Anti-Checklist: What Not to Do While House Hunting

Searching for a house to buy can be daunting, and most of the homes you see won't be what you're looking for. Get through it efficiently and painlessly by avoiding these common house hunting mistakes.
By: Tara-Nicholle Nelson

Don't just pick up the phone, call the number on the sign, and go by yourself. First, it's unsafe. Second, you can end up looking at a bunch of properties that don't meet your search criteria or price range, wasting your time. Third, it can make sellers think you are unrepresented and, thus, that they have the greater bargaining leverage from the get-go. Let your Realtor do her job; if you drive by an interesting property your Realtor hasn't mentioned to you, call your Realtor with the property address and phone number from the sign, and let her research the asking price and property details, nine times out of 10, your Realtor hasn't sent it to you because the property doesn't meet one or more of your search criteria. The 10th time out of 10 - your Realtor can escort you there and show it to you while the seller is out of the house, and out of your hair.

Don't plan something for two hours later. You don't want to rush, you want to linger where necessary. Plus, if you find one you really like, you might spend more time there. And, with drive time, etc., it can easily take three hours to see seven houses - not to mention that you may find one you want to immediately write an offer on, which will take another hour or so.

Avoid taking separate cars on your buyer's tours. Every once in awhile a hot property will come up, your Realtor will call you from work, and you can meet her there. If you are going to be driving from house to house, get in the car with your Realtor -- even if it means you have to put the baby seat in your Realtor's car. This way, you don't get separated, no one gets lost, and you can spend the time between houses debriefing and providing your Realtor with the feedback she needs to narrow your search and hone in on your home.

Don't bring a triple Venti mocha frap with you on your buyer's tours. How can I say this? Uh, you don't want to be using everyone's bathroom, if you know what I mean -- especially if people still live in the house. Vacant houses are the best ones for pit stops, but because everyone knows that, they are also the most likely to have nothing in the way of toilet paper except a cardboard roll with a couple of spots of paper still stuck to the glue.

Plus, coffeehouse drinks usually have coffee and milk, not the most gastro-friendly substances. If you need to, plan ahead to stop in the middle of the tour for a snack and a pit stop, and do feel free to bring a bottle of water.

Don't wear lace-up shoes. Slip-ons, flip flops, etc. are ideal. Many well-prepared homes will have new carpet, and often the listing agent will have posted a "please remove shoes" sign to help keep the flooring clean. Having to untie and tie your shoes at every house can be a huge waste of time and really anti-climatic when you get to the front door of a house you really want to see. Note-those paper booties some "shoes off, please" agents provide can be slippery. Avoid them; if you can't stand the idea of walking barefoot through a house, make sure you wear socks with your slip on shoes.

Don't hesitate to look in drawers, cupboards and closets. If you really dislike a place, you needn't get really detailed in your viewing of a property. But if you don't hate it, you should open every door. I've had clients miss whole rooms and large storage areas by not opening a door they assumed went to a closet. Besides, you need to know how wide and deep the real closets are, which you can't find out without opening the door and having a look. If you really like a place, you should also open kitchen and bathroom drawers, cupboards and cabinets. You're not being nosy, you're gathering information. Rest assured that the sellers have had ample notice to straighten up those spaces in anticipation of your poking around.

Hold the trash talk. Sellers may be listening. I wish I was kidding, but often the seller just steps outside or next door. (I once represented a kooky seller who walked around with her purse on during the Open House "ooh"ing and "aah"ing like she was a prospective buyer.) And they don't always understand that it's the most interested buyers who pick the place apart to figure out exactly what they will need to do to it to make it theirs. If you end up in a multiple offer situation, you don't want to have an uphill battle because you badmouthed the sequined butterfly "artwork" the seller had hanging in the hallway. So, if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. Until you get in the car, and roll up the windows - then you need to let it rip so your agent can learn your likes and dislikes.

Don't think you can offend your Realtor. I always remind my clients that the house I'm showing them is not my house. So, if you like it, that's great. But if you hate anything about it, don't hesitate to say so. Don't be timid or polite and omit a criticism or concern you have. Doing so can result in you seeing more of the same, which is a waste of everybody's time.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Anti-Checklist: What Not to Do Until You Close Escrow

Take a list of things to avoid before you close on your new house.

Anti-Checklist: What Not to Do When You're Making an Offer or Negotiating

Don't even bother trying to justify a lowball offer. (Believe me, the seller and their agent were well aware that there's an electric tower in the backyard when they set the asking price.) Avoid these buyer faux pas when offering on a house.

Get My Agent on the Phone

Especially for first-time homebuyers, using a seasoned agent is a smart move.

Get a Bargain on a Stigmatized Property

You can find a bargain in just about every neighborhood these days, but if you’re looking for a deal with a price that’s been “slashed,” try searching for the home where the “slasher” lived.

Get Pre-Approval on Your Mortgage Application

Pre-approved loans are the way to go in today's real estate market.

Getting a Mortgage Loan: Pre-Approved, Then Not Approved

When one client is pre-approved for a mortgage, and then not approved during escrow, real estate expert Tara-Nicholle Nelson has a few solutions up her sleeve.

Guide to Mortgage Assumptions

Is a mortgage assumption a smart choice for you? Here, learn everything you need to know.

Foreclosure Tricks and Treats

Navigating today’s housing market is like trick-or-treating on Halloween. Treats are in large supply, but tricks lurk around every corner.

Give Your Credit Score a Not-So-Extreme Makeover

No matter what your numbers are, they can almost always be better. Improve your credit score with these quick financial fixes.

10 Steps to Eleventh-Hour Organization

Use this last-minute moving checklist to make sure you don't forget anything on the big day.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.