Most buyers begin their search for a new home online. Internet listings, like those on FSBO, provide invaluable information about each house’s layout, design, amenities — even the character of the surrounding neighborhood. The unquestionable stars of the show, however, are your listing photos.
Buyers may want to be treated to a virtual tour before they commit to actually visiting a property for further inspection. But, no matter how comprehensive an online listing may be, nothing matches the experience of standing inside (and outside) and experiencing it for yourself.
If you’re buying a home, home tours are probably high on your to-do list. While most sellers will hold open houses on weekends, you might consider requesting one in “off” hours. Doing so will provide you with a different view of your prospective purchase. How different, though? More importantly, and why does it matter? Consider these 5 reasons.
Get a better idea of traffic.
Traffic is a major quality-of-life issue. But a home tour on a Sunday afternoon is hardly going to give you an idea how busy the residential streets around the property can be, especially during peak hours. Not to mention the traffic you can expect on your commute to and from what might be your new address.
Request a visit during the week, perhaps around 6 PM, so you can get a realistic idea of what you’ll be facing when coming home from work or running errands.
Experience location in a different way.
Taking a home tour on a weekday can really reveal what “location” means for the home you’re considering. How well-cared-for are the rest of the homes on the block? What makes the neighborhood itself stand out? What’s a typical morning here like? What happens after dark? Take note of any safety concerns that arise during your visit. Remember: even if you don’t schedule a formal home tour, you can always scout out its surroundings.
See light in different hours.
It might seem negligible, but how light enters and moves through a house is a huge component in making a house feel like home. Know the orientation of the home. Which rooms face east, west, north and south, and how does that affect how comfortable you feel in different areas of the house? Does the morning sun shine directly onto your pillow? What if the glare from corner streetlight means you can never open the curtains in the living room? These might not seem to be deal-breakers, but they can be the worst kind of surprises — unpleasant.
You can get basic room measurements from online listings, as well as overall square footage. But if you have an individual showing during an off time, you will have more time to take a few specific measurements that might come in handy. This especially applies to closets, storage areas and any rooms you anticipate you might be converting (say, from a spare bedroom to a home office).
Have a more personal experience.
Open houses can be crowded affairs. You may be only one of many potential buyers at a weekend open house. All that coming and going may even interfere with your ability to take pictures and notes. Scheduling a home tour during off hours will give you a chance to have a more relaxed, intimate experience of the home. You can ask the homeowner questions and perhaps spend extra time in each room.
A home purchase is a major investment, one you don’t want to rush into. Besides, if you do end up loving the home, establishing a more personal relationship with the seller is never a bad thing.
Buying a house is a truly life-changing experience, and home tours are just one of many tools that can help you make a sound decision. Getting your sneak preview in during off hours might be the key to your making the most competitive offer and scoring your dream home