Checking Out Open Houses

By: Virginia Wherland

Becoming a home owner for the first time is a big step in any one's life. If you are young then you're probably plied with so much advice from older members of the family that your head is spinning. If you are not a spring chicken anymore, then everyone thinks you have all the answers - but you don't!

The decision is fraught with doubt for a good reason: it is probably the single most expensive thing you have bought in your life. No-one wants to waste their money!Checking out open houses is one way to familiarize yourself with the real estate market.

In order to feel you are making a good investment you need to start studying the property market of the area you plan to buy in. Read the local ads in the newspaper both by realty companies and the ones that are 'sale by owner'. If you are on a low budget, and notice a consistently cheaper area, drive over and check it out. Also check it out at night-time.

Often when we are planning to buy our first home, we have lofty ideals that the bank do not seem so keen to back up! You may have to fore-go the second bathroom or the laundry room or a deck,to buy a house within your price range. But, once you have your foot on the property market, you can work towards 'moving up' the property ladder, instead of struggling to keep your down payment up with it.

If the house needs a coat of paint or if the exterior is very plain, try to visualize it with a porch that you can add, or with shutters or painted an exotic color.

There are some flaws which you do not want to consider, and these run into the structural, electrical and water problems. A surveyor will spot these for you. However it is more financial outlay for you to hire a surveyor, so avoid homes that obviously have a damp smell in the basement (or excessive air freshener!)

You can also ask to you use the bathroom and wash your hands - thus surreptitiously checking the flushing system and the hot water taps.

It is a very good idea to check the open houses in your area before you are ready to buy. This will give you more confidence for when you are ready. There are many question that you can ask the real estate agent who is showing the house.

For instance you can ask about the neighborhood and the larger area. Ask for the pros and cons so that you can hear both sides. Find out the average street price. Ask about the defects of the house! Remember the person showing the house may not always be the listing realtor, but you can ask if this is the case.

Get used to asking if there has already been any offers on the house. If so why were they rejected, was it because the price was too low, or was it the conditions of the agreement? Ask if the seller has any conditions attached to the sale (i.e. they may want 4 months to completion).

Give a careful look at the outside of the house near the ground, check for water leakages. Are the gutters spilling over - this may indicate how well the house is looked after.

Does it have any noise issues? Is it near a railway line, a shooting range, or a club that turns out late at night? Do not feel embarrassed to ask questions. Once you have checked out a few open houses, you will feel more comfortable about this and also more knowledgeable about what type of house feels right for you.

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