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  • Writer's pictureTeam Pinto

Team Pinto's Big Guide to Touring Waterloo Region Homes for Sale

One of the most exciting aspects of the Waterloo Region home-buying process is touring properties. A home tour allows you to see those online listings in person, giving you the best indication of whether or not a home is a good fit for you.

You can see a home in person or take a virtual home tour via video chat. However, seeing the house in person is always preferable.

While touring, make sure to take notes and photos. Because you'll probably be seeing more than a few houses, this will help you recall your impressions and the details of each one. Do everything that current health guidelines allow: open and close doors, flip light switches, check the water pressure, and don't forget to inspect the outside of the house visually.

Because no home is perfect, avoid obsessing about tiny cosmetic details like paint colors or hardware finishes. However, while house hunting, you should be alert for any red flags. As you walk through the house, your agent should be ready to point out potential issues and answer your concerns.

Much of the same advice goes if you're visiting a home remotely with your realtor, though your options for interaction are obviously limited. The most important thing you can do is ask your real estate agent to explore the property for you and answer any questions you might have.

What’s the difference between an open house and a private home tour?

An open house is a public, often informal event organized by the listing agent that allows anyone to explore the home for sale at their leisure. The majority of open houses are held on Saturday and Sunday, and last for the most of the day. Open houses are a terrific way to casually tour a home with your Waterloo Region real estate agent or on your own. However, because they are open to the public, you will rarely be able to see the residence in its entirety. You'll want to schedule a follow-up private tour with your real estate agent if you want to spend more time taking comprehensive measurements and inspecting every square inch.

In order to view a home privately, you and your real estate agent will need to coordinate with the seller's agent. The best way to explore a home in depth is to have a private, in-person tour. Make sure you allow yourself enough time to acquire a sense of not only the house but also the surrounding area.

How to prepare for a home tour

Do some online research before you start seeing homes to narrow down your list of must-haves against nice-to-haves. Then tell your agent to look for houses in your price range to tour. One of the many good things about working with a buyer's agent is that they will do all the legwork involved in finding suitable properties to show you, and making the arrangements to do so. All you will need to do is show up at the appointed time.

Here are some things to think about before you go house hunting.

Research the neighborhood

Take a few minutes to look around the neighbourhood before or after your home tour. What is your impression of the neighborhood? Is it crowded or peaceful? Is there any nearby stores, restaurants, or other amenities? How are the schools?

If you're thinking about putting an offer on the house, you should conduct some extra research online and ask your realtor about the neighbourhood. Examine the school rankings, Walk Score of the house, and inquire about the neighborhood with your agent. A local real estate agent will usually be able to provide plenty of 'insider' information that online sources simply cannot.

Floor plan, number of rooms, and room sizes

Do you prefer an open layout or do you like the differentiation between rooms in a house that doors provide?

As you’re touring homes, it’s important to think about the functionality of the home’s floorplan and layout, and if it will accommodate your lifestyle.

You’ll likely determine how many bedrooms you’re looking for before you begin touring homes, but don’t forget to note the size of the rooms when you start viewing houses in person.

While you might know what the square footage of a room is before you see it, what that really means in terms of functional living space can be hard to get a true sense of until you see the space in person.

Will the bedrooms be large enough for your kids as they get older? Will it be spacious enough to accommodate a home office? While the number of rooms is important, so is the square footage of each room.

Natural light and home direction

If having plenty of natural light is a must-have for you, keep track as you tour the home of how much light each room receives. Is the house facing north or south? A property that faces south will receive the most sunlight throughout the day.

Style and age of the home

Have you narrowed down the style of home you want? From craftsman-style houses to mid-century modern homes, there are many home styles to choose from. By browsing listings online, you’ll be able to get an idea of what home style(s) you’re most drawn to which can also help narrow down your search.

Have you decided on a specific style of home? There are many different home styles to pick from, including craftsman-style houses and mid-century contemporary homes. You can get an idea of what home style(s) you're most drawn to by exploring listings online, which can help you narrow down your search.

Would you rather buy a move-in-ready turnkey home? Or are you looking for an older home to restore or upgrade with minimal improvements? If you're thinking about buying an older property, you'll want to take extra safeguards before making an offer.

Outdoor features

Last but not least, you should have a general notion of what you want from your outside space. Are you looking for a big, open yard? Are you looking for a pool or enough space to install one in your backyard? Or are you hoping for a smaller patio area that allows you to relax outside without the hassle of maintaining a large yard?

House tour checklist

Once inside a home, try everything. Follow common courtesy but don’t be shy—open and shut the cupboards, flush the toilets, and whip out the measuring tape. Pay attention to stairways especially. Are the stairs comfortable to go up and down? Is there a rail? Are there any squeaks in the stairs or do they feel sturdy? Are there any turns or will the width be an issue when moving furniture? Here are a few key things to look for on each Waterloo Region home tour:

  • Architectural style

  • Number, location, and size of bedrooms

  • Number, location, and size of bathrooms

  • Closet and storage space

  • Number of floors

  • Sightlines throughout the home

  • General floorplan

  • Age and condition of appliances

  • Light switches and number of sockets in each room

  • Plumbing and water pressure

  • Amount of natural light and views, if any

  • Noise levels outside the home

  • Width and types of stairways

  • Porches and decks

  • Garage and/or parking capacity

  • Proximity to neighbouring homes

  • Remodeling opportunities

  • Condition of roof and gutters

  • Cracks in foundation and driveway

  • Overgrown trees that could cause your home damage

  • Signs of water damage

  • Wall and floor conditions such as uneven flooring, chips, or miss-matched flooring

  • The age of the electrical box

  • How the home is heated and cooled (i.e. oil, gas, electric)

  • Possible pest infestation or other visible damage

Don’t forget about the exterior

Don’t forget to walk around the entire home and property. Pay attention to the age and condition of the roof and siding. Does the landscaping look like it will be a lot of work? If you don’t have a green thumb and don’t want to hire a gardener every month, you may want to look for a home with easy outdoor upkeep.

Take notes and photos throughout the home tour

It’s easy to get homes mixed up so take photos, videos, and notes on each tour. Take pictures of features you particularly like and dislike about each home, and share these insights with your agent. Looking through your photos and notes with fresh eyes may also trigger additional questions you have about the home.

Questions to ask your realtor when viewing a Waterloo Region home

Agents tour homes every day. Pick your agent’s brain for any unique qualities that stand out or flaws that you could be unaware of. If your agent doesn’t know the answer to a question, they can always ask the seller’s agent later.

Red flags to look for when touring a house

While you should be looking for home features that check off your boxes, you should also be looking for red flags as you tour a house. These are a few potential red flags you should be aware of and pay close attention to during home tours:

  • Overly-scented rooms – If there’s an overpowering fragrance, this could indicate that the seller is attempting to mask an odor. Be sure to investigate further for signs of pet odor, mildew, and so on.

  • Water stains and damage – If you notice any water stains, there’s a chance that there’s underlying water damage to the home, which could lead to costly repairs later on. You’ll want to take note of this and point it out during the inspection if you decide to submit an offer.

  • A lack of maintenance – Be on the lookout for any signs that the homeowner has neglected regular maintenance, such as burnt-out lightbulbs, fading paint, and leaking faucets. If they didn’t upkeep these smaller items, imagine what larger issues have been avoided.

  • Foundation issues – Are doors and windows difficult to open? Are there any noticeable cracks around doorways or windows? These could be indicators of underlying problems with the foundation.

  • A sagging ceiling – If you notice the ceiling is sagging, this is an indication that there’s a larger structural problem.

The bottom line

Homebuying takes plenty of compromise and patience. It’s easy to fall in love with a home at first sight—and if you love a home, chances are everyone else will too. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but just realize that you may be up against some competition. Be prepared to make multiple offers before you find the right home at the right price.

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