Getting Started

Seven ways to make the most of your time when shopping for a new home

By: Coral Dworaczyk

For first-time – and even experienced – buyers, it can be overwhelming to walk into someone else’s home and consider it as a home for yourself. At times, buyers get “lost” looking at the seller’s photos, furniture, pets or other impertinent items or only focus on issues unrelated to the possible transaction. Here is a quick guide and a couple of pointers on how to make the most efficient use of your time as a buyer when shopping for a new home:

1. Your first showing is not the time to make a thorough or lengthy inspection of the house. You are there to view the property to determine if it may be a contender. Plan to stay in each house (especially if you are seeing multiple properties) 15 to 30 minutes. If the property is a contender, it is wise to come back for a longer look that same day or plan to write an offer with your realtor and come back for a longer visit during your termination option period. There are exceptions to this rule, but use your time wisely. If you determine that a house is not what you are looking for, leave!

2. Before you go into the house, have your agent remind you of a few basic pieces of information. What is the asking price (overall and price per square foot)? How does that price compare to other homes in the general neighborhood? If a home is priced highly compared to others, expect it to be updated and in excellent condition. If a home is priced below average, this may be a strong indicator of issues that need to be addressed. Some buyers also like to quickly recap the overall square footage, the number of bedrooms/baths and the age of the home before entering so they are focused on the task at hand.

3. Discuss any known issues with the house before you get distracted looking around the property. Is the seller immediately offering to make any repairs (such as replace an aged roof or fix foundation problems)? Is the seller immediately willing to offer any other financial concessions such as an allowance or closing costs assistance? This information may be available to realtors in the private comments section of the MLS. This is a comments section that can only be viewed by licensed persons.

4. Don’t waste time looking at a seller’s family photos, furniture, etc. Go ahead and note furniture arrangements and how they may fit with your lifestyle and belongings. However, there is no need to critique someone else’s decorating style or belongings, or “figure out if this is someone I know.” If it’s not part of the sale, it’s not important.

5. Pay attention to important factors that may indicate how well-maintained a home may or may not be. First impressions can still tell you a lot about a property. Is the yard and landscaping well maintained? Can you see any peeling paint on the exterior of the home? Does the roof and flashing look discolored or rusted? Once you get inside, how does the home smell? Is it clean? Do the walls or cabinetry show signs of damage or excessive wear that haven’t been addressed?

6. Try to plan a path through houses and walk it together with your realtor and any friends or family who are present. Most people tend to enter into a living area, view the kitchen, go into each bedroom (don’t forget to look in the closets to evaluate storage space) and bathroom and end in the backyard. If groups get split up, it can be confusing and it becomes harder to recall the homes later when discussing.

7. Although most buyers are not licensed inspectors, it is a good idea to take a look at the overall condition of the major systems of the house:

• Air conditioning and heating system (Is it new, or is it old and rusted/corroded?)
• Plumbing (Is there evidence of old or current leaks under the sinks or dripping faucets?)
• Electrical (What type of electrical panel is in place?)
• Foundation (Are there noticeable cracks in the sheetrock or broken tiles in the flooring?)
• Pests (Do you see signs of rodents, excessive roaches or potential termite damage on the wood portion of the home?)
• Roof (Are there missing shingles? Are there signs of wear or granular loss?)
• Overall condition (Peeling paint? Broken windows? Carpet condition?)

Note: A buyer’s viewing and opinions of condition are very important, but they should never replace the need for a professional inspection of the property.

Home shopping can be a stressful and overwhelming experience at times. However, it can also be very exciting! Make a plan when you are ready to view homes, and stay organized. This will help you make the best use of your – and your realtor’s – time so you can find the right home and take one step closer to moving day.

Coral Dworaczyk is a professional realtor in the Coastal Bend. If you would like more information, or to receive this article summarized in a handy checklist, please contact her at cdworaczyk@gmail.com or 979-229-2836.

Andy Dean Photography/bigstock.com

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