16 Oct The ABCs of House-Hunting in San Antonio
Making the Most of Your Time
Spent Looking at Houses
Each of our ABCs is designed for one reason: To minimize the time you spend trudging through homes for sale while you maximize the benefit you get from the exercise. Together, the ABCs will keep you focused and efficient during the hunt.
A: Always Use Your Checklist & Take Lots of Pictures
If you’re like most people, you have to take time off from work to look at houses. That means you have to make every minute count! The landmine in the process: All of the homes you look at in an afternoon seem interesting and different.
You go home to relax and talk it over with your partner, and all you can remember about each house is the thing that made it different from the others – if you remember any detail at all. You can find yourself saying, “The house with the bright blue door – is that the one that had a new fence?” They all run together.
This doesn’t have to happen, as long as you make a checklist of the things that are important to you before you get in the car. List the ideal number of bedrooms and baths, age of the kitchen appliances, or anything else that would make or break your interest in a particular house.
When you meet your realtor®, bring your checklist and your camera or smart phone. Your agent will give you a stack of papers – one listing sheet for each home you will be looking at. Simply number the listing sheets and cross-reference the numbers on your checklist so you have a record of exactly what you are seeing.
As you walk through each house, take notes on your checklist. As many as you can, and take as long as you need. Take lots of pictures, too; don’t be bashful because the more visual reminders you have about different houses, the better. Try to start with a picture of the street number so you can easily tell where photos of one home end and the next begin.
When you put your feet up at the end of the day, you can quickly scan your checklist and say, “There were two houses with kid- and dog-friendly back yards, and they both have the features we want.” Suddenly you have a shortlist and a backup list!
If you go out again, take a fresh copy of your checklist and do it all again. When you combine what you’ve seen on both days, the result is a shortlist that is a little longer.
You have all the information you need to narrow it down to one or two. This works in everyone’s favor because it decreases the need to go back and look at a house again.
It’s fine to go for a second showing in a house – but that should be reserved for the end when you are ready to make a final decision and submit an offer. If you have a great realtor®, they will be helpful and patient while you are looking at houses, and they have lots of experience with buyers who get tired and frustrated during the process.
B: Beware the Nanny Cam & Other Devices
Smart homes – smart doorbells, smart refrigerators, smart thermostats – are popular with homeowners. The number of sales of these devices is increasing, so you should assume that the owner can see and hear you throughout the inside and close to the outside of the house.
Let’s talk about a few of the problems you can get into when you are recorded by electronic equipment controlled by the owner of the house. By the things you say and do in their home, you can reveal your motivations and negotiating strategies as well as possibly offending the owner or giving them false hope.
It is best to play it cool and keep your poker face on. Here are some common-sense things to keep in mind before you walk into a showing.
- Avoid the appearance of evil by not getting close to purses, wallets, or other valuables lying around the house.
- Try not to show a lot of emotion. Frowning, anger, or laughing at something about the house may offend the owner.
- Don’t do anything odd or unexpected such as stripping down and skinny-dipping in the pool or making yourself a cup of the owner’s coffee in their kitchen.
- Ask your agent questions as they arise but save discussions of how much you like the house for the car
- Say pleasant but non-committal things about the house as you walk through
- If the owner knows you love the house and it’s at the top of your list, they will not be likely to move a lot during negotiations about the price and contingencies
With a little planning, looking for a house doesn't have to be a drag. Your Realtor® can help you narrow down your shortlist and find your dream home - without wasting time and effort.
C: Children Should Stay With a Friend or Relative
Kids are great and they love looking at houses! A showing can trigger an urge to slide down the banister or to investigate everything, depending on the age of the child.
It’s nice to do things as a family, but house-hunting isn’t one of those things. You need all of your mental, emotional, and physical powers in order to make the most of the time you spend getting in and out of the car and wandering through the personal spaces of strangers.
Your realtor needs to know as soon as possible if there is a chance your children will come along when you look at houses. They can help you by limiting the number of homes you tour in one day and by planning breaks at public parks or convenience stores.
You cannot expect or allow your agent to watch your kids; they are your responsibility, while it is the responsibility of the agent to respond to your questions, minimize safety hazards you may encounter, and safeguard the owner’s house and belongings.
Most importantly, you cannot depend on each seller keeping their home safe for your children’s age group. You are well-advised to assume that there may be hazardous chemicals under the sink, insulin needles in a garbage pan, broken glass in the back yard, or rickety sections of second-floor railings. Your children can only be safe in a stranger’s home if they are under constant supervision.
If at all possible, this is a great time for a playdate or an afternoon at Grandma’s. Sometimes it’s not possible, especially if you are in town temporarily to find a house and don’t have any friends or relatives in the area.
If you must take your children along, you need a plan. If you are with a partner, decide who should take the kids out to run off some energy while the other adult is inside completing the checklist. A tag-team approach can also work so that you can take turns being inside the house without distractions.
If you are on your own with children, sometimes the best you can do is to insist that the children hold hands and walk with you. Give each one a task – something they can look around and spot for you without leaving your side. It will take you twice as long to do the job right, but it can be done.
D: Don’t House-Hunt Without Your Realtor®
This may sound like an obvious point, but it is very important. If your agent doesn’t arrange for you to see the inside of a house that is listed, someone else must do it. Usually, the “someone” that arranges the showing is the seller’s agent.
If you allow any agent other than your own to have any part in showing a house, they may cut your agent out of the deal and claim the entire commission for themselves rather than splitting it with your agent.
I promise you: It is not about the money when I caution you against getting into this situation. Yes, your agent loses the commission but what do you lose? Someone who represents your interests during the whole transaction, without having a conflict of interest with the owner on the other side of the deal.
Just from a practical standpoint, having your agent create and maintain the list of properties that interest you, and walking into each house with you to see first-hand the pros and cons of the home, is invaluable. Your agent is then fully informed and in a strong position to advise you during the process of buying a home.
E: Every House Has Flaws; Look Past Them
Look at the picture to the right. Disgusting tile, peeling paint, dirty curtains, and a filthy stove. If you saw these things in a house that is for sale you would probably be tempted to run – screaming into the night!
Keep in mind that if you have a great realtor® they will advise you to get a property inspection, conducted by an inspector who works for you and represents your interests. If the house is dirty but kept in good repair, don’t take it off your shortlist.
Cosmetic issues like these are generally pretty easy and relatively inexpensive to fix. If everything about the structure of the house and its location fulfill your needs, ask the seller to have the house professionally repainted and cleaned by a reputable cleaning agency, and replace the cheap curtains yourself.
If the seller is unwilling to make any of these corrections, your realtor® will probably help you to get estimates to have the painting and cleaning done after you take possession of the house – and ask the seller for an allowance in the amount of the estimates at closing. If you go this route, you can decide on the paint colors and oversee the deep-cleaning of the home, and – because the seller has already given you the money to pay for it – you can get it done without additional expenses coming out of your pocket.
F: Feelings & Emotions are the Enemy
The bottom line when you are going through the exercise of buying a house: It is a business transaction that should be conducted fairly between two parties. That’s it.
Sure – it’s a nice by-product if you also develop an emotional bond with your newly purchased home, but don’t allow yourself to get attached to any property before the deal is done. Developing an affection for a particular property instantly puts you at a disadvantage because the house becomes a must-have – clouding your judgment about being able to walk away from the deal if it is not in your financial interest to proceed.
On the other hand, don’t cross homes off your list just because they trigger negative feelings. For example, you may like everything about a house except that the fireplace is made of dark brick, and it reminds you of your grandmother’s dreary, cluttered old house. Buy the house and paint the brick white!
G: Go in Your Comfy Walking Shoes
You can go business casual when you are looking at houses. But think about how much energy is diverted from observing and making meaningful notes when you are distracted by the discomfort caused by the jacket and wingtips or heels and hose.
Although you would do well to remember that there are likely cameras that will record video when you are touring homes, you don’t have to get into your Sunday best. Don’t wear dirty, worn-out clothing, but do wear something along the lines of comfortable jeans, a nice, casual shirt, and your most comfortable shoes.
Note: Many sellers have a request on the listing sheet to remove shoes at the door. Show your savvy and wear slip-ons!
House-hunting can be an overwhelming experience and – ultimately – it is up to you to decide on the house you will buy. When you receive the keys and start moving in, it will all have been worth it.
To take some of the pain out of looking at houses, your agent will conduct a lot of research and coordinate your tour of available properties. If you have a great realtor®, they will also educate you and help you do a little planning so you are able to make the most of your time spent on house-hunting. That’s what I call…
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