The Ultimate House Hunting Checklist

If you are looking at prospective homes, you probably have an idea of what you want. But do you have a list? Of course, everyone wants a big kitchen and a sizeable yard, but there’s more to it than that. Having things on paper means that you won’t miss anything or forget about it later. Also, you must look beyond size, condition, and number of rooms. Here are some other things you should look over before you make an offer on a house.

The Location

You can fix almost any imperfection in a home except for it’s location. When you are looking at a specific house, consider any potential home’s proximity to your work, the nearest doctor, and the nearest grocery store. Think about the charm of the neighbor hood, how the home is situated on the lot, the privacy you have from your neighbors, the ease of access, the parking situation, the noise from neighbors, the noise from traffic, the noise from pets, and access to public transportation.

The Site

Look at the site of the home. Is the house on a hill? If so, does it have a view? What about a lot of stairs to climb to get to the front door? How about a walk out basement? Do the neighbors windows look directly into yours? Is the yard suitable for the number of kids and pets you have? Is access to the property safe regarding driveway elevation or access to the front door? It is very expensive to change these things, so make sure you are okay with how things are from the first.

The Neighborhood

The house needs to meet your expectations, sure, but so too does the neighborhood. You should own the smallest home in the nicest neighborhood that you can afford. Drive through the neighborhood in the mornings, the afternoons, and the evenings to see how things change throughout the day. Are the homes in the neighborhood consistent in size and features? Are the yards tidy or messy? Are there any abandoned cars or stray animals running around? Would you feel safe walking to the mailbox at night? Are there a lot of children – and if there are, are you okay with their noise level?

The Curb Appeal

Your landscaping should reflect your lifestyle. If you live a laid back life, then you probably don’t want a hard-to-maintain yard. If that’s the case, it’s likely that your curb appeal will tank, considering all the plant life in your yard has died! However, if you have a green thumb, make sure there is a lot of room for a garden. A brick home is the easiest to maintain, unless you live in an area with a lot of earthquakes. Check to make sure the roof is in good condition, as well as the driveway.

The Size and Floor Plan

Does the layout of the house make sense? Do you really need as many bedrooms and bathrooms as the house has? Do you have enough furniture to fill the house? Do you have too much stuff and you need more storage space? Is the kitchen set up properly for how you will use it? Think about how the space will be used and whether it will be beneficial to your lifestyle now and in the future. You don’t want to buy a home while you’re wearing rose colored glasses and then later find out that it’s not the one for you.

The Bedrooms and Bathrooms

Decide how many bedrooms and bathrooms you really need. Sure, it’s great to have a couple of guest rooms, but you’ll be paying to heat and cool those rooms when they’re empty. If you think you’re going to add onto the house later in terms of bedrooms and bathrooms, make sure that you confirm that you’re allowed to do this with an architect so you don’t buy the house knowing you need one more bedroom – then not be allowed to build that room.

The Kitchen

It is said that the kitchen is the heart of the home. And so it should be! Of course, you can always remodel, but if that’s not in your budget after paying out a down payment, make sure that you can live with the kitchen that comes with the house. It doesn’t have to be your dream kitchen, but it should be workable. If the most that needs to be done is an inexpensive makeover, it’s as good as perfect! Don’t even worry about the appliances, as they can also be easily replaced.

The Storage

The older the home is, the less storage space it tends to have. If you have a lot of extra stuff, make sure there’s a place for it all to go. You can always add storage space, but you may have to sacrifice living space in your rooms to do so if you don’t want to add onto the house. Don’t forget about outdoor storage either – is the garage enough, or will you have to build a small shed out in the yard? Will you have enough room to fit your car in the garage after you get all of your storage stuff in there?

The Lighting

Some people love bright, sunny rooms. Some people like to keep it dark and cozy. Whatever your preference, check out the indoor and natural lighting options. If you prefer all natural, or you have a lot of window plants, does enough sun come in the windows to meet your needs? A hint – southern facing windows tend to get the best light. If you prefer more yellow, dimmed lightbulbs, and the house is currently sporting clinical, bright white bulbs, that’s okay – it’s just a matter of changing them out.

The Finishing Touches

A small, simple house can still look spectacular thanks to small details such as moldings, door frames, window treatments, hardware, and fireplaces. If you really want your new home to be a stunner, consider finding a place that already sports these finishing touches. If the house is your dream house but still needs a little touching up, that’s okay too – most of these changes are quite cheap and simple to do by yourself. Just be prepared to add these elements yourself if they are not present at the home tour and are important to you to have.

The Plumbing

Do the toilets flush? How is the water pressure? Are any of the pipes under the sink leaking? Is the water heater leaking? Make sure that all of the plumbing and pipes are acceptable – because you’ll be stuck with them once you get the keys. If you (or the inspector) notices an issue, you can ask the seller to fix them before you move in, or ask for money off of the price of the house so you’ll have extra cash on hand to fix the issue without stressing your finances much more than they already are after putting down that down payment.

Compare the features of the homes you view and rate them from one to five, with one being “poor” and five being “excellent”. View each house and neighborhood from that lens, and judge what you liked and what you didn’t like. This list can keep all of your thoughts in one place, making it simpler for you to pare things down and make a decision.

Other tips for house hunting:

  • Bring a phone or a camera for taking photos and videos of each house.
  • Only tour a house if you approve of the neighborhood.
  • Take notes as you walk through each house – you’ll forget the details later.
  • Revisit your top three favorite houses – it will help refresh your memory.
  • Talk to the neighbors to learn more about the house and the area.
  • Visit the house at night when neighbors are home. How is the parking and noise level?
  • Check your cell phone signal in the house. Make sure it’s strong.
  • Compare home values between your potential house and others in the neighborhood.
  • Ask your realtor about average monthly bills for each property you visit.
  • Hire a home inspector to check the electrical, heating, air conditioning, security, plumbing, insulation, water, and sewer systems to make sure everything is up to date and safe.
  • Check for damage to the foundation, driveway and pool by looking for cracks.
  • Make sure that the garage door functions.
  • Look for signs of pests such as ants, termites, or rodents.
  • Keep your expectations as realistic as possible.
  • Stay in your budget – you set it for a reason!
  • Ask your realtor about any known damages or home history.

House hunting can be stressful, but organizing and ensuring that each home is properly checked over can help you feel much more at ease and put together while you tour homes. You should never buy a home without first knowing everything you can about it. The only way to avoid that is to investigate and do your due diligence on each home you visit.

Real Estate Open House Ideas for 2020

A lot of agents have given up – some say that the open house is dead. This isn’t true! You just need to know how to do it. Here are the best open house ideas for you to use in 2020!

Run a Facebook Live Stream

People want what other people want. It’s a fact of life. With that being said, there is no better time to stream and record a video walk through of your listing than during your open house, when it’s full of people – competition for other buyers! This also allows potential buyers to view the house remotely and ask questions that the realtor can answer in real time. It’s like House Hunters – live! After the live stream is over, you can post the full video of it on social media for even more people to watch.

Use a Sign In App

In the old days, those who visited an open house would sign their name and contact information onto a paper sheet. It can be hard to read some people’s handwriting! The difference between a letter or two could also be the difference between an awesome lead and no lead at all. Thankfully, now there are apps that can take the place of these confusing and hard to read sheets. The open house visitors will simply type their information on a tablet instead. The apps will then forward the client’s information to your contact database, where you can sign them up for emails or follow up later by phone.

Virtually Stage the Home With Different Décor

Most people have a really hard time trying to visualize their style in a space. You can offer your visitors staged images that show the many different ways a room could be used with online décor websites. Virtual staging can make a difference! You can show them different uses for different rooms, too – that second bedroom could be a guest room, an office, a craft room, a nursery…

Skip the Alcohol

Some agents used to swear by offering people a glass of wine or champagne, saying it lowered their inhibitions a little and made them like the house more. People do love a free drink – but it’s not worth the extra crowd. Best practices says to avoid the libations. Social host liability laws in some areas mean that you could be sued if someone drinks too much and then gets hurt. Also, those people who only showed up for the free champagne and don’t care about the house? Well, they’re now clogging up your email prospect list.

Invite the Neighbors

Well, you don’t have time to go knocking on all their doors – but you could design and leave a door sign. At the end of the day, an open house is about your client, but you should also focus on the whole experience of the listing. Take advantage of the area. Obviously, the neighbors likely aren’t looking to buy the house across the street, but their presence could shout to random passers-by that something interesting is going on there, that house must really be nice on the inside for all those people to be there looking at it! Even those few extra folks in attendance could really draw a crowd for you.

Hold Raffles or Contests

Even if the prize is just a small gift card, everyone loves a free gift just for showing up. In exchange for their contact information, you can enter those visiting your open house into a drawing for a gift or prize. Advertise your plan to do this on social media and all of the flyers and other notifications for the open house. You never know, someone who just came to be entered in the raffle could end up loving the house – and being it’s next owner – all thanks to a small gift card or a fruit basket!

Give Out Paperwork

Floor plans, FAQ, and HOA information. Get this paperwork together, make tons of copies of it, and staple everything into packets for your open house visitors. The floor plans will allow people to start thinking of how their furniture could fit into the house. The FAQ saves you time from having to answer the same questions over and over. HOA information does the same. You can also include paperwork on the building itself, rental restrictions, what’s around the area in terms of shopping, schools, and entertainment, and more. This information helps the visitors to imagine themselves living in the home.

Give Yourself Enough Time to Market It

You want the advertisements to be up long enough for people to actually see them! Three days should be enough. The open house is not meant to sell the home, but instead as a lead source method of what you can deliver to the seller. Use those three days to properly prepare for and advertise the open house via cold calls, face to face interactions, flyers, social media, and more. It will show your seller that you are really on the ball, and willing to go above and beyond to make things work for them.

Schedule it Strategically

You don’t want to schedule your open house for 8 AM on a Monday when everyone is at work. The best days for open houses are the weekend of course, and the best time is around noon. If you absolutely must have the open house on a weekday, shoot for a Thursday, around 6 PM. If the home is in the city, try to line up the open house right before the local happy hour starts. Choose your hours wisely – it doesn’t matter if someone seriously loves the house, they won’t come if they have work when the open house is happening.

Get Someone to Check People In While You Mingle

You don’t want to be stuck at the door, reminding people to check in and handing out your FAQ packets, instead of on the floor, mingling and chatting. You don’t have to do everything on your own! If you are taking the time and making the effort to promote and host a great open house, then you owe it to yourself to be able to work the crowd. Have someone else on hand to help you out, checking people in, refilling drinks, and answering questions about the listing if you’re busy with someone else. Don’t get stuck at the front door – mingle with your guests, and hire someone else to help you!

Promote the Open House to Fellow Agents

It’s important for you to send a reminder to the local brokerage community a few days before the open house. There are various email marketing platforms today that make it easy to send flyers and information directly to brokers. They may not have time to make it themselves, but they might be able to pass the information on to one of their clients who is looking to buy. It might net you a few more folks in attendance, so it’s worth the extra work of reaching out to your fellow agents.

Don’t Allow Your Seller to Attend

When a potential buyer is touring the house, they could make comments that offend the seller, or ask tough questions that make them uncomfortable. Some sellers will want to be involved, but send them out to the movies during the open house. It’s better for everyone. You want the potential buyers to get the information they need without the rose colored glasses filter from the seller, and you certainly don’t want to risk your buyer showing deep offense to a seller because they stated that great-grandma’s quilt is ugly. To keep your seller in the loop, meet them for lunch the day after the open house and let them know how everything went.

For That Matter, Fido Isn’t Invited Either

Unless it’s a fish, pets aren’t welcome to the open house, either. You don’t want your seller’s dog protecting his property and biting a potential buyer, and you don’t want to risk the seller’s cat running out the front door in all of the commotion. Also, a lot of people have intense animal allergies and cannot be around pets. You want your prospective buyers leaving your open house with ideas of how they will decorate the rooms when they buy it, not itching their eyes and making an appointment with their allergist.

Don’t Miss Your Follow Up Window

You worked hard to promote the open house, harder to host it, and now you have to work even harder to follow up on it. Don’t miss your chance to solidify a buyer’s interest after the show is over. Within a few days, you need to reach out to every person that left their information on the sign in sheet, whether they left their email or their phone number. Remind them who you are and of the house for sale, and ask them if there is anything else you can do for them in regards to the house. For fun, ask them their favorite part of the open house – then you know what to do again next time!