What to look for on a home tour

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August 4, 2020

House tours can be overwhelming, especially if you’re touring multiple listings. It’s easy to get caught up in the aesthetics while missing red flags. Get the most out of your next viewing with our home tour tips below.

Should you view a home before making a bid?

The short answer? Absolutely. It’s really worth it to take the extra time to visit a home at least once before you make a bid. Online listings are designed to make a property look its absolute best. They won’t show you the cracks in the walls, the low water pressure in the shower or the windows that are poorly insulated. Blind bidding on a property is risky business, since you won’t know what the property really looks like and if it is indeed worth the asking price.

home buyers guide to home viewing

Tips to prepare for a home tour

  • Make a list. Home-hunting can be so exciting, that prospective buyers forget about features they actually want. It’s always good to make a list of everything you’re looking for in a property beforehand and refer back to it during your viewing.
  • Do a drive-by. Driving through a neighborhood will give you a good impression of what life is like there, and sometimes this is enough to tell if the property is for you or not. Localize experts would recommend doing a drive-by during the day and during the night to monitor noise levels, safety, and traffic.
  • Take a friend. Two eyes are always better than one, especially when it comes to spotting any potential issues around the house.
  • Bring your camera. Take as many photos as you can during your visit, so you have a visual reminder of what you’ve seen. With a mixture of closeups and wide-angle photos, you’ll be able to relive your viewing as often as you want to make sure it’s the property for you.
  • Arrive early. Estate agents are busy people, and you might only have a 15-minute time slot for your viewing. Arriving 10 to 20 minutes early to your appointment means you’ll get a bit of extra time to soak up the neighborhood vibe, and check out the property’s exterior.

Important signs to look for on a home tour

Healthy foundations

No one wants to spend heaps of money restructuring a property they’ve just moved into, so keep an eye out for large cracks in the walls that may suggest more severe structural issues. If you do suspect any problems, it’s worth asking a surveyor to come and assess the building. They can update you on the wear and tear of the roof and the property’s foundations. They may also give you a general idea of when you might have to invest some money into the property for repairs in the future.

Water damage

Dampness is an unwelcome addition to anybody’s house and is usually the result of inadequate ventilation in the building. Look out for signs of water damage like a musty smell, mildew on the walls, mold, or peeling wallpaper. Water damage is one of those problems that can’t just be painted over, and finding the leading cause behind leak can be difficult and expensive.

Health hazards

Older properties have been built to standards that are decades older than current guidelines. Older homes can have mold, asbestos concrete, and lead paint – all of which are thought to cause serious health problems. Unfortunately, you’ll probably need to do a deep dive with a home inspection to locate these issues.

Efficient windows and doors

Efficient windows and doors are both a must-have if you’re hoping to cut costs on utility bills, and if you want a secure and safe place to live. Original windows may look beautiful, but they can be drafty, may not lock properly or even worse, they may not open at all. 

Cheap cover-ups

It’s completely normal for owners to try to make their property look its best to help it sell. While a fresh coat of paint is nothing to worry about, pay attention to paint jobs that look like they’re trying to cover something up, like a crack in the ceiling, or mold on the walls.

Problematic outdoor spaces

Many buyers make the mistake of not paying the yard or garden the same attention as the house itself. Tall trees in particular can cause problems. Roots can break up the pavement around the home and heavy branches over the home could be hazardous if they broke. So have a good look around and make sure they won’t pose a threat when you move in. 

Electrical and plumbing

A property’s electrical and plumbing systems aren’t particularly easy to check out without lifting a few floorboards. When in doubt, a quick look over the electrical boxes is always worth a try, or you can even bring an electrician with you during a second viewing. Always make sure you flush the toilets, run the faucets and shower to make sure the water pressure is up to scratch too.

9 must-ask questions for a home tours

It’s easy to get carried away when visiting a property you like. Even if you think the house is perfect, some important factors can’t be seen with the naked eye. The following questions are essential to ask at every house viewing.

  1. How long has the property been on the market? Compare the listing to similar homes nearby. If it’s been on the market for too long it’s worth looking into why, as it could indicate hidden problems. Anything over three months especially should ring alarm bells. 
  1. What are the neighbors and the neighborhood like? No matter how perfect a house is, it’s crucial that you like the surrounding area. Whether you’re looking for a quiet and family-friendly area or somewhere vibrant with good nightlife, look into it. Property owners can have invaluable information about what life is like in that particular neighborhood. Our listings also have insights from locals to help you to understand different communities a little better.
  1. How long have the owners lived there, and why are they moving? It’s always worth knowing why the owners have decided to move. The reason might be as simple as downsizing or job relocation, but sometimes issues with the house may cause this decision. Understanding their motivation behind moving will also benefit you while trying to negotiate a price. 
  1. Have any significant repairs taken place on the house in the last five to 10 years? It’s always good to know if any major structural changes have happened on the property in recent times. You don’t want to discover after buying that extensions need to be torn down because there was no initial permission to build it. This is actually one of the most costly mistakes you can make as a home buyer.
  1. Have the sellers found their next property? Ideally, the owners of your future property will have already found a new house and will be ready to move. However, it’s very common that this process for the seller can get delayed, causing your own move-in day to be delayed.
  1. How much will bills cost? Some houses cost more than others to run, so understanding the property’s energy efficiency level is important.
  1. What’s included in the sale? Properties usually include fixtures like cabinets, faucets, and window blinds, but not always. It’s good to ask what is and isn’t included so you know exactly what to expect on move-in day.
  1. What’s the condition of the property’s major appliances and systems? If major appliances like the AC, boiler, washer/dryer, or stove are included in the sale, you’ll want to know what condition they’re in. You may want to ask the seller to purchase a home warranty, so any replacement costs will be covered. 
  1. How much have other homes sold for in the neighborhood? Make sure to take a quick look at local real estate trends and compare to your prospective home. It’ll give you an idea of how much to offer for a property. Most real estate agents will be able to find this kind of information for properties sold in the last six months. 

View a property multiple times

If you don’t do it completely right the first time, remember, there’s nothing wrong with going for a second viewing. Just get back in touch with your agent to arrange another visit.

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