by Karina Ballantyne, DRE # 02102603
Browsing homes for sale on Zillow is nothing new.
Until Covid-19 changed our lives, it was akin to window shopping (or daydreaming) for many buyers. The evolution of our SiP lifestyles has brought marked changes in the process of investigating potential properties. Weekend open houses may turn out to be a thing of the past (strangers waltzing around for a few hours, breathing and touching things? Not happening right now – which may be a relief for many sellers). In case you missed it, homes are currently shown by appointment only with your realtor, release forms are signed, and attendees are limited. These modifications to how business is done has not stopped or even slowed down the local real estate market (quite the contrary actually), and my hunch is that the new MO might just be serving time-crunched buyers even better than the old ways. While there is no replacement for actually stepping foot inside of a property, here are the techniques that may continue to benefit buyers by saving them time and energy in the post-Covid years to come (and they can’t come soon enough!).
- Read those inspections as if you’re writing an offer.
Thanks to thorough agents helping their sellers get the pest, home, roof, and sewer inspections performed prior to listing; it’s possible to peek behind the walls prior to even stepping foot on a property. If you know your red flags, your limits, and your budget, you can sidestep projects you aren’t ready for. I was a tenant liaison and maintenance supervisor for a large property management and construction company in my college town of Isla Vista at UCSB. Some of the strangest leaks, breakages, backups, and destruction came across my desk – especially after a rowdy weekend! Understanding the size, scope, and seriousness of maintenance and improvement projects can influence decision making prior to moving forward on a property. A few minutes of reviewing these reports with your agent can save you time and/or worse: falling completely in love with a home only to later realize after reviewing reports that it’s a real money pit.
- Google Maps and Google Earth are your friends!
Want to know how long the walk to the beach is from a prospective property? Or whether that beach is long, sandy, gorgeous, or rocky? How about whether your neighbor is hoarding old boxes in their backyard, or breeding exotic animals in cages? Google it. Recently, my family and I purchased a home sight-unseen and since the property was across the Pacific Ocean we couldn’t get there to view it in person. We relied heavily on Google Earth to help us get to know a neighborhood we’d never been to; and were able to check out the proximity of neighbors, walking trails, beaches, and restaurants, all from the comfort of the couch. I’m happy to report the amazing technology served its purpose as nearly every visible detail is discernible – what a time to be alive!
- Lean on a local agent.
There’s no better way to get the inside scoop on the nuances of neighborhoods, and an informed, professional perspective.
- Take a leap of faith.
In today’s market you may only get a 30 minute viewing appointment and a day or two to decide prior to the offer deadline. You’re likely to be competing with other buyers, so it’s good to know where you stand financially and emotionally prior to getting involved with the process. Being as prepared as possible when going into the showing appointment (by using the aforementioned techniques) may be a wise strategy for you when time is of the essence. My first home was purchased as a short sale after a deal fell through, and we had to act quickly (think, same day decision) before it went into foreclosure. I had never been inside, hadn’t seen any reports or disclosures, and made the decision from the backyard whilst peeking into windows. I would not necessarily recommend this technique given the information and tools you are likely to have at your fingertips these days! That said, the decision turned out to be incredibly positive, brought a roof over my head, and was chock full of many “learning experiences.” Moral of the story: nimble evaluation and fast action is sometimes necessary, and if you take the leap it can lead to fun homeownership adventures.
No property is perfect on paper or in person, and every home requires regular TLC to remain a sanctuary. Reviewing inspections with a trained eye, modern day technology, and trusting your gut can prepare you for the life-changing decision of purchasing a home. Given the circumstances of our current safety process and our fast paced market, doing your homework can bring you confidence and save you time (and perhaps sanity) when scoring your dream abode – no pants necessary.