The process of shopping for a home to buy has undergone changes in the past few years, many of which are positive ones designed to enhance the experience. A good example of this is the fact that buyers no longer have to rely on a printed catalog of homes for sale that may become quickly outdated or having to find that they missed out on the perfect home because it was snapped up within hours of being placed on the market.
Instead, today's home buyers have instant access to the entire inventory of The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) via the internet from the comfort of their home or office. This means they are able to check for new listings and price reductions frequently and utilize technology to help keep them informed about all aspects of the real estate market. When coupled with good viewing skills, these industry changes can help prospective buyers make much more informed buying decisions.
Embrace Automated Real Estate Searches
Listing information that was once available only through a real estate broker can now be found online instantly via the multiple listing system (MLS). Integrated into the MLS system is a search tool that allows users to input specific information and then get access to the results of their customized search criteria.
In addition to currently available homes, MLS site users can also opt to have periodic updates sent to them via email that will include any new listings and status changes that have occurred since the previous report. Because theses searches can be used along with real estate apps for smart phones and tablets, buyers can enjoy more convenient access to this information, even on the most hectic days.
Another improvement in the home buying process is that buyers can use these sources to select a list of homes they most want to see and send the list instantly to their real estate professional. Once the agent has the list, they will be able to make convenient showing arrangements for their clients in a more streamlined manner.
Making Every Viewing Count
Once buyers have decided which homes they would like to view, there are some things they can do to make sure that each viewing is constructive and helpful in their search to find their new home. These include:
- Limiting the viewings to just three or less each day to ensure that the details about each home remain sharp and memorable
- Dressing comfortably for each viewing, including footwear, so that it is possible to concentrate on the home and not worry about uncomfortable shoes
- Asking the real estate agent to bring along information that includes the MLS data, seller's disclosure documents, maps, and other pertinent information about each home being viewed
- Scheduling viewing appointments during daylight hours, if possible, so that it is possible to view the exterior of the home and any outdoor living areas
- Taking a notepad or using a smartphone to record notes or take photos while viewing (make sure to ask your real estate professional to get the seller's permission before taking photos)
- Opting to leave any young children with a relative or sitter while viewing homes so that there are fewer distractions
Looking Past the Aesthetics of a Home during a ViewingWhen you're out in the city looking at homes you’re going to see some beauties. Many of the homes that you'll be viewing will be staged to look their best and most will be immaculate. One of the most important things to have set just right in the home is an aesthetic appeal but you need to look past this and ask questions to make sure that you find a home that doesn't only look fantastic but is completely functional as well.
Ask About The PlumbingAsk if there are any leaking pipes or faucets that aren't working properly in the home. You should also find out when the last time a plumber was called in and the reason for his visit. If there are any types of major plumbing repairs that will need to be done this may drastically impact your decision to purchase.
Look at the Exterior Walls
Materials that cover the walls need to be at least several six inches above the ground. If not, they could be exposed to moisture, insect infestation and mould that aren’t readily visible. Check the exterior structure, regardless of the construction material used, and look for rot, bowing and uneven surfaces by looking down along the edge of the wall from corner to corner. If brick or stone is used, take a close look at the pointing (the mortar between the bricks) to ensure it looks good.
Don't Forget To Find Out About The HeatingThis is, in fact, one of the most important questions you should be asking - especially if you're interested in an older home. There are still houses that are running on electric heat and oil, which can create a tremendous impact on your utility bill budget.
How Old Is The Roof?The average roof can last approximately 25 years before it needs an overhaul. Ask about the age of the roof and whether it has been repaired recently or not.
Take A Look At The WindowsDo the windows look like the newer energy-efficient models or are they showing their age? Drafty windows will also run up your energy bills in the cold of winter. As well, moisture running in through the cracks can lead to a buildup of mold and mildew and ultimately damage the window frames.
Examine the Exterior Foundation
You want to be making sure it looks in top condition and has no major or even minor cracks. Also look for any repair work such as patch jobs which could be very telling. Make sure the foundation looks straight and solid as well. Also, ask the owner whether they have experienced any problems with the foundation.
View the Basement Closely
Note the smell of the basement because you want to be cautious if it smells musty. Also, look for obvious cracks not just along the walls but also the floor, if it is an unfinished basement. If it is finished, you want to look for any visible signs of water stains and mould. If you see any indications of whitening, this might be suggestive of salt minerals which indicate leakage. A home inspector will use a moisture detector to make a more thorough examination.
Has The Wiring Been Inspected Recently?If you are looking at a newer home you won't have to worry about the wiring but in the case of older homes it can cause a problem. Find out how old the wiring is and whether it's been inspected lately for safety reasons. These are some of the questions that you can ask your Calgary real estate agent when you're viewing a home. In some cases you'll have to wait for a home inspector to give you the final word but you should be able to get a general idea about the roof, heating and windows from the agent. The more data you gather about any potential home that you're interested in the better able you'll be to make an informed decision about moving forward with an offer.
How Many Homes Will You Have To Look at before Finding the Right One?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions that real estate agents hear when first talking to a client and there really is no magic number. There have been clients that have looked at only one home and then have decided on the spot to buy it. Others have had to look at multiple homes before finding the right one.
It all depends on the starting point of your search. If you already know the exact type of house you are looking for, the amenities you want to be close to and the location where you’d like to reside it will usually be a faster search. Some clients, especially those that are moving in from out of town, really don't know the different locations in Calgary and need more guidance from their real estate agent to find the right neighborhood to live in.
The thing you can do is to go into the home search with flexibility in terms of the number of homes you'll have to view before finding the perfect one. Since this is going to be one of the biggest purchases of your life, you'll want to be absolutely certain about your new home. It's important that you don't rush into anything blindly, but at the same time you’ll want to end your search as soon as you find the home that you feel you can call your own.
Sometimes looking at too many houses can get extremely confusing - especially if you have seen a home that you like but are looking at other properties "just to make sure." It's usually a good idea to stop looking at homes when you find the right one. If you spend too long house hunting the confusion starts to creep in and it gives others the time to put in an offer. You could end up losing out on the home you really want.
The best rule of thumb to go by is to keep looking until you find the property that you can imagine coming home to every night. When you feel good about a residence and are sure that it's the right one, it's time to stop looking. Let your agent know and put in an offer right away. Houses are moving on the Calgary market quickly and the right time to make a final decision can be a fleeting moment.
Buy a Home in Calgary Today
After every viewing, it is important to take a few moments to let your real estate professional know what you liked or disliked about each home, as well as any concerns about condition issues or other potential problems you may have noted. Doing this will be helpful in honing your search process and making your purchase process even more productive.
Justin Havre is the top producing REALTOR® with RE/MAX First, Canada's very first RE/MAX brokerage. Calgary real estate is his passion; Justin specializes in Southwest & Northwest Calgary homes for sale. He can be reached at 403.217.0003 or contacted through this site.