I recently read an astonishing statistic that on average potential buyers spend 17 minutes in a home before making an offer on it. While I can’t verify how researchers arrived at this statistic, that number is shocking for two reasons; 1) It’s an extremely short amount of time to spend deciding on what is the biggest purchase of your life, but also 2) it’s truthfully not all that surprising. In my experience, typical showings tend to last around 30 minutes. If a house isn’t the right fit, often times the showing ends after a few quick minutes.
So if indeed, all it takes is anywhere between 17 to 30 minutes to determine if a house is right for you, here are a few tips on how to spend that time as efficiently as possible.
1) Use all your senses and bring a camera!
Touring a house is first and foremost a visual activity. Your eyes are busy taking in all the pros and cons, but often distracted by some of home’s charming features. You might be so busy falling in love with the large Carrera marble countertops that you didn’t really take in the condition of the cabinets. Open a drawer or two. Turn on the faucet to gauge water pressure. Does the floorboard creak or feel soft when you walk? Does the house smell musty? Can you hear street noise when all the windows are closed? Use all your senses to get a full picture of what it might be like to live in the house. Because that smell might be an indication of a hidden water issue. And I have often heard about people moving into a house only to find unacceptable street noise after the fact. You simply cannot rely on just your eyes to take everything in. Which leads me to my next point: bring a camera. There’s just no way after a day of looking at houses you will remember the color of the laundry room wallpaper in house number #2.
2) Spend the most time in the kitchen and bathrooms.
The most expensive room to renovate is the kitchen, followed by bathrooms. While most homebuyers draw the greatest impression of a house from its kitchen, people tend to overlook the bathrooms. Additionally, both these rooms have running water and plumbing to contend with so make sure you are diligent in your assessment of their current condition. Look under the sinks for signs of leakage or old plumbing. Again, turn on the water and check for good pressure, clear run-off, and appropriate water temperature. And finally, be honest with yourself about how these rooms look. Your bedroom can be transformed with a coat of paint. A kitchen or bathroom remodel is substantially more. So if you aren’t in love with the cabinet style or the countertops, admit to yourself that you will likely want to change it in the near future, and factor that into your decision-making process.
3) Go outside.
Guess what else is really expensive to tear out and redo? Backyard and front yards. Prospective buyers not surprisingly spend most of their time at a home tour indoors, surveying its finishes, floorplan and features. But do not conclude your showing without spending a significant amount of time taking in your outdoor space. Are there cracks on the hardscape that need to be addressed? What condition is the hot tub or pool? Does the backyard get enough sun? If so, what time of day? Is your fence in good condition? And, don’t forget to look out at your neighbors and the immediate neighborhood. What condition are the houses on your street? Who might your neighbors be? How busy is the street in front? Don’t miss out on these critical cues of a property’s shortcomings.
4) Bring a tape measure.
Do the due diligence and measure the rooms that matter to you and also a few major appliance openings to make sure that your existing furniture and appliances will fit. Generally, washers and dryers don’t convey with the house. If your current washer and dryer don’t fit the openings, and do not assume they will, a brand new pair of laundry machines will become additional expenditures that you didn’t anticipate. Think about how annoyed you might become upon move in to find that your furniture doesn’t fit well or your TV is too small for the built-in opening. While I’m not suggesting that the size of your furniture and appliances be deal-breakers should you love the house, it’s just important to be aware of these potential costs up front as it will improve your satisfaction with the overall home purchase. Nothing dampens the excitement of moving into a new house as much as a growing list of unforeseen expenses.
5) Go back for a few more showings!
If upon first impression, you make an emotional connection to a house, make sure you request additional showings, especially at different times of the day. Today’s market isn’t moving at a pace where you wouldn’t have time to squeeze in a few more looks. Chances are, after your first tour, you won’t remember several important details and you’ll have new questions about the home.
Happy house hunting!