Once you have your dream team in place (getting a mortgage lender and Realtor), it’s time to start shopping! We found this to be the most frustrating and also the most exciting part of the house hunt.
It all starts online. We used the HomeScouting website that our lender had given us, along with listings sent to us from our Realtor, to find the houses we wanted to see. Your Realtor will work with your schedule to find times to see houses, and we saw most of them during weekday evenings. Be ready to jump at the chance to view a house if it’s listed in a hot market.
When we started walking through properties, here are some things we wish we’d done differently:
- Not taking photos:This is major. We didn’t take any photos of the houses we saw during our first walk throughs, and we got so confused. “Was that one that had the weird ceiling fans?” or “Which house had the new hot water tank?” Take photos of every room, and even a video if you’re walking through for the first time. We made an offer on the house and had a full discussion afterwards about where the master bedroom door actually was. It’s hard to remember without photos, and it’s well worth the extra few minutes to take them. Don’t assume the listing photos will help – they’re usually crummy photos!
- Not taking our time: You usually have a full hour appointment for a house. I often felt rushed when looking through houses, especially when my husband and Realtor were two or three rooms ahead of me before I’d finished looking at the first room! I wish I hadn’t felt so rushed – it’s my right and responsibility to walk through each room slowly. You catch way more and remember it better when you take it slow.
- Not looking at the details: This goes hand in hand with taking your time. Look up at the ceilings (my husband did this and noticed water staining, important stuff!) Look in every closet and stand in each room for a few minutes to look around. Look in cupboards, under cabinets, in toilets, and behind doors. Take a look at the thermostat, garbage disposal, and any other working parts to see how it all connects to your potential home.
- Not testing stuff: Testing stuff is good, even before inspection, because it helps you understand the inner workings of a house. Flick on every light switch, flush the toilet and then run the faucet at the same time. Sit in the bathtub and see if it fits a 6’2 guy (yep, we did that). Use the garbage disposal, and open the garage door. Open every door, for that matter. We noticed a lot of sliding doors that didn’t work properly, or closet bi-fold doors that were broken and propped open.
- Not wandering around outside: Oh yes, you can be that creeper lurking around the neighborhood! We did a lot of this by going back during the day, but it’s good to go around at night too. Walk around the full perimeter of the house and take notes. On the houses we forgot to walk around, we had to use Google StreetView and the listing photos to piece together the details, which isn’t ideal. Things to look at: How many outlets are there, where are the faucets, and how sturdy is the deck? Where’s the air conditioning unit located, and is it in good condition? How have the neighbors kept up their property? We went back in the day to the property we were interested in and found there was a large city electrical service box on the lawn. While it didn’t bother us, it was good to know!
House shopping is both fun and entirely exhausting. Do your best to keep your wits about you and pay attention to each and every house – and hopefully you’ll find your house!