Buying a Home - Finding a House

Now the real fun begins.  Of course it’s exciting to be invited to tour all the houses that you’ve been curious about.  Our experience tells us that most buyers can visit 5-7 homes at a time before all the details begin to blur.  Your agent should be doing a good job of narrowing down the possibilities so you will only be shown houses that actually fit your wants and needs.  If the agent was listening carefully at your first meeting you shouldn’t have to hear a sheepish voice in the car, “oh…so your dream home would have a boat house, not an outhouse…”

House Hunting Quick Points

  • Minneapolis house interiorAs you tour a home, your agent will be pointing out details of construction and condition, both good and bad, helping to educate you about mechanical systems including electrical, heating and plumbing, roofing and drainage.  You’ll have a chance to look over a municipal inspection report (in Minneapolis it’s the Truth-in-Sale of-Housing report) and the Seller’s Disclosure in every house you see.  If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask.  Of course knowledge varies by agent, and you’ll have expert help later when you pick a home inspector for the house you’ve chosen—but it’s important that you have a basic understanding of the mechanical systems in a house before you make your choice, since they affect value so greatly.
  • After a few showings you’ll know as you walk through the door when a house just isn’t right for you.  Whether it’s the style, condition, floor plan, or whatever—just save time by leaving as soon as you can, unless your agent thinks you should tour it for learning purposes.
  • Not surprisingly, couples don’t always agree on which house is the best for them.  If this happens to you, make individual lists of what is most important in a house (if you haven’t already done so) and be prepared to compromise, since there really isn’t an infinite supply of houses for you to consider.

Understanding Value

It’s often a pleasant surprise to many agents to see how quickly their clients become adept at determining value.  After a day or two of looking at houses, say, in a given South Minneapolis neighborhood in a given price range, most buyers walking into a home know right away if it’s overpriced.  Minneapolis house interiorAnd they begin to understand when a home seems to be a good value; it still might not be the right one for them, but they’re realistic about what the market has to offer in their price range.  This is probably the most important part of the buyer’s education, since they need to rely on their own sense of value before making an offer.  An important caution: really cute decorating can turn heads, even the heads of Realtors.  Be sure that adorable bungalow has “good bones” (structural integrity) and that the deep work (less exciting stuff such as roof and mechanicals, window glazing, foundation and wall repair, exterior maintenance) has been done as well as the decorating.  If not, make sure you have room in your budget, and look at the purchase as a total package: what will it cost to buy, and fix, this house?

Knowing the Right One

Some buyers end up falling utterly in love with a house, and the choice isn’t hard at all.  For many more, it’s a process of building the right house in their heads, as they tour homes and take a screen porch from one and an open stairway from another, refining and compromising until they find one house that fills more of their wish list than any other.  So it may take only one showing, or it might take dozens, but when buyers find the right house, they know it.  Here begins the excitement/anxiety phase.

Now your agent must keep a level head while you’re losing yours: Is your new-found dream home located well for resale? Any problem neighbors?  Basement dry? Roof and mechanicals OK? What is cited on the Truth-in-sale-of-housing report? The Seller’s Disclosure form?  Could you remodel the kitchen and still come out OK when you sell?  Many questions must be addressed before you can proceed to the checkout counter.  Your agent is critical to helping you clearly understand the commitment you’re making, both for today and for the future when it’s your turn to sell.

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