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If you ask any home buyer how they started on the road to buying a home you’ll probably get the same response, “We started going out to see open houses on the weekend”.

While going out to open houses is really fun and enjoyable it really will not get you any closer to buying a home.

Did you know that only 2% of homes get sold through an open house? The other 98% of home buyers buy homes after seeing other homes on the market with Realtors because most homes do not have open houses on the weekends.

So why go out to open houses then? Because going out to see homes does serve a purpose, it allows you to see what is available on the market and helps you in the planning process of buying a home. By seeing the homes on the market it gives you realistic idea of what you will be able to buy in terms of square footage, remodels, home styles, and neighborhood (which includes school, safety, parks, libraries, etc).

Since chances are you won’t be buying any of the homes that you see over the weekend what are some of the other things you should be paying attention to?

Neighborhood is one of the most important things to check out while looking at open houses because you dont get to see this through online photos on sites like Zillow or Trulia. To understand if a neighborhood would fit you and your lifestyle check out my previous post Is This Neighborhood Right For You.

Once you actually get to the home take note of its surroundings. Is it a busy street, is it tucked into the neighborhood, is it noisy, and how are the nearby lot sizes of homes. If there are neighbors around feel free to ask them how they like the neighborhood, how long most of the neighbors have lived there, whether they have kids (if that’s important to you) and if they have any information about the home that the sellers may not want you to know.

Pay attention to the journey to the home since this will probably be the same route you take to and from the highway. Distances to work and school are also important because they will factor into your daily commute, something that is pretty hard to change once you buy the home.

Once you get inside the home take your time and walk through the entire home, garage, and backyard. It can take less than 15 minutes to walk through most homes, but don’t feel rushed. Look out the window, sit on the couch, don’t dwell on photos and other personal effects in the home. Picture yourself there, not someone else. Peek around corners and under carpets, you never know when you may find damage such as water damage or stains.

Not all the input from a visit should be visual. For condos and townhomes it is appropriate to ask about building financials. The open house also gives you a chance to learn more about the building itself. Buyers should not hesitate to pose questions to people in the common areas. What are the doorman’s hours? What are the neighbors like? Why is the HOA charge so high, if it seems to be?

Open houses can be lot of hard work and there’s a lot of information, but they’re a great opportunity to be on your own schedule.

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Because of the many legal and tax situations that can arise through the sale and purchase of real estateALWAYS consult with your ATTORNEY or ACCOUNTANT before making ANY decisions in ANY transaction

* THIS ARTICLE WAS POSTED AT Thomas Feng’s Bay Area Connect *