Step 5: Start Seeing Properties

After browsing properties online, both you and your agent identify which properties look most promising and decide which ones are worth seeing in person. The listing information often includes additional information that is not visible to the general public regarding showing schedule and whether there are people living in the home or if it is instead vacant. Your agent will work with both your availability and selling agent to find a time that works. If things do not seem urgent, it is ideal to coordinate a few showings consecutively. Your agent will often have a sense of how quickly a property will move based on its price and listing information.

The importance of doing showings is obvious- anyone who is going to make such a large purchase is going to want to see the place and make sure they like the feel of it. Believe it or not, properties often don’t look as attractive in real life as the listing pictures suggest…

Though it is fun to see new properties and explore, it’s usually a bad idea to schedule viewings if it’s not a place you’d realistically purchase. The primary reason is that it is a waste of time especially for the owner/tenant occupying the home, who is expected to leave for the showing. It’s also work for both agents to coordinate scheduling. However, if it’s an open house then by all means take a look!

During showings, a potential buyer and their representing agent will visit the property. Among other reasons, this is why you need an agent- few sellers would provide access to people to see their properties without a licensed agent on record for supervising the showing.  The seller’s agent is often present to show them around, highlight nice features of the home, and answer any questions that arise. This agent should provide honest answers, but at the same time they represent the seller’s best interest. It is not their job to make you aware of less critical disadvantages of the property such as an old furnace that will likely need to be replaced within a couple years. Sometimes due to scheduling conflicts, the seller’s agent will simply make the keys available to the buyer’s agent so that they can view it on their own. Some buyers like this- they are more comfortable speaking candidly about features they like or don’t like. On the other hand, it takes longer to get answers to common questions since the seller’s agent is not there to answer them in person.

Instead of a scheduled showing appointment, open houses are also a great and efficient way to see properties. These are usually scheduled on weekends to allow many people to see them, and they often have about a 2-hour viewing window where potential buyers can drop by anytime. They are nice for the buying party because it allows more flexibility and an agent from the seller side is always on hand to answer questions. The selling party likes open houses both to give an (often valid) impression of strong competition and because it’s a way for them to meet potential buyer clients if they are not already represented by an agent. They usually have some sort of sign-in sheet and ask for permission to follow-up afterwards. If you have an agent, it’s common to leave your agent’s card or contact info instead. 

Some common things to look for during an open house (in addition to generally getting a feel for the place) are related to the condition of the building and/or condo. If the home is a condo, you’ll want to ask about how much money the home owner’s association (HOA) has in reserves for future repairs and unexpected costs. Your agent can help you understand if it is acceptable based on the number of units in the building. You’ll want to ask if there are any planned repairs that will require special assessments (one-time costs charged to owners of the building). It’s also good to ask about the condition and age of the mechanical components such as the furnace, air conditioning condenser, and water heater. Other common question include inquiries about roof repairs, age of windows, and (if it’s a brick building) any recent tuck-pointing that has been done. You’ll also want to know if the building allows rentals and how many units can be rented; even if you don’t plan to rent your own unit, if a large percentage of the units in the building are not occupied by owners the building will usually not be maintained as well and your property value will fall.

If you are viewing a place during an open house, you’ll know whether there is a lot of interest if there are many other potential buyers visiting. If the property is new on the market, it seems like a good deal, and it has a lot of visitors, be quick! The seller’s strategy is most likely to price the place a little low and encourage a lot of interest so that buyers will offer high to beat the competition. In situations like this a place will usually go above asking price, but your agent should help you get a sense of what a fair price is to protect from going too high if you decide to offer. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask if the seller has received other offers yet, but the seller’s agent will not specify how much the offers are because they have their client’s best interest in mind and their hope is that you provide a significantly higher offer than other buyers. Your agent will provide advice that way and guide you through the offer process (see the next post).


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