’t yet on the market — but might be listed for sale soon. The more connected you are with your neighbors, the more likely that you will find a home in your neighborhood before the rest of the world does. Tell everyone you know that you’re looking and what sort of home you want (in other words, use this time-honored approach: networking).

This method really works; I know from personal experience! I found a home for a friend this way. She mentioned wanting to buy in my neighborhood, and I had just heard about a family who would be moving. A deal was made that benefited both parties. Win-win!

2. Ask your agent about off-market or pocket listings

Getting a house off-market or through a pocket listing gets you into a home before the competition (and bidding wars) begins. “If there are fewer people who know about a house, the selling price will be lower on average over a house that is fully marketed,” says Mark Ferguson, a Greeley, CO, agent. But what exactly are off-market and pocket listings? “A pocket listing is when a listing agent lists a home for sale but may not market it to other agents right away,” says Ferguson. “Off-market is when a home is not listed, but an agent may know it is available, and they tell their buyers about it.” A connected agent should be able to let you know about these types of homes.

3. Keep tabs on recent nearby sales

Besides looking online at homes for sale, look through Trulia’s recently sold homes. That way, you can be better aware of when there are deals to be had. How? People can (and do!) list their homes for what they would like to get. But the real test is what sellers actually get for similar homes. Once you know the selling prices, you can be more confident if you intend to offer lower than the list price.

4. Arrange a home swap

You might have learned this skill as a child when you traded toys with another kid — the same concept can apply to homes. Only with a house swap, you should hire a lawyer to make everything legal. Here’s how it works: If you’re looking to move into a larger home, for example, and you know or have heard about an empty-nest couple looking to downsize, a home swap could be a great solution for both parties. You get to bypass much of the traditional home-selling and buying steps, and closings would happen on the same day. If you’re swapping up for the bigger home, you would pay the difference in value at closing. Moving will be a breeze since you both will be doing so simultaneously — no need to store furniture or rush to find a home to buy after you sell yours.

5. Tap into your inner Sherlock

If you love looking for clues and conducting research, you’re a natural-born detective, which is a great skill to use when combing your neighborhood for a deal. “Novel ways to mine a specific neighborhood for listings and available properties include obituaries and divorces,” says Michael Kelczewski, a Pennsylvania and Delaware real estate agent. If the thought of approaching people during times of stress makes you a bit squeamish, keep in mind that you’re not exactly a stranger swooping in. Since you live in town, you or one of your friends or family members may know the people involved. If so, simply get the word out that if the house will be sold, you’d be interested in buying it. This might be a huge problem solver for everyone.

6. Look into government programs

If you’re a teacher, police officer, firefighter, or an emergency medical technician, you can take advantage of the Good Neighbor Next Door program through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. If you find a home in the program that’s also in your neighborhood, you can buy it at — get this — half-price!

Have you scored an affordable home for sale without leaving your neighborhood? Share your tips in the comments!