For most people, the prospect of going to view homes they like is thrilling. It’s tempting to think that that is the first step to buying a home, but it’s not.
Assuming you have your down-payment, mortgage pre-approval and other financial issues handled, the first thing you need to do before viewing any home is to determine what you’re looking for.
What is your criteria?
Do you need a set number of bedrooms and bathrooms?
Do you want a yard?
Do you want property only in particular neighborhoods?
How much are you willing or able to spend?
Answering these questions will save you a lot of time and effort running around to view homes that do not suit you.
Once you’ve decided on your criteria, call your Agent. Let him or her know what you’re looking for and what your price range is.
He or she will get to work on your behalf, shortlisting the properties that meet your criteria so you can start your viewing from there. Then comes the fun part, finding that perfect home you’ve been dreaming of!
Schedule an Adequate Time
When going to view homes, make sure you’ve got plenty of time on your hands.
Always schedule enough time to do a proper inspection. It’s possible you’ll be living there for years to come, so five minutes strolling around isn’t going to cut it.
Schedule about two hours to view your potential house. Research suggests that when buyers spend a longer time viewing a home, they are more likely to pay below the asking price.
Be thorough when checking out the home. Open drawers, cabinets and cupboards, look behind furniture, lift up rugs if necessary. While this may seem rude, it is not.
You are about to make a substantial investment and you need to know exactly what you’re getting.
Sellers are not obliged to inform you of or show you every single defect in the home so you need to find them yourself. An artfully positioned chair could be hiding something, so feel free to look where you need to.
Of course, if you already hate the home from the get go, by all means do only a minimal inspection or don’t bother with the inspection at all. But if it’s something you like, open every door and look in closets.
Rest assured that the sellers have had sufficient notice of a potential buyer and would have straightened up those spaces knowing you will be poking around.
What comes with the Property?
Confirm what comes with home. For example, whether the stands or fixtures are for the exclusive use of that home or the owners will remove them. Make sure to get confirmation in writing if you do decide that you would like to buy the property.
Don’t be Fooled by Staging
Sellers have been known to use clever tricks to make a home more appealing. They can strategically light a room to draw attention from a problem or apply fresh coats of paint to cover a mold issue.
While you are viewing the house, try to look beyond the immediate aesthetics of the interior décor. Focus your attention on what you will get when the furniture and interior décor are gone.
Keep Emotion Away
When viewing a home initially, try not to get attached immediately. Keep emotions aside and only consider it as a building you need to inspect.
If you get attached from the get go, you might make an emotional decision and overlook major problems.
View Multiple Times
If you like a particular home, view it multiple times. You’re more likely to identify potential problems if you view it several times at different times of the day.
This way you will know what traffic is like in the area and the noise levels that occur at different times.
Consider the Overall Context
When viewing don’t just consider a property on its own, view it in the context of its location.
What is the area like?
Is the property adjacent to a train track or noisy intersection?
Is there a pub or bar close by that gets noisy at night?
How close are you to the things you might need, such as schools, public transit, a grocery store, or hospital?
All of these are legitimate questions to consider when viewing properties, as they can add or subtract from the overall enjoyment of your home.
Let your Agent do their Job
Don’t just go viewing on your own.
Apart from the fact that this is not safe, it also makes you vulnerable. A seller’s agent might think you’re unrepresented and try to take advantage of you.
Let your Agent do their job. If you happen to come across a property that interests you but your Agent hasn’t told you about it, chances are it does not match your criteria.
If you like the look of it however, call your Agent with the address and phone number on the board. That way, they can arrange a proper viewing for you without the owner being present.
The Condition of the Property
When viewing a home there are some very important things to look out for, the primary one being the condition of the property.
Is the Home Structurally Sound?
Walk around checking the walls and ceilings for big cracks. Hairline cracks are to be expected in some places. Make sure you check the exterior for cracks. Cracks could be a sign that the property is not structurally sound. Points at which extensions join are good places to look, as cracks often occur there.
Also look for loose or broken tiles on the roof or broken guttering, evidence of damage to the drywall and weaknesses on the floors.
Any signs of a problem anywhere on the structure of the property should be questioned about what caused it.
How long has it been like that?
Will it be fixed?
Furniture or accessories like rugs could be hiding wall cracks or problems with the floor, so again, don’t forget to look behind furniture or move them around if necessary.
You might love the house, but if you see major cracks or any of the walls look like they are bowing, you should have a structural engineer come in and take a look.
Watch out for Mold
Mold is a major problem that could cost you a lot to fix. Don’t just try to look for it, use your nose as well. Mold frequently gives off a musty smell, even when there are no visible signs.
Plaster that’s flaking, watermarks on walls or ceilings, even a fresh coat of paint in a particular section of a room could all be an indication of mold.
Don’t forget to examine the ceiling and around the skirting boards properly for evidence of leaks or water damage.
Heating, Air Conditioning and Electrics
Other aspects to consider when looking at the general condition of the property are the heating and air conditioning systems.
Have an expert assess that they are the appropriate models and capacity, and that they are working properly.
Check the fuse box, it shouldn’t be old or outdated, must be easily accessible, and in good working condition. Ensure wiring was done properly. You don’t want to spend a fortune rewiring the home to bring it up to a standard.
Consider if there are enough power outlets and if they are in good condition.
Basements and Attics
Also check the attic for water problems, look for water damage or leaks that may have affected the insulation, walls and ceiling of the attic. And while you’re at it, make sure that the insulation is adequate for where the property is located.
In the basement, look for evidence of moisture problems in the home. Is there water leaking onto the floor or water around the foundation? There should be no cracks in the basement walls and any wood such as those in exposed beams should be in good condition with no rot.
Pipes and Taps
Check that the plumbing is up to date. Run taps to ensure they work properly and the water pressure is strong enough. Exposed pipes in unheated areas should be insulated, as frozen pipes will eventually cause water damage.
It is particularly important from a health perspective to ascertain that the pipes are not lead. If they are, you will need to replace them. Also, find out where the hot water tank is located. If it is on the roof you may need to replace it, as it is probably an old tank.
Check for evidence of water around the foundation which may indicate drainage issues.
The ground should slope away from the foundation. If there is a porch, it should have a foundation and not simply sit on soil. Check that driveways or any walkways leading up to the house do not have cracks and are not crumbling.
Check that the siding of the home is in good repair. Take a look at the landscaping on the property as well. It shouldn’t be unkempt and unsightly, as that can indicate a lack of care.
The sprinkler system should be in proper working condition. If there is a deck, ensure there’s no decay or damage from termite or beetles.
Don’t just settle for the information contained in the customer copy of listings. Ask your agent for more detailed info.
How long has the property been on the market?
Was it previously listed, withdrawn and relisted for a lower price?
These kinds of questions can help you decide how much to offer.
You also need other detailed information on the property, most of which will be available from the public records.
Public records will show you the name of the owner, original age of the home, mortgage history, parcel number, previous sales of the property, property deeds and any judgments or liens filed against the seller. Information about how much the property taxes are and whether they are paid or in arrears will also be available in the records.
You will also be able to see if there were permits obtained to make improvements on the home. These permits could complicate the sale of the property.
Do not skip this search, because it reveals important information about the property you are interested in and could save you money.
You can get all of this information through your agent if you’re using one, since most agents subscribe to services that give them access to such data.
If you are not using an agent, then you can obtain this information through a local title company or you can order them online for a small fee.
Making the Choice
Once you’ve done all of your homework, you need to decide whether or not to buy the house.
It is important that you step back and evaluate all the information available to you from viewing the house, inspecting its condition and obtaining public records.
Bear some things in mind:
- You may need to compromise on some of your priorities. No home is completely perfect.
- However good it may be, there will be one or two things you wish you could change. If only it was facing that lovely park you saw on the way there, or if only the house you prefer was in that other neighborhood, or if only this cost a little bit less.
- At the end of the day, you will need to decide on which factors are most important to you. If you prefer the neighborhood over the house, you may decide to look for a different type of property within the same community. A condo for instance, instead of a town house.
- If finances are the issue, you may want to discuss with your bank if they would be willing to increase your mortgage. This is only if you can afford it.
- There is no point in getting into financial trouble just to get a particular property, when more affordable ones could do just as well.
- Lower your expectations on the condition of the home.
- If your inspection revealed a few small problems, you could still buy the property and do the repairs yourself.
- Use the problems as a bargaining chip to get a reduced price from the seller.
- If you go this route, please get a quote from a professional for the cost of repairs.
- Don’t estimate based on your own judgment and don’t let the seller decide how much he thinks it will cost.
- Also, do not let the seller get the quote, as he will likely get a quote that is favorable to him.
- If you allow the seller to decide the repair cost, you may find that the expense is much higher than was quoted.
- Be prepared to walk away.
Again, this goes to our earlier point about not getting emotionally attached until you have bought and moved in. If at the end of the day you find out the compromise required is more than one you’re prepared to make, walk away.
Working with your Agent, you will soon find something else that you love.