Most buyers begin their search for a new home online. Internet listings provide invaluable information about each house’s layout, design, amenities – even the character of the surrounding neighborhood. The unquestionable stars of the show, however, are your listing photos.
Buyers may want to be treated to a virtual home tour before they commit to actually visiting a property for further inspection. But, no matter how comprehensive an online listing may be, nothing matches the experience of standing inside (and outside) and experiencing it for yourself.
Kick Off Your Home Buying Journey
A great way to discover whether a home is right for you is to tour the home. Some buyers prefer to do open houses. This is where any prospective buyer can visit a property during a set period of time, typically on the weekend. However, touring a home on your own has many benefits.
What Is A Home Tour?
A home tour is when you have an appointment to privately view a home. If you’re working with a real estate agent, they will set up these home tours for you. If you’re buying a for sale by owner home, you’ll coordinate this directly with the seller.
Benefits Of A Home Tour
The benefits of touring a home are that you can truly get an idea of what it’s like. The listing pictures is a good start, but nothing will take the place of actually setting foot in the home. You’ll get a feel for the layout and the condition of the home, not to mention the neighborhood. While you can do this during an open house, touring a home on your own will really allow you the time to take everything in without other buyers present.
What Should I Look For When Touring A House?
When you start touring homes, make sure you have a plan of attack. Know what you want to look for before you even arrive. Here are a few of the important things you should keep in mind at each home you’ll be touring.
Most people have a good idea of what type of home they’re most interested in before they even start looking. Maybe you love the look of a midcentury home or maybe a Craftsman is more your style. You’re most likely going to have a good idea of the style of the home before you arrive, but your home tour will give you an up-close look to see if the architectural style matches your tastes.
Look For Water In The Basement
While you’re in the home make sure you head to the basement even if it’s unfinished. If there’s been a lot of rain recently, but the basement is dry, consider that a good sign. However, if you spot signs of moisture, it could be a red flag. You’ll want to determine the source of the water before moving forward.
Look For Cracks In The Walls
If you notice a small crack in the drywall, it’s probably nothing to worry about. But if you spot a larger drywall crack – or worse, a crack in brick – then there might be some concern. This is a strong sign that there might be structural problems with the house.
Are there signs of a home addition? Maybe you were planning to view a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home only to find out there’s a fourth bathroom in the basement. Maybe the attached garage has been converted into a family room. If these additions weren’t permitted, they could end up being a major headache. The city could force you to pull permits for the addition and make sure all the work is done to code. They can also decide that you need to completely remove the unpermitted work.
Why Doing Home Tours During Off Hours Should Be High On Your To-Do List
If you’re in the market to buy a home, tours are probably high on your to-do list. While most sellers will hold open houses on weekends, you might consider requesting one in “off” hours. Doing so will provide you with a different view of your prospective purchase. How different, though? More importantly, why would a different perspective matter? Consider these five reasons.
Get A Better Idea Of Traffic
Traffic is a major quality-of-life issue. But a home tour on a Sunday afternoon is hardly going to give you an idea how busy the residential streets around the property can be, especially during peak hours. Not to mention the traffic you can expect on your commute to and from what might be your new address.
Request a visit during the week, perhaps around 6 p.m., so you can get a realistic idea of what you’ll be facing when coming home from work or running errands.
Experience Location In A Different Way
Taking a home tour on a weekday can really reveal what “location” means for the home you’re considering. How well-cared-for are the rest of the homes on the block? What makes the neighborhood itself stand out? What’s a typical morning here like? What happens after dark? Take note of any safety concerns that arise during your visit. Remember: even if you don’t schedule a formal home tour, you can always scout out its surroundings.
See Light In Different Hours
It might seem negligible, but how light enters and moves through a house is a huge component in making a house feel like home. Know the orientation of the home. Which rooms face east, west, north and south, and how does that affect how comfortable you feel in different areas of the house? Does the morning sun shine directly onto your pillow? What if the glare from corner streetlight means you can never open the curtains in the living room? These might not seem to be deal-breakers, but they can be the worst kind of surprises – unpleasant.
You can get basic room measurements from online listings, as well as overall square footage. But if you have an individual showing during an off time, you’ll have the chance to take a few specific measurements that might come in handy. This especially applies to closets, storage areas and any rooms you anticipate you might be converting (say, from a spare bedroom to a home office).
Have A More Personal Experience
Open houses can be crowded affairs. You may be only one of many potential buyers at a weekend open house. All that coming and going may even interfere with your ability to take pictures and notes. Scheduling a home tour during off hours will give you a chance to have a more relaxed, intimate experience of the home. You can ask the homeowner questions and perhaps spend extra time in each room.
Take Full Advantage Of The House Tour
While you’re at the home, make sure to take advantage of your time there. Here’s how.
If you’re buying a home directly from the seller, and they’re present for the house tour, you can ask them questions about their home and listing. This will help you learn all you can before deciding if the home is right for you. Some questions you can ask include:
• What is your favorite part about your home?
• How old is the home?
• How much do the utilities cost on average?
• Is there a homeowners association? If so, what are the fees?
• How old is the electrical and plumbing? The roof?
• Do you have a deadline to submit offers by?
If you’re touring multiple homes, it’s important to take notes so you can remember the key points about each home once you’re finished. Even if you’re just looking at one home, it’s a good idea to jot things down so you can remember them afterward. This will help you decide whether or not you want to make an offer. Consider writing down your likes and dislikes about each home. Bonus points if you take pictures or videos! Once you’re able to take some time to digest everything when the tours are over, you may even think of some things you didn’t when you originally walked through the homes.
How Many Times Should You Visit A Home Before Buying It?
Ideally, you’d want to visit a home anywhere from four to six times before deciding to make an offer. Part of these visits should be drive-bys to check out the neighborhood. The other visits would be to actually look inside the home. Each of these visits should take place at different times of the day. Rooms might seem very inviting in the morning, but could have a completely different feel in the afternoon.
Can You Tour A Home Without A Realtor?
While it’s not required to have an agent before taking a home tour, it’s certainly recommended. Agents are experienced and understand everything you should be looking out for. They become even more important once you decide to make an offer on the home because they’re going to guide you through the whole process, making sure you’re getting the best deal possible.
A home purchase is a major investment, one you don’t want to rush into. Besides, if you do end up loving the home, establishing a more personal relationship with the seller is never a bad thing.
Buying a house is a truly life-changing experience, and a home tour is just one of many tools that can help you make a sound decision. Getting your sneak preview in during off hours might be the key to your making the most competitive offer and scoring your dream home.For more information, check out our tips on how to buy a home directly from the owner. Or if you’re ready to start searching for homes online, you can view for sale by owner homes here.