Touring houses seems so overwhelming, how do I navigate this piece of the process?
The process of touring houses and seeing what all is on the market is a huge part of the home buying process, which is why we decided to dedicate a page just to this. Aside from just our Homebuying Checklist, there are many things you can do while touring a house to make sure you end up with the best deal and no surprises. No surprises is especially important. The last thing you want to do is move into a new home only to find out there’s mold (known or unknown by previous owners), or there’s a hole in the roof (again, known or unknown). The current homeowners may not have all the information about the current state of the house. It is your job as a prospective buyer to get all the information and check it for accuracy. So what do you do while touring a home?
Use Your Senses
Your nose is number one when it comes to touring houses. If there’s an odd smell, is that just the trashcan, or is that mold in the walls or maybe animal urine (gross, but it happens)? Does the whole house smell normal, but the basement, or maybe a bathroom, smells funky? Again, that could be mold. Unfortunately, mold is not something that can just be handled quickly. The extent of the mold needs to be known, as does the type of mold. Mold damage can cost thousands of dollars to eradicate… it is not a cheap process by any means. If animal urine is what you smell, it is only one area or room, or is it all over the house? New carpets throughout a home can be added in to the contract when negotiating, or the cost of new carpets can be deducted from the total cost of the home. Consider this if you smell something odd.
Your eyes are your next biggest tool. Do you see obvious damage? Are outlet covers missing? Are there holes in the wall? Are there burn marks around light fixtures? Are doorknobs missing? Are the cabinets straight, or kind of crooked? These are things you can request be fixed prior to moving in, if the items are easily fixable. If there are burn marks around fixtures, there could be a bigger electrical issue at play. That could be dangerous and expensive to fix. Find out all you can about it. When looking around, do not forget to look UP. Are there watermarks on the ceiling in any rooms? Watermarks could indicate a leak. A leak in the ceiling could be fixed, but nobody repainted. But if there was a leak, is there now mold? Think of all the possible issues, not just the immediately obvious ones.
Use your hands. If the utilities are still hooked up, test everything. Try the faucets. Try the showers. How’s the water pressure? Does the hot water work? If there’s a gas stove, test each burner. Gas fireplace? Try it out. You are considering buying this home, don’t be afraid to try everything out… we all try on pants before buying them, and that’s a minimal expense. Not trying out everything involved with a purchase this big leaves you open to it not fitting your needs.
Use your ears. By this, we mean make a phone call from your cell phone. Can you hear the person you called? Can the person you called hear you? Surf the net on your phone, does the cell data work? It doesn’t take much for cell service to drop completely, so make sure yours works in your prospective home. And this has nothing to do with wifi, just will actual cell service for calls and data. Check it on every floor of the home. You don’t want it to work great on the top floor, only to later decide you want your office in the basement and there’s no service down there. Consider all possible uses for each room.
One Look is Not Enough
That’s right. You went to a house, checked everything out, and you love it. Well, what is the home like after the sun goes down? Is there a bar down the street that plays insanely loud karaoke every other night? Are there neighbors that get unbearably loud at night? Do streetlights or lights from the local shopping center or school come right through a bedroom window at night?
It’s also a good idea, if possible, to plan on touring houses both during the week and on weekends (this is on top of one night visit). If you have kids, touring a home on the weekends will let you see if other kids are out and about, playing and having fun. How do neighbors treat other kids? Do they wave and say hello? Weekend home tours can give you a sense of the type of neighborhood you are moving into, as that is when people are most active. Don’t be afraid to speak with the neighbors too. Ask questions about the area, traffic, whatever you feel you need to know. Always remember this is a huge investment. It is your job during the home buying process to make sure you have all the information you need.
You are planning to purchase this home. When touring houses, do not be afraid to ask as many questions as you want. If a neighbor is out, it is absolutely fine to ask him or her their thoughts on the neighborhood and living in the area. Don’t hesitate when it comes to asking questions, and always feel free to have a list of questions prepared before touring a home.
Be Prepared to Walk Away
Finally, be 100% prepared to walk away from any deal. This is a huge investment for you and your family. If things aren’t what you initially thought, walk away. Never think you are putting anyone else out by walking away. An investment of this magnitude requires proper preparation and being happy with what you are getting in return for your investment. If the home or neighborhood isn’t what you thought it would be, you have the responsibility to pull your interest and go find something you do love, that does meet your needs.