Tips for Buyers: How to Tour a Home Like a Professional

By: Jeff Hammerberg

Making appointments to view houses that are on the market can be great fun. If you are not just window-shopping but are seriously looking for property, the chance to tour a home can be critical to your financial decisions and have an impact on your personal living situation for years to come. But touring condos and houses can also be a foolproof way to waste a perfectly good weekend, especially if you are not sure exactly what to look for or how to maximize the brief window of opportunity that a real estate showing provides.

An educated and alert buyer can walk through a typical house or condo and get a snapshot of the home within a matter of minutes, while those who are not so skilled can spend an hour and walk away more confused than they were before the visit. For example, when Realtors 'preview' homes - their lingo for viewing homes that are on the market before showing them to their clients - they often complete the whole tour of an average sized home in less than 10 minutes. If a seasoned real estate broker wants to scout for houses or condos on behalf of a client, he or she might visit a dozen different properties in a single afternoon - and most of that time is spent in the car, driving from one location to the next.

Before venturing out to see listings, first organize your strategy by following these simple guidelines:

Ã?â‚??Prioritize by Price and Amenities

First decide exactly what your price range is, and stick to it. Otherwise you'll spend time looking at the wrong houses. And touring homes above their pay grade often inspires buyers to spend much more money than they can really afford.

List the amenities that are deal breakers. If you absolutely require a basement or a garage, don't waste time looking at listings that don't have these features. If proximity to work or schools is critical, don't wander outside those geographical parameters.

Ã?â‚??Put Your Realtor to Work

If you're working with a real estate agent whose job it is to help you find a home to buy, never accept an appointment to view a home that they have not already previewed. You will only risk wasting both their time and yours.

Ask your Realtor to notify you after he or she has located and already toured at least three properties that match your criteria. Let them first share any insights they got from seeing the homes in person, and if you are still interested, make the appointments.

Don't be surprised if your agent mistakenly shows you a property that doesn't fit your particular criteria. But remind them that you only want to view homes that meet your specifications. If they continue to show you houses that don't match your priorities, you either need to develop more realistic search parameters or find a new Realtor who pays closer attention.

Ã?â‚??Take Visual and Written Notes

If you view lots of homes in the same day it is easy to get them mixed up, so be prepared to take notes, with a pen and notebook and a camera. Note the most remarkable features - both positive and negative - and attach your notes and pictures to the listing sheet for future reference.

Ã?â‚??Look Beyond the Obvious

Many buyers fall in love with a home and later find out that it has some dark and disturbing secrets. Examine fundamental features of the home that can have costly ramifications first, such as the condition of the roof, the paint job, and the age of the heating and cooling systems.

Study the ceilings for telltale signs of stains or of a recent patch job, for instance, because those could indicate a leaky roof or plumbing system, and check for moisture and mold in basements.

Ã?â‚??Enlist an Expert for Second Showings

Once you narrow down the prospects and book follow-up appointments, it is time to request the help of an expert to give the property professional scrutiny. Bring along a friend who understands construction or hire a contractor to accompany you as you tour the home.

Don't ask them to inspect the house. You can hire a licensed building inspector to do a thorough examination after you make an offer. But do have them give it a good once-over to detect anything fairly obvious that you might have missed.

One of the most common mistakes buyers make is that they forget to prepare to make a serious offer. Line up your mortgage ahead of time and get pre-qualified for financing, review a standard purchase offer contract with your Realtor or attorney so you understand it, and be ready to make an offer without delay. Otherwise the next buyer through the door might buy your dream home, even though you've spent months of weekends and evenings searching for it.

For quality real estate help from those who specialize in service to the GLBT community, visit www.GayRealEstate.com or www. GayMortgageLoans.com. Or call toll free at 1-888-420-MOVE (6683).

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