The Everything Guide To Viewing A House-

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I am absolutely in love with learning and sharing all things real estate. I’m an agent for Jacaranda Real Estate In Harare, Zimbabwe. This blog will be the ultimate resource for all things real estate so subscribe and stay tuned.

Table of Contents

How To View A House // What Happens When You View A Property // House Viewing Expectations // House Viewing Etiquette // How Many Houses Should You View.

How do you view a house?

In my time working in real estate as an agent I’ve come to see a trend in people when it comes to understanding the procedures and expectations of visiting a house or property on sale.

To begin with, there are only 3 traditional ways to view a house; Open Houses, Private Viewings and Digital Tours.

  1. Open houses.

What is an open house?

This is a scheduled date and time frame where a property that is being sold is open for viewing from the public. This is done to attract prospective buyers who are now more inclined to make an offer for the home because they’ve seen it.

Most homeowners will advertise when they are planning to host their open house either on flyers, their agent’s and Broker’s website or on an MLS.

  • Private viewings.

What are Private viewings?

These occur when an individual or a small group of individuals requests or is invited to look to at the property on a closed-door basis. Private viewings are usually given to qualified buyers who wish to inspect the property with evaluators to check for defects and issues.

  • Digital tours.

What are Digital tours?

Technology has made viewing properties as easy as having an internet connection and a smart device. There are 3 main avenues to host digital tours which are the following;

  • YouTube; homeowners and agents can record and upload pre-made tours of a property.
  • Online streaming services such as Instagram Live or UStream allow for live videos of a property where viewers can interact with the streamer.
  • Virtual tour cameras and services allow individuals to explore 360-degree angles of the properties and individual rooms.

Digital tours are typically posted on the Agent’s and Broker’s website as well as on popular video websites like YouTube. Tours streamed on a live service can also be put on these platforms but without the ability to interact with the host.

The videos are used to provide as much advertising reach of the property as possible and will typically stay up as long as the home is still on the market.

Can I visit a house with a “for sale” sign outside?

Open Houses, Private Viewings and Digital Tours may be the most traditional means of seeing a property but people aren’t locked into just those avenues.

A “for sale” sign can be seen as an open invitation for any prospective buyer.

Just be mindful of the time you are approaching the house as well as be prepared to not take rejection personally; some homeowners may prefer to only allow viewings under the traditional 3 means or when their agent is around.

What Happens When I Go View A Property?

Depending on whether you’re exploring a property through an open house, private viewing or digital tour; there will be specific expectations from the host and you.

As a whole, when you go visit a property for sale; you are allowed and expected to explore and evaluate any aspect of the property that would otherwise influence your decision to decide to make an offer of purchase.

Limitations on what you can and cannot do are influenced by the way you decide to view the property and whether or not the property is still accommodating the owners at that point.

Viewing An Accommodated Vs An Empty Property

Regardless of your choice to visit a house through an open house, private viewing or digital tour; you will either be exploring an accommodated or empty property.

An accommodated home still has people living in it and as such the property is likely fully or partially furnished with furniture, utilities, clothing, and personal belongings.

An empty home has no one living it, in such a case, the property may not be furnished at all or it may be furnished with “window dressing” intention; to make it easier for prospects to imagine living there.

House Viewing Expectations.

Level of Ability ToOpen House Viewing ExpectationPrivate Viewing ExpectationsDigital Tour Viewing expectations
Freely Explore?HighVery HighMedium To Low
Ask Questions?MediumHighLow
Property Guide?Medium to LowHighMedium To High
Check For Defects?Medium To HighHigh To Very HighLow
Accessibility?Medium To HighMedium To LowVery High

Open House Viewing Expectations:

1. Exploring the property.

In an open house scenario, visitors are will typically be given a general layout of the property such as information and location of bedrooms, bathrooms and other points of interest.

The agent in charge is unlikely to give detailed tours because they have to stay up front to greet new visitors.

2. Asking questions to the host.

These are often agent run viewings where the property owner is most likely not present. Agents are present to offer answers to questions that visitors might have but since the open house is open to the public during a specific time; they may not be proactive with everyone.

If you have any house questions go up and ask the present agent.

3. Being guided through the property.

It’s rare for open houses to have a guide, the present will be available to answer any questions visitors might have but will not commonly give a tour of the property to any single individual or group unless at the very start or end of the open house.

4. Checking for defects around the property.

Your ability to scout and evaluate property defects during an open house is present but limited. These limitations are influenced by whether or not the property is empty or accommodated.

An empty property is easier to evaluate for defects as you will have open access to thoroughly check the property.

An accommodated property can be problematic as not only will there be furniture in the property that obscures proper evaluations but you also won’t be able to check most locations where the owners have their property such as in wardrobes, cupboards and closet spaces.

5. Accessibility.

Open houses are mostly very accessible even though they are time and date specific and you have to physically travel to the location.

Private Viewing Expectations:

1. Exploring the property.

Private viewings have all the exploration of an open house with potential added privileges of accessing zones of concern such as the roof, ceiling and any other inconvenient or locked off areas.

This is typically the case when qualified buyers or individuals who have made an offer on the property want to privately view the property to evaluate it with a specialist.

2. Asking questions to the host.

Both the owner and the agent are likely to be present during a private viewing; allowing you to gain more detailed information on the property.

3. Being guided through the property.

The present agent or property owner is more inclined to give a tour of the property during a private viewing as there are fewer individuals who are easier to organize.

Being guided through the property allows you to have a more detailed explanation of the property which can give deeper insight to novelties and specifics of the property that may have otherwise been missed without a tour.

4. Checking for defects around the property.

Private viewings offer the highest degree of access to the property for invited visitors, this is because viewings are typically done on a one on one basis; the owners and agent in charge don’t have to be overly cautious with restrictions for security reasons.

It’s also the case that in the case of a qualified buyer or a buyer who has already made an offer for the property; they are given as much insight as they want to make them comfortable to proceed with the sale.

5. Accessibility.

Private viewings are the least accessible option for viewing a property. In many cases, owners may only allow a limited number of private viewings to individuals who have either been qualified by the agent or have made an offer on the property.

This to alleviate the stress of constantly having people come in and out of your home at inconvenient times.

Digital Tour Viewing expectations For:

1. Exploring the property.

Digital touring will typically have the most limited opportunity to explore the property because you are restricted to only seeing what has already been pre-planned for you to see.

You will also most likely be limited to a singular viewing angle that may be obstructed by furniture, photo frames and other means of furnishing.

2. Asking questions to the host.

The ability to ask questions is also most restricted in the digital tour format. Most digital tours are pre-recorded; which makes it impossible to ask questions at the moment for a fast response.

In the case of live tours, guests are typically put in a lobby that can have hundreds of people in it; questions can be asked but only a few individuals will get their questions answered due to time constraints.

3. Being guided through the property.

Digital tours whether live or not will often offer information on key points of the property, to ensure that the guest is aware of areas of importance that can positively influence their buying decision.

Virtual tours where you navigate the home on a smart device are more limited in this regard but most agents offering this service with put a description of key items somewhere on the page.

4. Checking for defects around the property.

This is a big disadvantage for digital tours, agents are unlikely to show you any defects that can negatively influence your buying decision of the property.

The fact that you are also restricted to seeing what you are shown, makes it impossible to further do research of your own on the service.

5. Accessibility.

Digital tours are the cheapest and most accessible way to view a home if they are offered by the agent or homeowner. All you typically need is an internet connection and smart device to access the service.

There is the bonus feature that the digital tour once uploaded; will be available for viewing at your convenience so long as the property is for sale.

House Viewing Etiquette.

A quick guide for how to act when viewing a property:

1. For open houses; arrive within the specified time.

If you come early, not everything may be set up properly and after the time; the agent and the homeowner may be having a meeting to discuss how the open house went.

On all other occasions, you are free to ask for a private viewing at a time that’s convenient for you.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Regardless of the format, you view the property; if there is an opportunity to ask questions and you have a question, you should ask. This is a very important investment for you and you are entitled to questions.

Be aware that if you participate in a digital tour, not all questions can be answered.

3. Please follow house viewing restrictions.

This is especially the case for open houses of an accommodated property. The family still lives there and it is important to respect their property even if it means you can’t check the state of the wardrobe. Ask, never assume.

Damage or theft of any of the homeowners’ property is punishable under law and will just generally cause a bad day for everyone.

4. If you move it, move it back when you’re done.

A lot of pre-planned window dressing goes into presenting a property for viewing if you want to look behind the sofa or move a pillow or two to sit on; put it back as it was when you are done.

5. Be respectful to the owner of the property.

In most viewing scenarios, the owner won’t be present and you may voice any concerns about the state of the property to them. It is their job to give feedback tactfully to the owner.

If the owner is present, be aware that you don’t know the reason they are selling the property and pointing out that a window is broken or the property is in a terrible state won’t make anyone feel good.

If the owner is running the open house, you can treat them as an agent.

6. The bathroom is just for show (unless you’re desperate, then ask).

Everything in the house; for an open house scenario, is window dressed for display purposes only. The services of the property aren’t meant to be used.

Think of it as a showroom.

7. Dress accordingly.

You won’t be turned away from an open house if you come in your pajamas but you will be taken as seriously as a person who comes to an open house in pajamas deserves to be taken seriously.

8. Inform the agent if you’re represented or not.

All forms of viewings that are run by agents are a twofold job for them. One, to help sell the property and Two, to advertise their services for the next home buyer or seller.

There is an unwritten law to not actively solicit someone else’s client in a real estate agent world. If you are represented by another agent; just politely clarify it to the agent.

10. Make an offer.

If you like it, make an offer. Negotiations can’t begin if you don’t take a step forward. You never know how much the other guy offered but if you don’t leap for what you want, you could miss the opportunity for your dream home.

How many houses should you look at before buying?

Now that you know the 3 possible avenues to view a property, what to expect from those avenues and how to behave when you visit a property. The last question to answer is “just how many properties should your view when you want to buy a property?”

The average buyer will look between 4 – 8 homes before making a decision. Though variety is good when making a buying decision, and though it may sound cliché; you should view as many properties as you need to, until you find one that clicks with you. This could be the 1st home or the 100th.

Just keep the following 4 statements in mind:

1. Know your absolutes!

What must the property have to be viable for you (how many bedrooms, how many bathrooms and how big a yard). This is specific to you

2. Know your budget!

You essentially have 2 budgets at your disposal; your peak budget that would exhaust the entire amount you have dedicated to buying a home. This is for the “perfect property” that needs no renovations and has everything you need

And your “fixer-upper budget.” For the home with potential, where if the price was dropped enough to compensate you enough for the time and renovation cost you’d need to put into the property.

3. Know the neighborhood!

Does the neighborhood offer all the amenities you would need at a reasonable distance? Shopping centers, medical centers, police stations, schools, etc.

4. Know your gut!

Trust yourself when you find a property you love. Make your offer and call me to get all the paperwork sorted out.

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I am absolutely in love with learning and sharing all things real estate. I’m an agent for Jacaranda Real Estate In Harare, Zimbabwe. This blog will be the ultimate resource for all things real estate so subscribe and stay tuned.