It’s a tough time to buy a house. Inventory is low, demand is high, prices have increased dramatically over the past couple of years, and there are plenty of cash buyers who are ready to overpay for a property they like.
This leaves the average homebuyer in a compromising position. Do you keep your high standards in place and continue to get beat out on properties? Or do you lower your standards and risk buying something you’ll later regret? Neither scenario is ideal. But instead of getting discouraged, you may just need to adjust your approach slightly so that you can be a first-mover on properties you like.
While we certainly don’t recommend buying a house without getting a formal inspection performed by a licensed home inspector, there is something to be said for being able to write up a contract very quickly with fewer contingencies because you know how to see properties like an inspector does.
In other words, if you can walk into a property and quickly evaluate its condition with a fair amount of accuracy, you’ll be able to put together more competitive offers that are more likely to get accepted.
Tips for Seeing a House Like a Home Inspector
Whether you’re trying to buy a house in a competitive market or you’re interested in purchasing a home that a seller has listed in “as-is” condition, it’s helpful if you know how to see a property like an inspector. Here are several tips:
1. Show Up Prepared
Most people show up to a home inspection totally unprepared for what they’re about to do. They just sort of meander around the house and listen to their real estate agent babble on and on about the neighborhood and property upgrades. If they feel like the house “speaks” to them, they get excited. If it doesn’t, they move on to the next one. Don’t be like this.
If you really want to evaluate a property, you have to show up prepared. Have a camera (your phone is fine), pen and notepad, and a game plan in your head for what you want to accomplish. Start by evaluating the exterior of the home, then move inside. Once the interior has been inspected, head to the attic, basement, and/or crawlspace. Finally, check out the backyard, trees, garage, etc. When you have a plan, you’re less prone to overlooking things.
2. Use Your Allotted Time
Most of today’s showings are scheduled using a showing app. Typically, these apps give you and your realtor the ability to block out a 30-minute chunk of time. Make sure you use all of your allotted time. You’ve carved out this time, you might as well use it. Whether you love the house or hate the house, there are lessons to be learned.
If you love the house, you definitely want to use your 30 minutes to inspect as many corners of the property as possible. (It’s impossible to inspect something in 30 minutes, let alone 15 or 20. This might be your only chance to see the property before determining if you want to put in an offer. Don’t squander it!)
If you hate the house, you can still use this time to brush up your inspection skills so you’re more experienced the next time you see a property. Practice identifying as many issues and concerns as you can. Inspecting is a skill set. The more you train your brain to evaluate individual components, the better you’ll become.
3. Bones vs. Cosmetics
The average homebuyer walks into a property and is easily excitable. If the paint colors, furniture, kitchen appliances, and other finishes match their style, they get really excited. If the design and decor are ugly, they’re immediately turned off. But in order to properly inspect a house, you can’t let your emotions get in the way. The “bones” of a house are far more important than the cosmetics.
The bones of a house refer to all of the essential construction elements, like the foundation, roof, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems. These items matter most. They affect the integrity of the house and are the most expensive to repair or fix. Everything else is cosmetic – meaning it’s really just there for appearances.
Focus your inspection on the bones of a property. Typically, cosmetic issues can be easily fixed, replaced, or renovated.
4. Look for Signs of Lipstick
Many sellers are savvy. They often know which items buyers are looking for (or what will turn up in an inspection). Unethical homeowners might even try to perform a quick fix or cover up before listing. Part of an inspection is looking for signs of “lipstick on a pig.” If a seller has tried to paint over a stain, caulk a huge gap, or cover up a plumbing issue, it’s probably not the only one. You should be on high alert.
There are certain areas that are more prone to issues than others. Spend most of your time inspecting roofs, attics, crawlspaces, appliances, plumbing fixtures, etc. This is where the problems are.
5. Hire a Licensed Home Inspector
In this article, we’ve shown you several practical ways that you can perform your own impromptu inspections to get a feel for whether a property is worth putting in an offer on or not. Having said that, we are not advocating that you skip a licensed inspection altogether. Once you’ve given the property a cursory overview and your offer is accepted, we highly encourage that you get an official inspection. This will verify a lot of your discoveries (and will likely expose a few more).
Buy Your Next Home With Confidence
You shouldn’t have to feel stressed when buying a home. It’s all about putting yourself in the right hands so that you can make smart decisions that set you up for future success. At Green Residential, we’re experienced local real estate professionals who have spent the past several decades helping people, buy, sell, and manage properties in the Houston and Austin markets. Want to learn more? Please contact us today and we’d be happy to chat!