Stockman Farrar Group's Blog
Open houses can be a great way to get to know a home and the neighborhood it sits in. Sure, the seller will be trying to put their best foot forward on the big day. But, you’ll still be able to get a chance to tour the home relatively uninterrupted.
But what should you look for in particular when attending an open house?
There are a number of things you can learn at an open house. Many prospective buyers spend the time looking at things like paint color and cosmetic touches that can easily be changed, and very little time considering important factors that should go into their home buying decision.
So, in today’s post, I’m going to cover some of the lesser known things you should be looking out for when you attend an open house. That way, you’ll know which houses are worth considering further and which ones should be left behind.
Not enough storage space
If you find yourself constantly running out of storage space (and who doesn’t?), you’ll want to make sure the home has ample space to store your belongings. If it doesn’t, see if you can find ways to repurpose areas for storage, such as spare bedrooms or garage space.
Overly scented areas
It’s perfectly normal for a seller’s agent to place one or two choice candles in the home during an open house.
However, if you notice some rooms have an overpowering smell of candles or air fresheners, there’s a good chance it’s there to mask offensive and hard to remove smells. Pet and cigarette odors are among the worst culprits.
The windows, doors, and cabinets should work like a dream
When attending an open house, take note of how well the doors open and close. If appropriate, ask the seller’s agent if you can try out the windows and cabinets as well.
Problems with these items can be signs of poor craftsmanship, cheap materials, or neglect.
Traffic and neighbors
If you’ve found what you think is the perfect home, it can be easy to see the world through rose-colored lenses.
However, it’s important to take them off when looking around the yard. Take note of the traffic level, and the amount of privacy the home receives. If you like the home, it’s also a good idea to stop by the neighborhood during rush house to gauge how traffic would affect your commute.
Air flow issues
Improper ventilation can lead to mold growth, especially in bathrooms and kitchens. Make sure bathroom vents and fans work properly, and check windows for condensation.
In rooms with sinks, check around the base of the sink and counter for signs of water damage or mold.
Large cracks in foundations or ceilings
While small, hairline cracks in the foundation of a home are completely normal, large ones can be dangerous.
They can allow water and pests to enter the home, causing all types of costly damages.
Keep those six tips in mind when you attend the open house, and be sure to bring a list of any other questions you might have for the seller’s agent.
House hunting can be time-consuming. With so many houses currently on the market and so little time to spend visiting homes, it’s important to narrow down your search as much as possible before attending a showing.
Fortunately, in today’s digital world, it’s possible to learn a great deal of important information right from your phone or computer.
In today’s post, I’m going to give you some advice on researching the homes you’re thinking about making an offer on. We’ll talk about researching the neighborhood, and--of course--the house itself.
Putting together all the stats on the home
Let’s start with, arguably, the most important thing to research: the house itself. When you want to learn about a home, the best place to look is usually the real estate listing. Since most of us discover homes through listings, odds are you’re already on this page. However, there’s a lot of information in a listing, so take the time to go through it and gleam whatever you can from the home’s description.
Next, Google the house address and click on listings from other real estate sites. Oftentimes, a house that has been sold before will have multiple listings across the internet with different data.
Once you’ve scoured the listings, head over to the county assessor’s website to look at records of the home’s ownership. This will tell you who bought and sold the home and when. There’s much you can learn from this data, especially if a home is being sold frequently. You can also use this information to contact previous owners to ask them questions about the home that the current owner might not know the answer to.
Snooping around the neighborhood
If the house is nearby, simply driving through the neighborhood can tell you a lot. You can visit the neighborhood during rush hour to see what the traffic is like, for example.
However, it isn’t always practical to take the time to visit a house that you aren’t sure you’re interested in. So, what’s the next best thing? Google Maps.
Visit the neighborhood on Google Maps to see what’s in the area. Are there a lot of closed businesses? That could be a sign of a neighborhood in decline. Check for nearby things like parks, grocery stores, and other amenities that could influence your buying decision.
Next, use Google’s “street view” feature and explore the neighborhood. You can see what kind of shape the other homes are in, and find out the condition of infrastructure like roads and sidewalks.
Note addresses of comparable homes in the neighborhood and look up their purchase prices. This will give you an idea of whether the home is being priced appropriately.
If you’re having trouble finding information on a home, such as sale records, try contacting the local assessor. They should be able to point you to a database that will help you in your search.
When it comes to selecting a home, every situation is a little different. Do you purchase a house because of its size or is the location more important? Both factors play a crucial role in determining your choice, but the unique details in your life can help you decide which is more important.
When realtors talk about a home, they often stress the importance of location. However, if you are newlyweds starting a family and you want to buy a home on a tight budget, you might favor the size of the house over the location. On the other hand, if your purchase is to build your portfolio or to be your forever home, location might matter more than size. When considering size versus location, let the steps below guide you.
Sacrificing Location for Size
While location is important, you may need more space for a home office, a workshop, or a large play area. If that is the case, consider size over location. If home size is your focus, the location doesn’t need to be trendy. Choose size over location for these reasons:
You Have Children: If you have children, it’s preferable to search for a bigger home. Looking for a larger house in many cities might mean you move to areas where you can get better value for your money. While these areas might not be your dream neighborhood, or ideal for your work commute, they may be a great place to begin a family.
You Have A Large Household: If you have a large family or have multiple adults in the same household, you may be looking for additional space for everyone. A bigger house means you could add play space for your kids, a lawn for your pet, office space, more bathrooms, and outdoor space.
You Need More Space for Guests: If you often have people coming to stay with you; your in-laws, friends, or family members — then having more space or guest room will improve your quality of life. Finding a larger home that meets your housing needs is important, and if having room for guests fills you with joy, then size is important.
Choosing Location over Size
You Plan to Rent Out Your House: If you are buying your home intending to rent it out either on a long-term lease or as a holiday rental, your choice of location plays a vital role. Proximity to points of interest and public transportation determine your rental’s demand and supply, and it will have a significant effect on your profit.
You Have Kids That Are Still in School: If you have school-age children, you would want to consider the type of schools available in the area. If there is a specific standard of education you want for your children, ensure you inform your realtor about this before the house hunt process begins.
You Plan to Sell Your House in the Near Future: If you intend selling your home sooner rather than later, you need to be strategic when picking your neighborhood. Location is the crucial factor that affects your resale value — if you are buying a house intending to sell in an abbreviated time, it’s essential you pick an area that will increase your home’s value in the short run.
Both the location of your home and its size are vital things to look for when house hunting, but your decision on which is more important should be a factor of what you need now. Talk to your realtor about your motivation for buying a home and get their professional advice on what fits your needs the most.
When you start looking for your dream home, you need to know how much mortgage you will qualify for. Your real estate agent might ask you to get a pre-qualification letter. However, just because you are pre-qualified doesn’t mean that you will get the loan. You need a pre-approval for that, and even then, the mortgage company might not approve your application.
A pre-qualification letter just tells you how much loan you can afford. The lender does not check your credit, your debt-to-income ratio or other factors before issuing a pre-qualification letter. Additionally, a pre-qualification letter is dependent on the information you provide to the lender. The pre-qualification essentially gives you an estimate of how much home you are able to afford so that you do not look at homes that are not within your range.
To get a pre-qualification, you supply the lender with your assets, debt and income. Because the lender bases its decision on the information you provide, rather than information from outside sources, a pre-qualification is not a guarantee that you will get the loan.
Getting pre-approved for a loan usually takes longer than getting pre-qualified. The lender pulls your credit report and might ask for additional documents, including tax records and bank statements. To get pre-approved, you must complete a loan application and provide your social security number. The lender might charge an application fee for a pre-approval.
With a pre-approval, you will have a closer interest rate assessment, that is usually not finalized until the loan goes through underwriting. Once the lender pre-approves you, it will send you a conditional commitment for the loan amount. You can look for homes at or below that price.
In a market when buyers bid against each other – a seller’s market – having a pre-approval letter might give you a step up with the seller, who will more likely choose an offer by someone more likely to get the loan. Thus, if you and someone else submit a bid on your dream home, but the other person only has a pre-qualification letter, the seller might accept your offer, even if it is not as good as the other buyer’s offer, simply because you are more likely to get the mortgage.
For a pre-approval, you will need to:
Complete the lender’s mortgage application;
Possibly pay an application fee;
Supply your social security number and allow the lender to pull your credit;
Provide financial information to help the lender make a decision; and
Tell the lender how much you plan to put up as a down payment.
After you are pre-approved and the seller accepts your offer, you will then have to provide the rest of the documentation to the lender, including the accepted offer, bank statements, retirement account statements, taxes for up to two years, proof of income and other documents that will help the lender come to a concrete decision.
A moving checklist won't take all the stress out of moving, but it can relieve a lot of the pressure once you have everything accounted for. To give yourself a little extra sanity and peace of mind, we'll sketch out what a reasonable timeline should look like.
8 Weeks Before
Nearly two months before the move, you should begin going through each room and deciding what you're going to move and what you're going to throw away. You can start calling movers for quotes and ordering everything from bubble wrap to packaging tape.
It's important to keep the daily routine as-is, while still mentally preparing for the move. Start dropping off donation boxes of clothes or goods that won't be coming with you, and organize all of your correspondence in one place so it's easier to keep track of. We recommend having movers visit the home to give their quote as over-the-phone estimates may be unreliable.
4 Weeks Before
A month before the move is a good time to start packing up rarely used items, so they're ready to go when the time comes. This is also an opportunity to be even more ruthless with what you take versus what you leave behind. The more you get rid of now, the less you'll have to worry about organizing in the new home.
Start separating out valuables, measuring furniture, and filling out change-of-addresses with everyone from your credit card companies to the DMV. (Never assume a blanket change-of-address form will be valid for all organizations.) Store valuables in a safe, label boxes, and take a deep breath before the home stretch.
Last Few Days
Now is the time to get everything in a box besides the absolute necessities (e.g., toothbrushes, etc.) Refill any prescriptions so you aren't dependent on your new local pharmacy processing all of your paperwork immediately. Defrost the freezer now if you're taking it with you, and tune-up all vehicles so they're ready for the journey.
Create a manifest with everything you're taking and call the movers to confirm the final details. The final days are where things can really start to fall apart, and these are all preventative measures you can take so you're not dealing with a broken-down car filled with boxes on the side of the road.
Remember that moves rarely ever go according to plan. A moving schedule is dependent on everything from the weather to road conditions. This checklist is really just a way to curtail the possibilities of a major disaster. At the very least, it should help you feel more in control even during the most chaotic parts of the move.