Now for the fun part. Many people find that going out and looking at potential homes is the fun part of home shopping. Others find this to be the hard part. Either way, you will need to have an objective in mind when you finally decide to start looking at homes. Without a plan of action, you can spend a lot of time searching and before long all the homes begin to look alike and it becomes not such a fun task.
Make a list
Before you visit your first home, make a list of the features and items that are important to you. First create your “dream list” – features that you want in a home if money is no object. Once you have this dream list, begin by ranking the importance of each item. This will give you a prioritized list of items that are important in your home search. Of course, money is always an obstacle, so once you have your prioritized list, go through and mark items as “must have”, “nice to have”, and finally “like to have”. Now as you begin looking at houses, you have a more realistic list of items that you will need to check of as you are looking through a home. It is easy to become enamored with a home and forget to check for your “must have” items.
If possible, drive neighborhoods and areas you might like living in prior to looking at homes. Check out the schools, parks, local shopping, and nearby entertainment venues. Make sure you are moving into a neighborhood that you will be happy with long term. If you come across a home with a sign out front that you are interested in, do NOT call the number on the yard sign. That Realtor represents the seller. You want to talk to me, who will represent YOU, in the transaction. I will look out for your best interests, help you negotiate the contract, and make sure your needs are taken care of in a complex real estate transaction.
Pay attention to detail
It is easy to get caught up in the looks of a nice home. A well decorated home catches your eye. But it is important to pay attention to not so noticeable details such as the roof, foundation, exterior cracks, and drainage. Those are important items of any home that can seriously impact the resale value when you sell your home. A good home inspector will catch those things during inspection, but wouldn’t it be better to know about them before making an offer? Don’t get caught up in the thrill of a new home and forget to watch for important details that can affect the cost of home ownership and later the resale value of your home.
Wear comfortable clothing
When you are looking at homes you may want to crawl into the attic, look behind shrubs, or explore an expansive back yard. Wear clothing appropriate for the task. If it is rainy and wet, be sure and wear boots. If you are looking at an acreage, you may want to bring boots for the outdoors and some type of slippers to wear while looking inside the house. This way you don’t inadvertently track dirt and mud into the home. Treat other people’s homes the way you would want them to treat your home. We have been with clients walking an acreage in the hot summer when they wore sandals and almost stepped on a copperhead snake!
Bring a Flashlight
Bring tools you may need to review the home such as a flashlight, tape measure, pen and paper, camera and even a marble (used to check for level flooring). Be sure and ask your agent for permission before opening cabinets or closed closets.
Watch the Floor Plan
Odd floor plans can be interesting and unusual, but can be difficult to sell when you get ready to upgrade to your next home. Some people like odd floor plans, but it really narrows your market when it comes time to sell.
You may end up seeing several homes during your search, and soon they can all become a blur. I recommend printing out a sheet on each home and taking notes as you walk through the home. Jot down information such as your favorite feature of the home, questions you might have, and things you didn’t like about a particular home. This will help jog your memory later as you consider which home to make an offer on. A camera is a great way to take notes of things that interest you. TIP: Snap a picture of the home’s address or the printout for each home prior to touring the home. This way you know which pictures belong to which house.
Most everyone would love a 5,000 square foot dream home on a beautiful lake with a magnificent view – for $100,000. And most everyone knows that is just not realistic, at least in Oklahoma. The same goes true for “flipping” homes. We have buyers all that time that watch HGTV and believe they can buy a home dirt cheap, spend a couple of thousand dollars on paint and touch up, and flip the home and make a cool $70,000. In truth, that is about as realistic as the 5,000 square foot home for $100k. The OKC metro real estate market has been strong for a long time and homes are valued properly. Very seldom will you come across a great “deal” and even then, most great “deals” go to cash buyers who don’t have to finance a home. You can find decent deals that maybe need some elbow grease, and if you are willing to put in the work and have the financial ability to qualify, you can turn a decent profit on a fixer upper. But if you are a first time home buyer with limited resources, don’t expect to get rich quick buying and flipping homes. Be realistic about your financial situation, and your ability to do repairs and live in a construction zone with a new family. At the same time, don’t expect to low-ball a seller by $30,000 below market value and expect them to negotiate from there. Most will just get upset and ignore you. Be realistic in your offer and know that sellers are every bit as sophisticated as buyers and most have a pretty good idea what their home is worth.
Be sure and communicate your thoughts on each home with your spouse or partner, as well as with me. The more we communicate the better I can narrow down your requirements and shorten the home buying process and more importantly, find just the perfect house for you.