Home Buying – Step 4, Search for Homes

You’ve spoken to your Realtor about what you want and need in your new home.   You’ve researched different areas and found a few that interest you.  You’ve looked through MLS listings of homes for sale and chosen some you’d like to see, now it’s time to look at those homes.  When you want to see homes your Realtor must set up the showings with the seller’s.  Most sellers will try to accommodate the showings but it’s always best to give them as much notice as possible.  Discuss with your Realtor ahead of time when they would like to receive your list.  Your agent may also have homes they believe you should see based on your conversations.  Don’t discount these homes as your agent can see past bad pictures and descriptions to pick out some good choices.

  • When you go out to look at homes with your Realtor there’s a couple things to keep in mind and plan for.
    • First, bring a pen and paper to keep notes.  If you are seeing a lot of homes, they may start to blur together.  Your Realtor may ask after each home how that one ranks, and which are your top 3 so far.  They are doing that exercise both for your sake and their’s by seeing what you like and dislike in the properties.
    • Wear slip on shoes.  You’ll need to remove your shoes in almost every home you see.  Wearing slip on shoes will speed up the process and avoid the congestion when leaving.
    • If you will be following your Realtor in a separate car, make sure you know the order of the homes you will be seeing and have a GPS available should you get separated.
    • Plan your bathroom breaks.  You shouldn’t use the bathrooms in the homes you are viewing so let your Realtor know if you need to stop between showings.
    • If you plan on videoing or taking pictures of the homes you see let your Realtor know in advance.  Most often they will need to get seller’s the approval.
    • And finally, if you are taking children along for the showings make sure they are well supervised.
  • In each home there are things you will want to look for and at.
    • The main question is – “does the layout, location and amenities meet our needs.”
    • If so, what is the condition of the home?  Will we need to incur costs right away to improve that condition?
    • What is the condition and age of the mechanicals, appliances, roof, siding and windows?  Is there any serious cracking or separation in the foundation, concrete or driveway?  These are all high expense items and should be noted in choosing between homes.
    • Consider the neighborhood.  Is it close to schools, parks, or other amenities that you want in your next home?  Are the homes around it well kept?  Is it on a quiet street?
    • Remember when you are at the home the sellers should have a Property Disclosure available for you to review that will answer some of your questions about condition.  If it is not available your Realtor should be able to get you a copy from the listing agent.

Your Realtor will have knowledge of the different areas where they are showing you homes.  But remember that they are not allowed to answer all questions due to Fair Housing Laws because they may be discriminatory based on race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, public assistance, sexual orientation, or familial status.  That being said, there are plenty of resources available if your Realtor can’t answer your questions.

  • Neighborhood Profile:  Check census data online.
  • Crime data: Many cities will have this data available online, otherwise you can go into the city office or call to receive.
  • Quality of Schools:  This factor plays a significant role in the resale value of homes within the district and this information can also be found online.
  • Your Realtor may not be able to answer a specific question but that will be able to point you to the resources that can.

Now with all that practical information in place, it is very likely you will walk into a home and decide that’s the one just because it “feels right.”  Use the above information to help you decide that it is still a good home for you to purchase.

Not all homes you see will be with your Realtor.  You may drive by an open house and decide to stop in.  That’s not a problem.  Let the agent holding the open know you’re working with a Realtor and share with them your agent’s name and/or business card.  It is important not to divulge too much information about your situation as it may hurt your negotiating power should you end up moving forward with an offer on that property.

Finally, enjoy the process and be realistic about what your money can get you.  Purchasing a home may be a little scary for some but it should also be fun.  Good luck with your home search.  When you’ve found the right home you’re ready for Step 5 – Negotiate an Offer.