Buying a house isn’t a cakewalk, it’s a major process that requires tons of time and patience. Because buying a home is such a big deal, it’s important that you know exactly what you’re getting into when you begin the process of buying. This is why home tours and open houses are held by homeowners, to have an opportunity to show off their house to potential buyers — and for you to go and see the house in person to find out if you could see yourself living there. This article will tell you how to make the most of home tours and open houses, so you can be sure that you are buying the home that is perfect for you.
First Things First
Before you even start home tours, make sure to research them online first. This way you can get a preview of what kind of features the house has, and this can help you narrow down your wants vs. needs. Also make sure that you’re only looking at houses within your price range, otherwise you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment.
Visit Open Houses
If you are just starting the process of the home-search, attending a few open houses can help you get an idea on how the houses in your area and within your budget look like inside. This will give you a clearer idea on what is it that you want and need in a house. Open houses are easiest, because you can just walk right in with no need for scheduling a visit. These walk-in open houses usually take place on Saturdays and Sundays, but you may find some that occur on weekdays. To schedule an actual tour, its best to go through a realtor. The reason is, a lot of people will be reluctant to schedule tours with people who do not have a real estate agent, as they are sometimes viewed as “non-serious” buyers. You definitely want to show that you are interested and serious about buying.
Pick Private Home Tours
If you want to take a more serious look around a house, a private home tour is ideal. This basically requires working with the seller’s agent, so in this instance it would definitely benefit you to have your own agent that will advocate for your side. Private home tours are usually more intensive and agents are there each step of the way to explain each part of the house for you. It will also give you enough time to get a feel, not only for the house, but the entire neighborhood as well.
What to Look For
When you are visiting an open house or doing home tours, there are a few things that you should take note of. Here are some red flags to be wary of:
1. Unusual smell that you cannot determine where it’s coming from.
Sometimes there can be unusual smells inside a home that you can’t determine the source. It’s fine (albeit odd) if it’s something fixable, like smelly trash. But some smells can be indicative of a deeper issue. For example, things like a broken sewage system or cigarette smoke could be costly to remedy. And there are issues like mold that aren’t just difficult to get rid of, but also hazardous to your health. If you smell something musty or an odor similar to wet socks, then you might have a mold or mildew problem in the house. Pet smells like cat urine and cigarette fumes may be able to be taken care of, but not without a huge struggle. These odors can cling in the air, walls and even the ceiling of a house especially if the previous owner had pets for a long time or were indoor smokers. Be mindful of how much work you’re willing to put into a house to make it liveable.
2. Condition of the walls and floors
Check for cracks, warped floors, and defects in the walls. Small hairline cracks are generally harmless, but if the cracks are gaping and ruining the surface of the wall, then this is a problem that’s going to be expensive to fix. This could also mean that there’s a problem in the foundation of the house, which could continue to further damage the wall. Or worse: cause it to collapse in the future.
Warped floors could also be a red flag too. The warping could be caused by rotting foundation underneath, or even a termite infestation. Not only that, water damage could also be the cause of this, so you’ll want to look out for any floor buckles or pungent smell coming from the floorboards.
3. See the fixtures and other lighting systems
Check for issues with the electrical wiring, as well as examine the cooling and heating systems. Any exposed or eroded wires could pose a threat to the house. Lack of proper ventilation and water heaters that leak could also cost extra money for repairs and could be a safety hazard for you. Check the outlets of the house, see if they are warm or vibrating, as this could be a sign that there are issues with the electrical wiring. Air conditioning units that are squealing or grinding must also be replaced. A smell of gas in the kitchen could mean that the pipes are leaking or indicate a broken valve. Make a checklist of all of these things to remind you of what to look for when you’re on a tour.
4. Additions in the house that you are not aware of
Sometimes the homeowner or their agent won’t put every single thing on the MLS listing, so there might be some surprises (possibly good… possibly bad…) once you get there. Potential buyers might be surprised to find a hidden room or an additional bath that the seller haven’t listed. While this means you have extra space, don’t get too excited. Always ensure that these additions are permitted so you don’t have to deal with unpermitted construction in the end. Also, ensure all renovations have been done properly and haven’t damaged or compromised the integrity of the home in any way.
5. Front lawns and backyards
It is common to find brown spots in a home lawn, as they could be caused by many natural, completely normal reasons. However, do keep in mind that these could also be caused by fungal diseases infesting the yard. Although these are generally not life-threatening, it is still something you should be aware of before going through with making an offer on a home. Fungal issues in the yard could also lead to pest infestations that you don’t want to deal with. Discoloration in the grass isn’t really an issue on its own, however, it is best to check your backyard for soggy or wet spots that are odorous. It could mean broken sewer lines — if this is the case, then be ready for very costly repairs!
Don’t Bother With These
1. Decor and furniture
The very first thing you might notice in a house is the decor. It’s what captures your interest (or horror) the moment you set foot across the threshold. But while it might be difficult to look past an atrocious interior design, it may just be necessary if you want to truly give the house its best shot. Who knows, it could actually be beautiful under all the horrible layers of garrish decor. The point is, try to envision what the home looks like when decorated in your preferred style. Remember, surface-level things like furniture and decor can all be changed.
2. Floor treatment and wallpaper designs
Now carpet and wallpaper and the like are some things that are a little harder to remove. However, with a little more work, it is possible to do some simple updates. You can always repaint a wall or rip out a carpet. Just make sure it’s something you’re actually willing to do, and willing to do fast so you don’t have to look at something you hate in your new home for long.
3. Other fixtures
Cabinets, ceiling fans, small appliances, etc might appear to be bothersome, but remember that there’s a reason these things are called ‘appliances’ or ‘fixtures’, meaning they’re applied or fixed to something, but certainly not permanent. Replacing them gives you the chance to make the house more your style and updated according to your liking.
4.Fencing or gates
If you have pets or small children, it is important that the house has its own gate or fence, especially if there’s a pool in the backyard. But fencing is relatively easy to add, so don’t worry too much if there isn’t already a border around the home’s perimeter.
Finding a house that is exactly what you want in every possible way isn’t likely. But luckily, by having a list of needs vs wants and a checklist for each of the home tours you do, you can get very close to perfection. And if not, remember that you can always make renovations or updates, especially if they’re small like repainting a wall or replacing the flooring.
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