How to Make the Most of Every Showing
Whether you are looking for an affordable starter home, your dream home on the beach or something in between, getting an inside look can put you head and shoulders above the competition. It is not always easy to tell if the home you are touring is truly a killer deal, or just a wallet killer. If you want to tell the difference, you need to think like a private investigator.
Instead of looking at the home, and the neighborhood, with the eyes of a buyer, put on your detective hat and start investigating. What is the neighborhood like? What about your would-be next-door neighbor? Are the bones of the home as attractive as the exterior façade? The answers to these questions can guide you to the home of your dreams and stop you from making a costly mistake.
Take a Walking Tour of the Neighborhood
If you want to take the temperature of the neighborhood, start at ground level. Park the car somewhere safe, put your sneakers on and start walking.
Stroll the streets surrounding the home you are considering, look at the other properties and get a feel for the neighborhood. Are the lawns neatly trimmed and the exteriors beautifully landscaped, or have the neighbors allowed the weeds to run wild? Are the surrounding properties attractive and in good repair, or do they look like they are falling apart?
Another big goal of your neighborhood tour is meeting, or at least seeing, the neighbors. Are the people you pass on your walking tour primarily young professionals, families with children, senior citizens or a mix of all three? Are the neighbors noisy or quiet? Does the neighborhood seem tranquil or dangerous? It can be hard to get these answers by driving around, but taking a walking tour will be much more revealing.
Make the Most of Your Showing
Many buyers fail to make the most of their showings, but you do not have to make the same mistake. The showing is your opportunity to get up close and personal with the home you are thinking of buying, and you should not let pushing real estate agents or your own embarrassment get in the way.
Instead of marveling at the exposed copper pipes and steam shower in the bathroom, jump in and turn on the water. What is the pressure like? Does the water heat up immediately, or are cold showers in your future? Keep in mind that low water pressure could be caused by a leak (a leak that will likely be expensive to repair).
As you walk through each room during the showing, take the time to open all the windows. Do the windows open easily, or do they stick? Do they dampen the road noise from the street, or can you still hear the honking of car horns and squealing tires from the stop sign on the corner? Do you feel a draft even when the window is closed? Replacing the windows will be an expensive project, so their quality matters a lot.
Natural light is an important factor, especially if you want to keep your utility bills low. A house that is blessed with natural light will not need as much artificial lighting, and that could mean a lower electric bill month after month.
If it is cloudy on the day of your showing, ask the real estate agent to schedule a follow-up visit for a sunnier day. Walk through the home and note how the natural light flows through all the rooms. If a particular room seems dark, look at the light coming in, as well as external factors, like paint color and flooring. These external factors could be making the room look darker than it otherwise would be.
Assess Your Storage Space
Real estate agents advise their clients to clear out the clutter before listing their homes, but not all sellers take that advice. An accumulation of junk can make even the roomiest closet look small, so that overflowing storage space could be bigger than it looks.
Come to the showing armed with a tape measure, then discreetly measure the amount of each closet and dedicated storage space. Keep notes on the amount of storage space, and use that information to guide your decision.
Check the Hardwood Flooring
You do not need a tape measure or sophisticated tools to check the flooring – all you need is a marble. Wait until the listing agent is otherwise occupied, then move to the center of the room. Place a marble on the hardwood floor and see if it rolls. If the marble rolls away quickly and immediately, you could be looking at a structural problem.
Listen for Trouble
Keep your ears open as you move through the rooms and wind up your showing. Listen for unusual noises coming through the walls; if you can hear the neighbors now, you will certainly hear them once you move in. If you are buying a condo, it is important to check on the noise level from your upstairs neighbors. Unless you are in the market for a penthouse, make sure you schedule multiple showings to assess the noise that might be coming from your neighbors. The last thing you want is to purchase a condo that’s beneath a heavy footed neighbor.
Unwanted noise could indicate shoddy construction, and replacing those thin walls with more noise-resistant ones will be an expensive project. Better to find out now than after you move in.
The showing is your time to check out the home you are considering, so make the most of it. Instead of a simple walk-through with the listing agent hot on your heels, use the showing to take a full test drive of the home, from the water pressure in the shower to the storage space in the closets. If you have to, schedule multiple showings of the home if you need more time to thoroughly tour the home.