Home Shoppers ~ What to Look For When Walking Through a Home
100 Real Estate Tips in 100 Days (Day 55)
Let's assume you are ready to start looking at homes. You have visited 50 open houses to do the "window shopping" thing, you have selected your mortgage lender and completed the application process, you have placed your trust in a Realtor®, and tomorrow you are off to seriously shop for and buy just the right house or condo to call home. Just how do you really shop for your "home"?
To begin with, certain things must be assumed, such as a practical price range. While it may be fun to see houses priced a million dollars beyond your ability to purchase, it is a waste of time for a serious buyer, and an unfair use of your Realtors® time. Much of the selection process can and should be completed before a tire is turned. Price, general location, school choices, commute times, and other "required" factors have already been considered by your professional Realtor®. That is not to say your Realtor can define the choice, but your Realtor will narrow the selection.
As you drive into each neighborhood, look around. Does the area feel good to you? Is it convenient to the things and places that affect your life? How are neighboring homes maintained? Would you feel about coming home to this neighborhood?
As you step out of the car, look at the house. Does it appear to be well maintained? (If you are looking for a fix-up, judge accordingly.) Are there obvious signs of concrete settling? IS the paint and trim sharp and fresh? Vegetation trimmed. All of those things give clues as to condition, if you do not see the level of care you want, and then grade accordingly.
When entering the remove your shoes (or slip the little booties often provided. It is not your house, so please be respectful of the owners home. Again, look for obvious signs of maintenance.
Consider the floor plan; will it work for your furniture and lifestyle? If you really like the house, look deeper at HVAC systems, run the water, check window operation and door latches. Think about closets and storage space, and will the garage hold the cars and "stuff"? Look at such things as the roof, drainage, fencing, appliances, and turn the lights off and on. These simple things do not take the place of a professional inspection, but may disqualify the house before you fall in love and suffer disappointment.
You probably received a flyer from your Realtor for each home you are visiting, use that to take notes. Please don't spend 20 minutes looking at a house you know you do not want to buy before you walk in the door. That time is better spent in thoroughly looking at a house you decide to buy.
Use the "2 house" process of elimination. After the first 2 houses you see, choose the best one, and throw aside the looser. Do that for every house, so that at the end of the session, you have only one best choice. That may not be your final choice, but it gives you a great place to begin looking at the next group of houses. Limit each session to no more than 6 homes, then take a break and discuss. Even if you have to find your house in one weekend, stop after every 6 homes, consider what has been accomplished, and discuss the next session.