Whether you are just starting your home search or just about ready to buy, Open Houses provide you with the opportunity to learn about a variety of local housing markets; differing ages, styles and upgrades of houses; and the defining qualities and conveniences of the diverse cities, towns and neighborhoods across our National Capital region. Along the way, you can see some houses that you may never be able to afford to live in, and some you definitely don’t want to live in!
So, after the open house tour on a Sunday afternoon, what do you do next?
Start a file system for the search. For those who are just starting to look, make a hard-copy or e-folder of the information and marketing sheets of the houses you saw that day. Using my Sold By Cathi Open House Scorecard, post-it-notes (or a spread sheet for those more organized and/or nerdy!), write down your impressions of the houses and the neighborhood and stick or staple them to the marketing sheets. If you did not get an information sheet, you can go on my website (www.soldbycathi.com) and do a search for the property you saw, and print or download the spec sheet. If there are pictures, print and attach them or upload them into the file. Staple a week’s worth together and file them, noting the date on the top. You may think that you will remember the details, but after the first few weekends out, the houses will start to run together. It is helpful to use the scoring system of 1 to 5 as you go. Also, include in your notes whether you want to buy a house JUST LIKE that one. If you are just beginning to look, that one won’t be there in six to nine months, but the notes will help you remember what you really loved about a specific house.
For those who are more seriously looking (one to four months out), in addition to all of the above, it’s a great idea to Google the neighborhoods you are considering. Check out the Home Owners’ Association websites and, if schools are important, the neighborhood schools’ websites. Check things like walkability scores and the presence of dog and kid parks, recreation centers and proximity to shopping. Create a hard- or e-file for each of the neighborhoods you are seriously considering.
Ask your Realtor® to suggest other sources of information, such as long-term planning and zoning information that might predict a new road or additional development, which could either be good news (a new Wegmans!) or bad news (a new manufacturing site). It’s also a great idea to visit the neighborhood at different times of the day and week to look at variations in traffic patterns, especially during rush hour which you won’t see on a Sunday from 1 to 4.
Don’t have a Realtor®? Then, there is the age-old question: when should I get a Realtor®? Contrary to what some people think, we are not here to pester you or talk you into buying a house you don’t want or before you are ready. I run my business on relationships and referrals, so my goal is for you to like and trust me, not run away and hide from me!
As a Realtor®, I can bring information on properties before they go on the market; get up-to-the-minute new and updated listings in your search area delivered directly to your email; and provide important perspective and expertise in making and negotiating offers. Plus, when I am working with you, I bring access to well-vetted vendors, from lenders and home inspectors, to settlement companies and movers to reduce stress and increase success in moving your home search process from the open house to the offer, then to the closing and, ultimately, getting the keys and moving into your new home.
So, before the next Open House, set up your home search filing system, Google the HOA and consider engaging a Realtor® as your buyer agent/advocate.
And, I hope when you choose your Realtor®, it will be me.