What should I look for when viewing a home?

June 1, 2011

Viewing a home is one of the most important steps in the home buying process, so don’t hold back. The more you know before you buy, the fewer surprises there will be after you’ve moved in. The smarter  you look and the better questions you ask the agent (and the seller), the more confident you’ll be in adding a home to your finalist list or eliminating it from contention. Always remember that if there is  a question, it is worth asking.

…Smartly

Experience has proven that the more you know about viewing a home smartly, the better chance you  have of making the right decisions when you are ready to make an offer on one. This prior knowledge can help save you time and result in a successful transaction for both you and the seller.

Ready, Set, Go

In order to more efficiently accomplish your home viewing goals, you will first want to determine if you are ready to look. There are other articles mentioned below that provide more information on preparing to view homes. When you address these initial questions before you proceed, things tend to go more smoothly:

  • How much can you afford? We recommend you do a mortgage pre-qualification with a loan officer – see the “8 tips for finding the right home mortgage” page.
  • How will you be represented during the real estate process? We suggest you learn about your choices and interview three brokers before determining who you should work with – see the “How do I find the right real agent” page.
  • What options do you have and what are your preferences? You may want to go over the various pros and cons with your agent, family and friends – see “What type of house should I buy?” page.

For buyers who have accomplished this preliminary groundwork, now comes the fun part … or is it? People view homes with varying degrees of enthusiasm and vigor. To some buyers inspecting homes is fun and to other buyers  it can be frustrating or boring. Some will look at over thirty homes before finding the right one while others may only look at two or three. Although there is no single right method or number of homes to view, here are some suggestions that buyers can follow to achieve their home viewing goals most effectively.

Don’t Hold Back

Buying a home is one of the most important investments you can make so, don’t hold back. The more you know before you buy, the fewer surprises there will be after you’ve moved. The more you observe, and the better questions you have (of the agent, or the seller, if at home), the more confident you will be in adding a home to your list or eliminating it from contention. Always remember that if there is  a question, it is worth asking. The seller will understand your point of view because they were once a buyer and may be one again soon. So go ahead – open doors, look under rugs and ask away!

Talk It Over

Communication throughout the real estate process is important, but it becomes critical during the home viewing stage. Not only should you constantly express your preferences to your agent, but also to others directly involved. When two people, most commonly a husband and wife, are looking, it is not uncommon for them to each have different likes and dislikes. In order to more efficiently reach your real estate goals writing down your observations and thoughts after each viewing helps keep your memory sharp. Don’t be disappointed after you have looked at a home that did not meet your needs because with each home you view, you gain valuable insight and knowledge regarding your tastes and your priorities. You will also have another home to base an opinion of value on. Keep a journal or schedule of the homes you have seen that contains the basic information you’ll need in establishing a sense of value when you ultimately find the home you want to own.

Views On Viewing

There are different methods  on going about viewing a home, but the following generalities and guidelines will help make this process work to your advantage. Consider this advice within the context of your specific situation and what’s comfortable for you.

  • Investigate the capacity of major systems like heating/ air conditioning, water heater/ and wiring but don’t confuse capacity with condition.  The system’s original capacity may have been enough when installed/ but may not be enough today.
  • Walk out the lot line and if there are questions or concerns about the parameters of the yard, ask if the seller has a survey. Interesting what you learn in a backyard sometimes, especially after a good rain.
  • Do not buy the first home you look at until you have had a chance to compare it to others.
  • Do not depend on your memory. Take notes on the property spec sheet and keep it on file to make comparisons later on. See the page called “What is the true price of a home” to learn more about valuation. It is important.
  • Wear comfortable clothing because you may want to examine a piece of equipment, climb into the crawl space or walk thru shrubs to get a better look at siding. Be sure to schedule the showing during the day.
  • Bring a flashlight, pen knife, tape measure, pen and paper and a marble. Be certain to get permission or have your agent do so before you open doors, roll marbles or check for dry rot.
  • Don’t forget about the condition of trees, shrubs, sidewalks and the potential for street improvements.
  • Other aspects that are important to some people but often overlooked are traffic (air, street or railroad), industrial odor or noise. If you are interested in the home. Come back again at different times of the day to check for external changes in the environment (note the wind direction).
  • Making a positive impression on sellers can be important because sellers have been known to let their personal impressions of buyers affect their negotiating decisions.

Don’t Hesitate

Just as home showings are important to sellers, viewing homes can be a challenging time for buyers. Potential buyers should not hesitate to give each home a thorough examination. The purchase of a home is a significant decision and the more information you have gathered, the more likely you can leverage the information toward the most informed decision. Click here to go back to real issues that buyers encountered on this step.