May 30, 2015

Looking at Homes (Buying A Home, Step 3)

If you missed the first 2 posts in this series, you can find them here (#1) and here (#2).

The most fun part of home buying is looking at homes. Some buyers have expressed to me that they wish they could just keep looking at homes, because it’s so much fun. I enjoy it too, for sure.

As you look at homes in person, you’ll discover that pictures don’t tell the entire story, such as how one room connects to another, or how much space is actually in a room (wide angle lenses are great at making rooms look bigger than they are).

You’ll find that some people don’t have ‘clean the house’ as a priority, even when prospective buyers are coming over. You will also learn about the hobbies of others, to some of which great discretion may apply.

The house that looked absolutely perfect in the picture? Yeah, those pictures were from before the sellers moved out of state and forgot to hire a lawn care team to cut the grass. The gutters may be overflowing with spring goodness, too, which is honestly hard to stay on top of at all times. Your visit may just be perfectly timed with their pin oak tree’s release of thousands of little ‘helicopter’ seeds. It happens that way, sometimes.

Looking at houses in person is the absolute best way to confirm your like or dislike for the property and the neighborhood. No website can properly convey the feeling you get in a kitchen, a basement, or even a neighborhood. Those experiences must be had in person, and filtered through your personal likes and tastes in order for you to truly know if the house and neighborhood are right for you.

Sometimes you can tell a house is really bad, just by driving up to it.

The house featured above is one that actually looked decent enough online (the power of pictures!), but getting up close we realized it was about to fall down. Then, a couple weeks later, it was torn down. Guess it wasn’t worth saving. Glad we avoided that one!

It’s also a great way to measure the items that need to be repaired or replaced. Terms in the listing like ‘new paint throughout’ can be a distractor from the fact that the carpet is well past its prime. I showed a client a house once that had a listing of “Brand new granite in Kitchen”, only to find out that the granite was BLUE. It was hideous.

Seeing the house in person is a way to fill the gaps where all the pictures couldn’t fill in. Even the best video tour doesn’t fully replace an in-person visit, although it can come close if done properly.

Your agent will often ask you to ride with them as you go visit potential homes. The reason?  Improved relationships. I once had a buyer client that insisted on driving herself everywhere we went, because she was a smoker. As a former smoker myself, I understood her desire to smoke and I appreciated her respect for my vehicle and non-smoker status. But when we took a day-long, multi-rural visit around Northwest Missouri, I insisted she ride with me. She didn’t smoke, and we got to know each other quite well over those 7 hours.

Riding with your Realtor or driving yourself is dependent on many factors, and in the end, it is completely your decision. The best reason to ride with your Realtor is that you can get to know each other a little better; this allows him to help you make the best decision on your next purchase.

One last thing:

Knowing what you want in a house BEFORE you go out is helpful, too. Use my free House Hunting Checklist to guide you in your house hunting and find your next favorite home before someone else does.

Up next: Step 4: Writing an Offer on your next home