This is the third in a series of ten posts that have been taken from a section of my web site – www.themilfordteam.com that answer Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) of buyers. The question is ,"I've got a short list of homes that I'd like to visit from the listings that you've been sending me. What's next?
Answer - Let your Realtor set up appointments for you at each of the houses. Give your Realtor a good 24 hour notice to set up the showings; otherwise you’ll have some homes drop off thelist due to the request being too short of a notice to the homeowners. If you haven't had a good chance to see the houses and neighborhoods in the daytime, I recommend going during the day, probably on a weekend. Also remember to take your HUD Homebuyers Checklist, so that you can take notes for comparing houses that you’ve visited later. It can all turn into a blur in your memory if you visit more than three houses
Here are some tips for the actual visits:
If the house is not in the best shape when you visit; you need to be able to look beyond what you see when you visit some homes and envision how the house would look if it were cleaned up or if the clutter was gone. It is amazing the condition that some people leave their houses in for showings, but It happens, so you have to learn to deal with it. You also need to look beyond the current decorating scheme and "see" the house as you would decorate/paint/wall paper it.
You should be looking for the condition of the house. Does the structure look and feel sound? Are the walls and doorways and windows straight? Is the floor level or is it slanted or "bouncy"? Is there significant damage that would need to be repaired? Would the carpeting or other floor covering need to be replaced right away? Is there visual or smell evidence of mold? Is there any visual evidence of infestation by bugs or critters? Is there evidence of water damage on the walls, ceiling and around or under sinks and tubs? Have major systems been updated – electrical, heating/cooling, water heater, sump pump, water pump, etc.? Do light switches work? Does the roof have missing or warped shingles? If it is a foreclosed home, has it been properly winterized? If you are planning to try to get an FHA, VA or USDA mortgage, ask your Realtor to look for red flag items that might not pass the appraisal/inspection thast those mortgages require.
Next, look to see if the house meets your criteria? Are the rooms large enough for your furniture or for what furniture you'd like to have (you can't put a King-sized bed in a little 10' X 10" bedroom and expect to have room to walk around)? Is the layout of the house OK and the flow through the rooms? Does it have the basement or garage or other features that you thought were important? Is the yard OK for you or for your pets? How about the neighborhood and the immediate neighbors?
Read all of the information that is available about the house. Most houses that are listed will have some form of information packet in them when you visit. That information normally would include all of the room measurements, any updated features of the house, a list of appliances (if any) that are staying with the house, the name of the school systems that the house is in and other important information, including the price.
Take lots of notes, so that you can compare houses later. It can get confusing real quick and houses will start to run together in your memory.
If the house has any Sellers Concessions or Subsidies mentioned in the listing or in documents at the house, make sure that your Realtor explains those to you and how they might affect what you end up paying for the house or for your mortgage.
If other factors, such as the rating of the school district and the specific schools that your children may end up attending are important factors to you; it is really up to you to do the in-depth research. Your Realtor will know something about those factors, but he/she can’t be an expert on all of the schools in all of the neighborhoods that you may visit. In my area you can find links to sites that rate school districts and schools (such as School Digger and Great Schools) , as well as maps of where your children would go on my web site – http://www.huronvalleyrealtor.com.
Now that’s you’ve moved into the showing stage of your new home hunt, your new watchwords should be patience and persistence – you’ll likely need both. In a tight market, like that which we are current seeing, with very low inventory; it may take longer to find the house that you had in mind to be your new home. Having a patient and understanding Realtor is critical at this stage. If you have an agent whom you feel is “pushing you” to make offers on homes that you really aren’t that thrilled about, get a new agent. That agent is only thinking about his/her commission and not about your well- being.
This is also the time, if you have not already done it, to ask your mortgage agent to put together a mortgage pre-approval letter for you; so that you are ready in case you want to make an offer. The mortgage rep can put together a letter that states that you are pre-approved up to a certain dollar figure. That letter can be fine-tuned or changed later, if needed. If you mortgage rep blows off this request and tells you to wait until you have a specific house in mind that is not necessarily enough to say get another mortgage rep, but it may be an indicator that this rep is either too busy or unconcerned about your loan and could be a problem later. It may also tell you that the mortgage rep really hasn’t done any work yet to get you pre-approved. In the current tight inventory market having to wait a day or two for your mortgage rep to get you a pre-approval letter can mean the difference between getting and losing the house to a better prepared bidder.
Making visits to homes is an activity that must be seasonally adjusted for weather conditions. In Michigan you may have to slough through snow drifts to get into some houses and many homeowners will ask you to remove your boots while in the house, so be ready with clothing and boots that fit the conditions. If there are any foreclosed homes on your list take a flashlight with you, in case the power is off in the house (often the case). It gets dark earlier in winter and basements in particular can be dangerous without a good flashlight.
Every house hunter or house hunting couple is different in terms of how much time you should plan on spending in each house. I generally recommend making the first visits relatively quick ones. You can tell just by doing a quick walk-through whether the house appeals to you or not. You can plan second visits to those that strike a good cord on the initial visit. It’s usually on those second visits (or maybe the third) where you can take the time to really visualize how you might live in the house and what changes you’d want to make. The first visit is not the time to play “Property Brothers” in the house. This is not an impulse buy, so you’ll need some thought time after the first visit to reflect on each house. That’s where your notes will help and your Realtor should have left you with the MLS sheets for each house to use during this process. If it’s a new build house, you might also get a floor plan drawing as part of the packet that the build may have left.