What To Do and Not To Do When Touring a House


I will give you real world advise using real  examples that I personally have encountered.  Buying a home is probably the largest financial decision you’ll ever make, it’s best to approach this process with knowledge and confidence. Touring a home is your first step and one of the most important parts of the homebuying process. So how do you ensure you’re making the most of these visits?

The first step is knowing what you want when buying a home and what to look for. There’s a lot to take in when visiting a home for the first time. So, have a strategy that helps you properly determine whether the home is a good fit for you. If you’re already touring properties, it’s safe to assume that you’re satisfied with the location, schools, price and bed/bath count of the home.

So, what are the other factors that you should (or shouldn’t) take into consideration when making a decision on a home? Personal preferences aside, there are some factors you shouldn’t pay too much attention to and some you most definitely should pay attention to when touring a home. Keep reading to find out more.

This guide provides home buyers an overview of 9 Thing you should consider when viewing a home, 4 things you shouldn’t worry about and 5 great questions to ask. Coupled with a Flat Fee Guru’s professional agent to guide you, this approach can help you buy your home at the best price, with the least hassle. This guide was written by Rob Rose, a real estate veteran who has sold over 600 homes in California and flipped over 200 home.

 9 Thing you should consider when viewing a home

1. Neighborhood – Neighbors

2. Interior Oder

3. Foundation Issues

4. Fixtures & Systems

5. Damage or Negligence 

6. Too Much Scent

7. Bad Ventilation

8. Other Buyers

9. How Many Homes are For Sale in That Neighborhood




100% True Story – Before we got into the real estate business, my wife Angie and I bought our first home when we were 23 years old in Dublin California. My ego was in the way and I refused any advise from people WAY smarter than I was at the time. I, like an idiot, worked with a terrible realtor who took advantage of our lack of knowledge. Long story short, we bought a home that had horrible next door neighbors, I am not kidding you, the worst neighbors you could imagine. I once saw the mother, fist fighting her daughter in law in the middles of the street, thats just one of hundreds of stories . Our agent hide a disclosure from the sellers disclosing the neighborhood issues. So #1 Neighborhood and Neighbors is very real for me and from that day forward, I would literally interview neighbors before I would buy a house, investment, flip or a home I’m going to move my family into…I Want To Know Who My Neighbors Are!

When you buy a home, you’re also buying neighbors too. Look carefully at the people you might be living next to (this includes any homes that border the backyard as well).

How well do they maintain their house and yard? Do they have any children or pets? Are those pets outside barking right now? Is their trash put away neatly or is it flowing all over the yard? Are there lots of cars in the driveway?

If you think you might make an offer on this home, go for a walk to get a feel for the neighborhood. Knock on a few doors and talk to the neighbors. Ask them how they like living there, what the neighborhood is like, and anything they know about the home you just toured. Is there anything they wish they’d known about the neighborhood before they moved in?

You might uncover some enlightening information by simply talking to the people already living there.

It’s also important to visit the neighborhood on different days, and at and different times, especially weekends. You’ll want to find out beforehand if you’d be living next to a late-night party animal.

# 2 Interior Oders

Some oders can be virtually impossible to get out without a lot of work. I once bought a condo in Walnut Creek California at a trustee sale acution (you cant get into the home until after you buy it). The cigarette resin was so think throughout the home, I at first thought the windows were tinted…it wasn’t tint. We ended up having to gut the home includeing replacing all the HVAC ducting, in order to get the smell out. I know thats extrem, but i had the same thing happen with a condo in San Ramon except it was cooking oder. Some cooking spices turn to oil, the oil gets into the steam, that steam can go everywhere.
Sometimes, you need to rely on your other senses when touring a home. Your nose can actually help you uncover certain issues a home may have. Mold and mildew are two problems that you can actually detect by smell. The smell of mold is similar to that of wet socks while mildew tends to give off a less intense “musty” odor. Depending on the severity of the issue, letting it continue could be hazardous to your health and resolving it could be hazardous to your wallet.

Cigarette and pet smells might seem trivial; however, these odors can cling to the walls and ceiling of a home, especially if the sources were present in the home for an extended period of time. In these cases, the odors might not dissipate without considerable time and effort (or even professional assistance). Fragrances are often used to mask these odors so the excessive use of candles, diffusers and sprays could be less about setting the mood and more about hiding a smelly problem with the home.

# 3 Foundation Issues

People freak out when they see a crack, some can be serious but most are superficial. If you see jaggedy cracks that you can stick a quarter into, question it but don’t run yet.
Most houses have hairline cracks, which simply indicate that the house is settling into position, but large gaps signal a bigger issue with the house foundation, . Other tipoffs: sticking doors or windows, visible cracks above window frames, and uneven floors. How do you know if the floors are uneven? Roll a marble from one side to the other.  But heres the thing, many older homes are not going to have even floors. My wife and I love and will only live in older ranch style homes. Our current home was leaning 6″ in one direction and 4″ in another direction when we bought it. We fixed it and for the most part our floors are level but they are far from perfect.
Look for defects like warped or spongy floors, jagged cracks in the walls or ceiling and watermarks can also be indicative of bigger issues. Just know this, everything can be fixed for a cost. When I was younger, things like the above scared me, now I look for them as opportunity. 

# 4  Fixtures & Systems

Issues with integrated fixtures and systems are a greater concern than those that are mostly cosmetic. Rather than focusing on wonky ceiling fans and loose cabinet hinges, be on the lookout for signs of issues with the electrical wiring and cooling and heating elements. HVAC systems that lack proper ventilation and leaky water heaters are the issues that can not only cost a lot of money to resolve but they can also be major safety hazards.

Warm, vibrating wall outlets and/or flickering lights can be indications of issues with the electrical wiring. If you turn on a faucet and see orange/brown tinted water, that could be a sign that the water pipes are rusty and need to be replaced. A central AC unit that makes a squealing or grinding sound might need to be serviced or replaced altogether.  Again, dont run unless your just not upto dealing with it.

# 5 – Damage or Negligence 

Every home is going to have some wear and tear. However, what you want to look for are obvious signs of damage or neglect:

  • Look carefully at the baseboards, especially in the bathrooms. Any signs of staining or warping can indicate past water issues or bad bathroom ventilation. Stains on the ceiling can indicate a leaking or past leak in the roof. Pay attention to your nose as you walk through; if a room or area smells musty, it might indicate mold or mildew.
  • Open up cabinets under the kitchen and bathroom sinks and look for water stains.
  • If the home’s hardwood floors are hidden under lots of rugs, the owner might be trying to hide damage to the wood. If you can, discreetly lift up the rugs to check out what’s underneath.
  • Look carefully at the windows. If there is any condensation built up inside the glass, it’s a sign they’re leaking and likely need to be replaced. Paint that is flaking or bubbling around the windows might also indicate that moisture is getting in.

If this is a home you feel you might want to make an offer on, take pictures of any damage as you walk through each room. You won’t remember everything, and being able to see the damage again can help you craft a better offer.

# 6 – Too Much Scent

Don’t let those freshly baked cookies or mulling spices simmering on the stove fool you. The more aggressive the scent, the greater the likelihood the seller is taking precautions to mask from buyers a more offensive odor.

“When there’s too much going on in the scent department—plug-ins, wax warmers, and candles, for example—I wonder what that overkill is hiding.”

Take a deep whiff in every room you enter, from bedrooms to basements. Sniff outside, too—it’s hard to fix smells if they’re coming from the neighborhood. Look closely at walls, ceilings, and flooring for signs of pet accidents, mildew, or smoke, before you decide this property is your dream home.


# 7 – Bad Ventilation – 

Without adequate interior ventilation, moisture sticks around, which can create mold and increase allergies. The tipoff: Look for condensation on windows or slightly bubbled or peeling paint around windows, doors, or vents, says Kirschner. This can indicate moisture in the walls and ceiling drywall.

The bottom line: Don’t walk through an open house the way you walk through a museum. Even though your home inspector is likely to detect many of these problems down the line, being attentive to these red flags in an open house ensures that you’re not wasting your time on a home that isn’t the one for you.

# 8 – Other Buyers – 

It can be helpful to people watch for a few minutes before walking into an open house, since the behavior of people coming and going can give you some important clues.

For example, if you notice that people aren’t spending a lot of time touring the home, it might mean there are some issues. If you notice people lingering around the yard and taking their time talking to the agent, it might indicate that the property isn’t going to last long.

When you’re inside the home, pay attention to what other buyers are talking about and looking at. Their comments can clue you in to how hot, or not, the property is.

# 9 – How Many Homes are Currently For Sale in That Neighborhood 

If you notice that there are several homes for sale in the area, put on your sleuthing hat to find out why, as this trend could indicate that there is an issue.

For example, perhaps crime is an increasing problem and people are looking to relocate to a safer neighborhood. Or, maybe a new development is scheduled to be built in the upcoming months, and owners don’t want to deal with the increased traffic and noise of construction.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to find out what’s going on in the neighborhood so you don’t end up being stuck in an area where you’re not safe or comfortable.

On the otherhand – If there are few homes this could indicate a highly desierable place to live.

4 Things you Shouldn’t Worry About

1. Furniture and decor

2. Wall and floor treatments

3. Small fixtures and hardware

4. Bathroom or kitchen design

# 1 – Furniture and Decor

Upon entering a home, the decor is usually the first thing you notice. Sometimes, what you see will vary greatly from your own personal style to put it politely. If you’re a fan of the mid-century modern aesthetic, an overly floral sofa living room or hunter’s lodge inspired entertainment room might be not only jarring but also off-putting.

Try not to focus too much on those elements. There are not permanent parts of the home and shouldn’t determine whether or not you decide to make an offer on the property. Remember: you’re buying the home, not the belongings inside. So once you’ve closed escrow, is out with the old and in with the you.

# 2 – Wall and Floor Treatments

While lamps, rugs, sofas and artwork all leave the property when the seller does; paint colors, wallpaper and carpeting will remain. Don’t panic. Though these things might not be particularly pleasing to the eye, they also aren’t permanent. Painting the interior of a home is actually one of the easiest and most affordable upgrades you can make.

Removing or replacing tattered wallpaper or stained carpets might require a bit more elbow grease (or even professional assistance), but both are still a fairly simple and low-cost projects that can really transform your new home.

So don’t let that bright red accent wall in your soon-to-be nursery deter you. After all, adding a new paint color will give you the opportunity to really make the home your own, and who knows, you might even find some long forgotten hardwood floors hiding under not-so-gently used carpeting.

# 3 – Small Fixtures and Hardware

Seemingly ancient or visibly worn fixtures like cabinet doors, ceiling fans and even small appliances like microwaves can be an eyesore, but it’s important to remember these elements are simply cosmetic. They do not significantly impact the overall safety or habitability of the home.

Replacing these gives you another opportunity to inject some of your own personal style into your new home. Additionally, sellers are typically aware that these features are outdated and will often take that into consideration when pricing their homes. So, those ultra groovy can actually mean that you pay less

# 4 -Bathroom or Kitchen Design

Buyers often dream of buying a home that’s already equipped with a sleek top of the line gourmet kitchen or master bath that feels like a 5-star spa experience. So, it can definitely be a bit disappointing to discover that the kitchen or master bath of the home you really like leaves much to be desired.

Before making a snap decision, take a minute to think about it. If you like everything else about a home, are you willing to pass on it simply because the kitchen doesn’t have a stylish subway tile backsplash or the master bath lacks a waterfall shower head?

Instead, check that you’re satisfied with the square footage and overall layout of these areas and consider taking them as-is. Remember, you can always upgrade these rooms once you’re settled in. Not only will you have a bathroom or kitchen that you love, designed to your specifications, but you can also increase your home’s resale value by baking the cost of these upgrades into the listing price should you decide to sell in the future.

5 Great Questions to Ask 

When you are at an open house be courteous to the listing agent, dont ask to many personal questions, let us do that for you. Some website suggest you should ask why the seller is selling or how many offers have been made. These are questions listing agents do not like to be asked especially in a competitive environment. Do not…again, do not get into price, unless you want to work with that agent as your buyers agent and never tell an agent the price is too high unless you dont want to buy the house. Also, don’t point out flaws to the listing agent if you are serious about making an offer. Write them down and tell us about them. You want the listing agent to think you will be easy to work with. 

1. When are Offers Due?

2.  Any Disclosures and Inspections?

3. Anything You Should Know About the House?

4. Are There any Items with Leases (i.e solar, security)?

5. Does the seller need a rent back?

6. Besides price, what is the seller looking for?



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Ghassan Shalabi, Broker

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