Tip for Buyers – House Shopping
You are so excited! You’ve met with a mortgage professional, supplied data and paperwork and received your pre-approval. You know how much you can spend, what level of taxes you can afford, what kind of loan you will be using, and whether you need a seller concession or not. In addition, you’ve interviewed and selected a real estate buyer agent to help you with your search. You are ready to house shop!
This can be the most fun part of your house purchase journey! That being said, there are some things you should do before stepping foot in a home.
It’s easy to look at homes online and fall in love with photos. But there’s no sense in going to see houses that don’t meet your requirements. That would be a waste of time for you, your agent, and the sellers. So the first thing you need to figure out is what your “must haves” are. These might include:
Location: The best way to search for the right house is to know exactly where you’d like to live. Do you want to be in a specific town, community or even street? Do you NOT want to be on specific streets? Would you prefer living at a local lakeside, but would also be willing to live on the hills surrounding the lake? Are you open to living in a particular town but want to make sure the road you live on is not too busy? The more specific you can be in terms of where you want to be, the more focused your agent can be on finding you the right home in the right location.
Style: There are many different styles of homes, and if you have a favorite, the best time to share that is right up front. Some buyers simply must have a ranch house. They want one floor living and are not interested in looking at anything else. Other buyers might be interested in colonial style homes only, or bi-levels or farm houses. Some want Victorian homes, or those built in the 1800s. If you don’t know what you want right up front, that’s perfectly fine. But if you DO want a specific type home, that helps narrow your search even more.
School District: This is really part of the location decision, but sometimes school districts can encompass many different towns. If it’s critical that you live in a certain school district (and for families this is almost always critical) the time to define where you want to be is before you start searching. Also keep in mind that some school districts have multiple elementary schools. If you want your child to be in a certain one, make sure your agent knows so they can search appropriately.
Bedrooms/Bathrooms: How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? How many could you live with? This might be the easiest decision or perhaps the hardest. Do you have three children so think a four bedroom home is a must? What if a house has three bedrooms and an office, but the office could be converted to another bedroom? Would that work? What if a house had a garage or basement that could be converted into living space? Would you consider that one? If yes, perhaps your search could contain any homes that are three bedrooms or more and have an extra room that could have future conversion possibilities. In terms of bathrooms, think about how many would make life easier. Do you currently have two and you always have to wait? How many would be required to make everyone a bit more comfortable?
Other Features: What else must you have? Do you need a two-car garage? A shed? Driveway? Are you looking for a home with a very small piece of land because you don’t want to have to do a lot of mowing? Would you prefer a few acres so you have some privacy? What about a pool? Do you have to have one? I have actually had buyers who indicated they did NOT want to look at any houses with a pool. So do you NOT want one? What about floor plan? Must you have an open kitchen, dining and living room area? Do you want a home that has an outdoor patio? The more specific you can be about what you need, the easier it will be to select homes.
Changing your Mind: These are all things you should know to get started on your home search journey. But as with any journey, things may change. You might go out the first time and start looking at 4 bedroom colonials, which is what you were sure you wanted. But you find you don’t want a colonial; instead, you’d prefer a ranch house. It’s perfectly fine to change your mind as you move through the process. Just keep your agent notified as soon as you realize something has changed!
Looking at homes
So now you know what you want, you’ve looked online at possibilities, and you and your agent have a list of homes to see, the date is scheduled, and you are ready to go. So is there anything you need to know about actually stepping foot into homes? Of course…
Cameras: In today’s technological age, you should assume you are being recorded while looking at homes. So discussions about what to pay for the house, financial constraints you might have or whether you love or hate something inside the home, should wait until you are down the driveway. This is really quite important, since you don’t want to let the sellers know anything that could impact your negotiation strength. I was standing on a front porch once and the doorbell talked to me. Actually, it was the home owner who was at his job looking and listening to me from his cell phone. So be cautious about what you share while out house shopping.
On the road: In my area, most agents will drive their own car and buyers will follow. In other areas of the country, agents will drive buyers around to showings. If it’s your first time out, assume you will need to drive your own car to see homes. Make sure you have plenty of gas! I know this sounds pretty self-explanatory but trying to find a gas station in some more remote areas could cause appointment problems while out house shopping. Also, if you’ll be out viewing homes for hours, you may wish to bring some snacks and drinks to keep your energy levels up.
Showing Etiquette: It’s important to remember that you are in someone’s home. So the typical guest rules apply, which are things like, remove your shoes or use shoe covers if requested. Also, it’s perfectly fine to look in closets to see how large they are, but not okay to look in furniture drawers. It’s okay to use the bathroom only with home owners permission; otherwise, they should not be used. Your agent will let you know if there are any specific rules that apply to individual homes you may see (for example, please don’t let the cat out!).
What to look for: Looking at homes can be a lot of fun. It’s definitely very important to see houses in person. Sometimes they look a lot better than in photos, and visa versa. Try to keep in mind that paint colors can be changed, carpets can be removed, flooring can be refinished. If you can look past the current condition, it will help you determine if that home is one you could make exactly the way you want. In addition to looking at things on your “must-have” list, you might want to check room sizes. Are the rooms big enough for your furniture and for your use? Do you notice any unexplained odors? Did you walk in the front door and say, “ahhhh, this is it?” Does the kitchen have enough space for your cookware? Are the walls or floors in the basement damp? Is there enough natural sunlight for you? Is there room for your garden? Keep a critical eye on everything, especially in a home that you might be considering purchasing. And remember to take notes as you walk through. After you’ve seen a few homes, you might forget which home had what feature.
Looking for homes is probably the most enjoyable part of the entire home purchase process. The first thing to do is figure out what features you want. Then do some online searching and working with your agent, come up with the list of homes to see. After that, it’s time to head out with a tankful of gas, some snacks and a sense of humor. Have a great time exploring the “what ifs.” And once you find “the” one, you’ll be past this step of the home purchase process, and ready to make an offer.
If you are looking for a home in the Monroe NY or Orange County area, contact me on 914-419-0270 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more buyer related posts, click here.