3. What do I need in a neighborhood?
"I always sit down and say, 'Give me your wish list,'" says Chris Pagano, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Chicago. "What are the must-haves?"
Pagano says the way you live is key. He asks buyers, "What do you do when you come home?" That can help buyers determine whether proximity to a gym, park or good restaurants matters.
He urges buyers to consider how they will get from home to other places. Walking three blocks to a bus stop when it's 10 degrees can be bone-chilling. If you drive, try it before you buy.
Check out potential neighborhoods at different times of day, Realtors emphasize.
"Sure, look at the MLS, see the reports, but walk the neighborhood," says Michael Friedman, a Realtor with The Grubb Co. in the Oakland-Berkeley-Piedmont area in California.