Before you begin touring, research homes online and start narrowing down your must-haves versus nice-to-haves. Then try to find homes to tour within your price range. When you get more serious about your house hunt, you’ll want a trustworthy real estate agent to help point out flaws, keep you within your budget, and tell you when to walk away.
Things to look for when buying a house
Once inside a home, try everything. Follow common courtesy but don’t be shy—open and shut the cupboards, flush the toilets, and whip out the measuring tape. Here are a few key things to look for on each tour:
- Architectural style
- Number, location, and size of bedrooms
- Number, location, and size of bathrooms
- Closet and storage space
- Number of floors
- Sight lines through home
- General floorplan
- Age and condition of appliances
- Light switches and number of sockets in each room
- Plumbing and water pressure
- Amount of natural light and views, if any
- Noise levels inside and outside the home
- Width and types of stairways
- Porches and decks
- Garage and/or parking capacity
- Proximity to neighboring homes
- Remodeling opportunities
Don’t forget the exterior
Don’t forget to walk around the entire home and property. Pay attention to the age and condition of the roof and siding. Does the landscaping look like it will be a lot of work? If you don’t have a green thumb and don’t want to hire a gardener every month, you may want to look for a home with easy outdoor upkeep.
Take notes and photos
It’s easy to get homes mixed up so take photos, videos, and notes on each tour. Photograph features you particularly like and dislike about each home, and share these insights with your agent. Looking through your photos and notes with fresh eyes may also trigger additional questions you have about the home.
What to ask your agent
Agents tour homes every day. Pick your agent’s brain for any unique qualities that stand out or flaws that you could be unaware of. If your agent doesn’t know the answer to a question, she or he can always ask the seller’s agent later. Here are a few common questions to ask your agent:
- What do you like about the home?
- Do you have any concerns about this home?
- Is the price right?
- How long has this home been on the market?
- How quickly do you think this home will sell?
- Does this home have an offer deadline?
- How long have the current owners owned the home?
- Why is the home for sale?
- How old is the home?
- Are any repairs needed?
- How old is the roof?
- When were the floors last refinished?
- What type of heating and cooling systems are in place?
- How old is the electrical and plumbing?
- Can you see a copy of the current owner’s utilities?
- Is there a homeowner’s association with fees?
The bottom line
Home buying takes plenty of compromise and patience. It’s easy to fall in love with a home at first sight—and if you love a home, chances are everyone else will too. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but just realize that you may be up against some competition. Be prepared to make multiple offers before you find the right home at the right price.