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Your Guide to Buying a Home

Everything you need to know to buy a home without an agent.

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Now that you have a number in mind for your buying power and ready with a pre-approval letter or POF proof of funds letter, you are ready to look at homes!

There are a lot of ways to start looking at homes. 

Buyers often start with a drive-by viewings of neighborhoods to check out the areas to find places they would like to live. This is a great way to start narrowing down your search for a home so you don't waste time setting up showings for homes where you dislike the neighborhood or area.

Many listings now offer virtual tours, which can be either 3D walkthroughs or video tours. These allow buyers to get a good sense of the layout and features of a home without having to visit in person. A good virtual tour will walk you through the home as if you were physically walking through the home so you get a sense of where everything is in context of rooms. Virtual tours are particularly useful for long-distance buyers or initial screenings. 

Virtual Interactive Walkthrough

Some listings include interactive floor plans where buyers can click through different rooms. While not as immersive as a 3D tour, they offer a good overview of the property’s layout.

Example virtual walkthrough

During an open house, a property is open for viewing by any interested parties without the need for an appointment. These are typically set up by real estate agents. This is a convenient way for buyers to visit multiple homes in a single day, although they won’t have the same personal attention they might during a private showing.

The reason real estate agents like to host open houses is to try to get buyers to use them as their real estate agent. This is a great time to interview multiple real estate agents so you can pick one that you like and trust. If you are using an agent, be sure to let them know you already have an agent so they don't try to recruit you. 

This is a one-on-one tour of a property arranged through your real estate agent. Private showings allow buyers to explore the home at their own pace, ask specific questions, and get a detailed look at the property without the presence of other potential buyers.

What if I want a private showing but I am not using an agent?

This is where things get a little tricky. The problem is, you want someone to work for free to open the door and show you around. And no agent wants to work for free. So here are some options to consider:

  • Ask the listing agent. The listing agent may come out (or one of their assistants) and open the door for you, as their job is to help their seller get this home sold. However, the listing agent is working on behalf of the seller and while they can point out all the good things about the home. 
    But beware - this may not save you any money as a buyer without an agent - the listing agent may credit themselves as the one who found you, the buyer, and receive payment from the seller for working with you.
  • Ask an agent to show the home for you, and offer to pay. Agents don't like working for free, and if you have no intention of using that agent to help you with the transaction then offering to pay for their time is the right thing to do. Typical payments can be $30-$100 per home.
    Note: the agent still is not working on your behalf, even if you pay them to help you get in for a showing. Legally you would need to have a Buyer Agency contract signed before an agent is working on your behalf. An agent may try to win your business by pointing out things for you, but technically they do not have any fiduciary responsibility to you.

Learn about what you should look at while touring a home in the next section!

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