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What to look for when viewing a house?

Charles Cherney

Passionate about teaching after graduating from Harvard, I ultimately found myself drawn into the world of real estate in Cambridge and Somerville...

Passionate about teaching after graduating from Harvard, I ultimately found myself drawn into the world of real estate in Cambridge and Somerville...

May 28 4 minutes read

What to look for when viewing a house?

The short answer is that, first and foremost, pay attention to the things that matter the most to you. 

There is a lot to take in when visiting a property, especially for the first time. Buyers often ask me what they ought to pay attention to when visiting a property for sale. There really is no right or wrong answer here. That being said, it is a good idea to pay attention to the things that matter the most to you. For example, let's say that the things that matter the most to you are the following:

Ceiling height
Quality of natural light and
Outdoor space

Well, if those are your big three, you may do the following:

1) You might literally measure the ceiling height. I myself carry a laser measuring device; you may just raise your arms and get a sense of the height from an action as simple as that.

2) With regard to the quality of natural light, you may accurately discover what direction the house is facing by employing a compass app on your smartphone. Having established the direction, you may consciously spend time in different rooms considering and noting the quality of light. Obviously, the time of day of your visit and the weather will influence this.

3) As for outdoor space, check it out carefully. Maybe walk off the back yard to measure it. Sit down on a deck chair and study the site lines. Locate the grill and see how that is. If you have a pet, imagine how it might work for your pet to be in the space. Examine how the space interacts with the neighboring spaces. Consider the privacy or lack thereof.

These actions all require you to FOCUS. This is not always easy in our day and age. Your cell phone is ringing when you are there and your boss is calling. You are visiting the house with a child who needs your attention. Perhaps it is an open house and you are distracted by conversations taking place around you. Got it. Get it. Been there. Do the best you can do.

I have been a Realtor since 1999. Since then, I have visited THOUSANDS of properties in Cambridge and Somerville. I still aim to FOCUS each and every time I visit a property. Generally speaking, I am seeking to process the overall condition, comprehend the layout, and note any particular aspects about the property.

An informed listing agent is a valuable asset when visiting a property. If the listing agent can share accurate information about a property during your visit, you gain. For example, the listing agent may report the following:

I measured the ceiling height and it is 8'-2" on the main level and 7'-10" on the bedroom level. The house faces east. I have visited the house in the morning and the afternoon and the early evening. The light is middle of the scale in the morning and early afternoon, and brighter on the back side in the late afternoon and early evening because of the unobstructed western exposure on the back side of the house. The owners have a medium-size dog who enjoys the fenced yard.

OKAY, then, now that information is very useful to you. Always ask the host what they know about the property.

Of course, when an experienced contractor or licensed home inspector visits a property, they are seeing the property in terms of their own training and knowledge, noting age of systems and the quality of the built environment, etc. These professional observations are a separate matter. We are talking here about what you ought to pay attention to when you visit a property for sale. For sure, over time in your search after visiting many properties, you may become more observant of items a contractor or inspector may one day review on your behalf. Experienced house hunters can often develop very sharp eyes!

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