Know Before You Go: Your First Showing

It’s finally here! After the months of just looking online and weeks dodging phone calls from every Realtor whose website you have visited, you’ve finally found THE HOUSE! Now you’re ready to contact an agent and get out there to see it! Here are just a few things to know before you go.

1 . There is a good chance that a particular house is already gone. Sadly, inventory is at a record low in most markets and many houses that are priced appropriately and in decent condition are receiving multiple offers within the first few hours of being listed online. This means that the people that are most likely to get in to see homes are people that are already working with agents.

The logic here is that it takes a couple of hours for a new listing to be pushed to a third-party website, matched to a buyer’s criteria, and emailed to a potential buyer. Most people see the email, make a mental note to ask their partner or family for input that evening, and then plan to call a realtor the next day.

Unfortunately for that passive buyer, there are a bunch of realtors that saw that property the moment it was listed in the MLS, emailed it to their clients, then called or texted their client to tell them about the house or gently reminding them to check their email asap. These folks that have a designated professional scouring the internet for them, while they’re at work or e-learning with their kids, are the ones that are getting in to see homes the second they hit the market and are having the most success today.

This doesn’t mean that you have to wait until the day you are ready to sign a contract to contact an agent. It just means that the inventory you are considering online isn’t guaranteed to be available when you are ready to buy. It is important to remember that the real estate market is different from any other online marketplace. When 123 Main Street sells we can’t just head back to the stockroom to grab another one. Even if the owners of 124 Main Street were thinking about selling, there is no guarantee that you as a buyer would like 124 Main Street as much or that 124 Main Street was built with the features that your family needs.

The best course of action is to connect with an agent early and often, I would suggest about 4–6 weeks before your target moving date. Let them know your timeline for moving, what you are looking for, and any potential concerns you have. A good agent will appreciate the opportunity to be fully prepared to serve you to the best of their ability.

2. A Good Agent Will Require You to be Pre-approved Prior to Scheduling Showings. I have had a lot of people tell me that they are waiting to find a home they like to get preapproved. Unfortunately, most sellers will require a pre-approval letter prior to showings for safety and security reasons. Even before the age of Covid-19, most sellers prefer to keep foot traffic in their home to a minimum by limiting showings to buyers that are ready, willing, and able to buy the home. As agents, we are ethically bound to respect these wishes and a preapproval letter is the best way to ensure that a buyer is able to purchase a property.

More importantly, as a buyer, it is crucial that your agent be aware of your preapproval status and your target price range. Just because the bank says you are approved for a $400,000 home doesn’t mean you are comfortable with the monthly payment on a $400,000 mortgage. Take the time to ask your lender what your payments will look like at each price point, and take some time to see what price range balances your budget with the finishes you appreciate. Once you have determined your ideal price point you are ready to start scheduling showings… Because trust me, it is hard to look at a $200k property objectively if you are comparing it to a $400k property you saw last week.

3. Showings — The Logistics. A lot of clients aren’t sure exactly how sowings work logistically. Who drives? How long do we get? What time of day is best? I fully intend to dig deeper into this subject with a future blog post but I’ll cover the highlights here.

Typically a buyer and agent will meet at the property at the designated time. In most instances this will not be the first time you meet your agent. A good agent that cares about your search and guiding you through the process should offer to meet you at their office prior to showings. After all how can they help you find your home if they don’t know what you are looking for? We have already discussed the fact that most homes are selling within hours of hitting the market so chances are that you and your agent will be viewing more than just this home together. This initial meeting is an opportunity to interview your agent to find out if they’re the type of person you wish to work with. Do they take the time to hear what is important to you? Are they able to answer your questions about timelines and contingencies? This is a long process it is important to find an agent that you know, like, and trust to represent you on this journey.

Sellers typically allow appointments to be anywhere from 15–60 minutes in length. An hour may not seem like a lot of time but, in most instances, people know within the first 10–15 minutes if a home will suit their needs or not. After all, there is no sense in spending an extra 45 minutes in a house if your car doesn’t fit in the driveway.

4. Start With Three. — A lot of people think that to make the day “worth it” they have to see as many houses as possible. In fact the opposite is often true. I generally advise clients to see no more than 3 or 4 homes at a time. Most clients tell me that the more homes they look at the more they all start to blend together and at the end of the day people often forget which homes had what features. Furthermore, with properties selling as quickly as they are it is entirely possible that house #9 is your dream house but you may not see it if they get an accepted offer while you are still driving across town to look at the other 8 houses.

My advice to clients in a fast moving market is to be as intentional as possible about showings. If you know that 123 Main street has everything you love plan on seeing it before moving on to another option that you like but would require renovations or additions. Similarly if you fall in love with the first home you see be prepared to move quickly if you want to make it yours; while you are out looking at two more houses “just to see” the people that saw it an hour ago are heading back to the office to submit an offer.

5. Look Past Their Stuff — A lot of people know intellectually that the seller’s stuff will still be in the home at the showing but still have a tough time imagining the home empty or filled with their personal belongings.

It is important to not be distracted by their beautiful decorations (they aren’t coming with the house) or the color of the cabinets (that’s an easy change). Focus on the floor plan, the room sizes, and the neighborhood. Is there evidence of water damage in the basement? How long would your commute be? Focus on the things that you can’t change to determine if the house suits your needs as well as which projects you are willing and able to complete. It might be easy to knock out a wall and revamp the floor plan but do you want to take on that sort of project?

Keep in mind that houses are built by, lived in, decorated, and renovated by people. There is no such thing as the “Perfect House” just the one that is perfect for you.