Going to open homes can be a fun part of the home buying process. You get to wander around someone else’s house and imagine owning it. However, it’s also easy to get distracted by day dreams, and overlook the realities of each property.
A new home, to you, can have decades of issues and possibly a few missing features that get overshadowed by one or two halo draw cards. You might love the house with a pool, but can you handle the fact it doesn't have a bath? Do you really need multiple rumpus rooms and a tennis court? The open home circuit can be incredibly exciting, but also daunting for first timers.
Many seasoned home sellers know that a few easy to add touches can distract a buyer from other things that could become a red flag. In this article we will help you identify 8 things you should do before going to your first open home.
1. Create a list of features you need or want
You can use this to assist in your decisions later about what you're willing to compromise on.
If you're buying on your own then you may find it easier to compile this list, but creating one is still important. You don't want to overlook a 'must have' for a 'wow my friends will be impressed by that' feature. If you're buying with someone else then make sure you go over the real priorities you both have, and ask whether there are areas for compromise.
Take this list with you and make sure you don't budge on the absolutely essential features you need to keep everyone involved happy. Also remember that you're buying this house for you, not your friends or relatives - they may love a feature but you have to live with it!
2. Consider who you go with carefully
If you take someone with you to an open home, ensure they'll help by being confident, objective and a useful sounding board. If the person is going to be detrimental, imposing their view on you, then they might not be so useful.
You may feel obliged to take a family member along, but if they're only going to give subjective feedback and not think of your needs then consider whether they're the best person to tag along. If you know someone that has some sort of house buying knowledge, building experience or real estate passion then they can be a great asset at this time.
3. Understanding your budget
"Let's just have a look at this one, we might be able to afford it one day!"
It can be fun to look at your dream house but it can also negatively affect your house buying process by setting unrealistic expectations that your budget can't meet yet.
Instead of ruining your future home by comparing it to the dream, control yourself and only look at homes within your budget. Comparing apples with apples is the best way of seeing whether your future home is the best option against the rest of the market. It can also be tempting to stretch your budget, but remember that mortgage payments will creep upwards as your price brackets do too! Is it worth pushing yourself into a nicer home if you have to move out after 12 months and downsize to something more affordable?
This is when it's a good idea to sit down with a mortgage broker to discuss your financial options.
4. Make a schedule
A lot of open homes are on a Saturday or Sunday, with a surprising majority on the latter. You may also find it surprising how many are around a similar time - and this can prove challenging when you're trying to make the most of a house hunting day.
Try to group the open homes into areas or suburbs, especially if your search for a new home covers a wide area. Whereas some home owners and real estate agents may allow a late arrival to still have a little look, you don't want to push your luck. Likewise the police are unlikely to be forgiving if you're speeding from house to house in an attempt to cram them all in.
It's a little known fact that missing an open home isn't the end of the world. Contact the real estate agent if you couldn't make it and see if they're able to swing an out of hours showing during the week.
5. Go to the first weekend of open homes
Try and make it to the first weekend of an open home. If the property hasn't been listed for very long, or if they're still waiting to get photos online then you may find you're amongst a smaller group of viewers.
That way, if you're really keen on a place, you've got time to see it again. You've also got more time to do your 'due diligence' such as reading the property reports, conducting inspections and getting your finance and legal paperwork sorted.
Don't let the lack of photos put you off. They're not necessarily trying to hide an ugly feature and the missing imagery could just be on their list of things to do!
6. Take the pamphlets away with you
This is crucial, especially if you are going to multiple open homes in one day. These pamphlets usually have all the information you need.
Real Estate agents normally have a range of materials available for you to pick up at the open home and take away with you. It's best to grab it as soon as you enter the home and remember to take a pen so you can make your own notes about the property as you go.
Even if the property doesn't make it to the short list you can look back over your notes to see what you did or didn't like, which is important for future viewings. After a full day of open home viewings you might find they blend into one and the pamphlets can help you collect your thoughts afterwards.
7. Is there a Body Corporate? If so, what are the fees?
This is usually only relevant if you were looking to buy into a larger unit title development or an apartment. Unit titles (and Strata titles) are a form of ownership for a multi-unit complex, such as apartments, townhouses or units.
Decisions about certain aspects of the complex are made by the Body Corporate (body corp) as a collective. Because things like maintenance, repairs or in some instances insurance are organised for the whole complex, you'll usually be required to pay an annual levy (the body corp fees). You may find that you can speak to someone that's already part of the body corp to see whether agreements are free flowing and the process painless, or if there's someone putting the brakes on most decisions. Often you can access the body corp 'Minutes' of previous meetings to see what deferred maintenance or other issues are prevalent - just ask your Real Estate agent.
8. Enjoy and have an open mind
This is the most important tip of them all - have fun !
Buying a home is a special occasion, especially if it's your first one so make sure you enjoy the process. Yes it can be stressful and a little daunting but it's also a right of passage for some people. You become a homeowner and you can finally make the place you live your own.
Use the tips above to help guide you through the process but ultimately the decision is yours. Try and keep a sprinkling of rationality and pragmatism in mind with each house you look at. Try to find its flaws, but also try to see its potential. Imagine the things you could do to make it better, but love it for what it is as well.
Educating yourself as much as possible is a good idea. Downloading free resources such as our "Ultimate Guide to First Home Buyers" is a great took which talks about the process of buying your first home. Click here to download today.
It's never too early to speak to a mortgage advisor, but booking a free chat with one at about the same time as you start to flick through the Property Press or look on TradeMe is the best time.
A mortgage broker will help you understand a price range, and will put you in contact with other partners in the buying process. And when you find your dream home, in the perfect price bracket you can negotiate knowing what you can afford.
For many desirable homes it's the first one in that gets the best chance of owning it. Having a 'pre-approval' in place can mean you can pounce on that dream property! And if it takes you a little while to find your home, that pre-approval can still be there, ready for when you find it.
So click here to book your FREE, no obligation meeting with one of our local mortgage brokers. You don't know until you ask!