Now that you and your agent have done the hard work of searching and filtering through properties online and through the MLS database, it’s time to schedule and go on showings! (For more information and tips for a successful online property search check out my article from last month: Guide to Online House Hunting). Showings are when your agent schedules and takes you on property tours. Showings can, and should, occur as soon as you decide you want to purchase, and have a good handle on how much you can afford and are comfortable paying for a new home.
1. Get Organized: Despite what modern television series tend to portray, house hunting is not a game. It can be fun, but ultimately it is serious business, and should not be taken lightly. Therefore, you should have a game plan, a timeline, a rough outline, a general concept, anything that helps keep you organized and on point. Without some form of organization, regardless of how it is formulated, your house hunt, and in particular your showing schedule, can become erratic, disorganized, and ultimately chaotic and frustrating. The form it takes and the amount of detail it contains is up to the individual buyers’ personalities, but some form of organization will help keep you and your agent focused, and help make house hunting the enjoyable experience it should be.
2. Know Yourself: Showings are fun, no doubt about it. You finally get to hit the pavement and start touring houses, one of which may soon be your new home! Bear in mind, however, a home purchase is emotional, and touring home after home, thinking critically about each property, as well as allowing your emotions to help guide you, can be very taxing. Therefore, you need to really know yourself; can you handle a whole day of showings, or should you focus on a handful per day? Do you zip through a property or do you need to spend quality time in each space? How much time will you need to reflect on each property? Should you drive yourself, and use the journey between houses to reflect on the previous property? Or should you ride with your agent, who can provide valuable insight as you go along? Without these types of considerations, burn out is a real possibility, and with burn-out come irrational decisions, a lack of focus, and ultimately an unpleasant experience.
3. Keep an open mind: Before you tour a home in person you will have most likely viewed the property and its accompanying pictures, online. As I indicated in my article in last month’s newsletter, pictures can either be wonderful or horrible, but the quality of the picture rarely gives a true depiction of the interior of the home. Not until you get into a property can you really get a feel for the quality, layout, and overall feel of a space. Likewise, I would suggest keeping an open mind regarding location and individual property. A property that is outside of your target neighborhood may “check all the boxes,” and therefore is worth a look. Likewise, a property that you may not have thought to consider could be workable because it is in your desired location. Ultimately, it is best to keep an open mind and explore all of your options, rather than too narrowly focusing on the “perfect” house in the “perfect” neighborhood.
4. Get Educated: The purpose of showings, is of course, to find the right home for you as the buyer. If this should happen, then it is time for your agent to really get down to work and start researching, evaluating, analyzing and eventually, negotiating. But your job is not over yet. You are preparing to spend an awful lot of money; therefore it is in your best interest to be well-informed. This is a good time to sit down and ask your agent to walk you through all of the details: researching comparable properties; making an offer; getting through the option period; inspections; money you will need upfront; and all other aspects of the home buying process from offer to closing. It is also a good time to become more familiar with the neighborhood you intend to live in, as well as to research utilities, insurance, and moving companies.
5. Reevaluate: If, after multiple sets of showings, you still haven’t found your next home, then it is time to sit down, preferably with your agent who can help guide you, and reevaluate your search. Oftentimes, home buyers, first time or otherwise, will start out with unrealistic expectations. However, by now you have been educated through research conducted before showings, and through the showings you have gone on. You should, therefore, have a better understanding of what you can, and can’t get for your money, in the current market, in your particular area. During your reevaluation you may consider some of these questions: What am I willing to compromise on? Am I being unrealistic? Do I have new criteria for what I’m looking for in a home based on my new education? Is this the right time for me to purchase? Should I search in a different part of town or for a different type of property? What is my new definition of “move-in ready” now that I’m more educated? Should I take a break from searching? If so, when would I start back up? After sitting down and analyzing the situation, it is now time to wipe the slate clean and reform your organizational tool (see Tip 1), whatever it may be. You are now ready to re-start your search and go on more showings with a fresh attitude and a more educated perspective!