Photos and text only tell one side of the story. To deduce whether a property is right for you, it is wise to see it in the flesh. Some people do buy a property “off-plan” or without bothering to view it first, but this is a huge risk.
Property inspections give you an opportunity to see if a property matches up to the listing. You can wander around under your own steam, without or without a property agent providing a running commentary about “how versatile the space is” or “how the property is just made for growing families”.
Open houses and closed property inspections really are the best way to narrow down a list of potential homes, but you must approach them in the right manner. It is easy to be seduced by tasteful décor and carefully staged homes. After all, that’s the whole point of the exercise, at least from the vendor/s perspective!
If you allow yourself to be swept away by a beautiful property, you might end up overlooking critical problems or dismissing issues that could come back to bite you once you move in. For this reason, it is vital that you retain a cool head. Check out the following list to find out how to make your next property viewings a resounding success.
When it comes to a “dream property”, we all have a wish list. Mine includes an infinity pool and private beach but you might prefer an extensive garden and a six-car garage for your vintage Lamborghini collection. Sadly, in the real world, we have to compromise. It is rare to find a property that ticks every single box on your wish list. Sure, you might find a beautiful family home with four-bedrooms and an open-plan luxury kitchen-diner, conveniently close to a good school, but it’s $50k above your budget. So, what do you do? You compromise.
When creating a wish list, divide it into two sections. One is “deal breakers”, which could include the number of bedrooms you need and a garage for your ute and tools. These are the items you cannot compromise on for whatever reason. If you have teenagers, you will understand that paying a premium for separate bedrooms is worth every cent!
The second half of your wish list are items that are negotiable. These might include a walk-in closet or an outdoor dining area. In other words, it would be nice to have them, but the world will not end if you don’t.
2. Create a Shortlist
Now that you have your wish list, it’s time to create a shortlist of suitable properties. The internet makes it incredibly easy to peruse available homes from the comfort of your armchair, but as we have already touched upon, pictures and blurb don’t always give you the full picture.
If you have very specific requirements, it is worth speaking directly to property agents. They will have visited the properties in their books, so they are in a good position to advise you on which homes might be suitable. They may also let you know about suitable properties not yet on the market.
3. Plan Your Schedule of Viewings
Once you have a shortlist of properties you like the look or sound of, plan your viewing schedule. For open house inspections, you will need to book a slot on a specific day, but if the vendor offers private viewings, there should be greater flexibility.
It’s best to target one neighbourhood at a time. From a logistical point of view, it makes life a lot easier if you are viewing homes within a relatively small geographical area. Plan your schedule so you have enough time to travel between properties and grab a bite to eat on the way. The more you rush around, the less detail you are going to recall about each property.
4. Take Notes and Photos
Memory is a funny thing. By the time you have seen four or five homes, you won’t remember which one had the lovely wallpaper in the master bedroom or the pretty garden terrace.
Give your grey cells a break and take notes as you wander around each property. Use a notepad or app on your smartphone. Supplement your notes with photos of important features.
5. Talk to the Owner or Agent
Make time to talk to the owner or agent and ask them pertinent questions such as how old the air-con system is and where the nearest bus stop is, etc. You might not think these details are important when faced with a stunning ocean view, but if the air-con system breaks down the day you move in, you soon will.
6. Stay Grounded
Don’t let your heart rule your head. Buying a home is a huge financial commitment and you can’t just walk away if it doesn’t work out six months later. Think of the property inspection process as online dating. Sure, you might be blown away by good looks and a persuasive sales pitch, but if the property has hidden defects, things will go downhill pretty fast.
7. Consolidate Your Notes
Review your notes at the end of each day and assign each property a score based on looks, amenities, location, and your gut feeling about the place. Sometimes, we fall in love with a house the moment we step over the threshold because it feels like home. Other times, it can take a second or even third viewing before we spot the potential.
Detailed notes will help you decide which properties are worth a second viewing.
8. Book Second Viewings
Once you have discounted any unsuitable properties, book second viewings. This is an opportunity to dig a little deeper into each property, ask more searching questions, and think harder about whether this property is the right one for you.
Look at the layout of the place and work out whether your furniture is going to fit. Are the bedrooms large enough? Are the bathrooms a bit shabby or does the kitchen need a makeover? Work out how much you are going to have to spend to bring the property up to your standard. Is the owner negotiable on the asking price?
Let the agent know you are keen and ask to be kept in the loop about other offers. It is also helpful to let them have feedback if they ask.
Take along a friend or relative to a second viewing. They will be more objective and therefore more likely to spot problems you may have missed.
9. Research the Local Area and the Neighbours
A property does not sit in splendid isolation unless you are buying a 10,000-acre farm in the Outback. Revisit the neighbourhood at different times of the day or night and make a point of checking out neighbouring properties. If the next-door neighbour has a pack of dogs roaming around, barking all the time, can you live with that?
Wander around, talk to local people, visit the stores and see what kind of vibe you get.
If your first round of property viewings doesn’t yield any results, go back to the drawing board. It may take a while, but eventually, you will find your dream property!