Working with a great real estate agent, getting pre-approved for your mortgage, and organizing your financial documentation early are all important — and well-known — steps for first-time homebuyers.
But there’s also a lesser-known must-do for first-timers that’s not as highly publicized: seeing your potential home at all hours.
You see, touring a property in broad daylight at 1 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon only gives you a small glimpse into the world that the home provides. Going back again at night? Then again on a Monday morning? That gives you a more comprehensive view and better perspective on what the house has to offer (as well as how it fits in with your overall needs and goals.)
Why Visit at All Hours of the Day?
The main goal of re-visiting a property at different times of day is to simply gain new insights. How does the neighborhood change? What sorts of people are out and about? What are the traffic, congestion, and noise levels like? These are all things you can better evaluate by visiting a property at different points in time.
To gauge traffic patterns.
Try to visit your potential house during the morning hours, in the late afternoon, and then again around rush hour.
- When is local traffic worst?
- Is it hard getting in and out of the neighborhood?
- Is there a back-up due to schools or local businesses letting out?
You’ll also want to make sure your street doesn’t serve as a shortcut for any commuters or drivers, which could put your kiddos at risk when they’re playing in the yard. You may also want to gauge how traffic impacts noise levels in your area during these times.
When is local traffic worst? Is it hard getting in and out of the neighborhood? Is there a back-up due to schools or local businesses letting out? You’ll also want to make sure your street doesn’t serve as a shortcut for any commuters or drivers, which could put your kiddos at risk when they’re playing in the yard. You may also want to gauge how traffic impacts noise levels in your area during these times.
To see what changes.
Just because a house looks perfect at one time of day, doesn’t mean it won’t have serious drawbacks in another. Stop by on different days of the week and at different parts of the day.
- Are there trains or airplanes traveling through at any point?
- Are there plenty of streetlights to move about by when it gets dark?
- Does the setting sun shine right through the kitchen window where you’d be cooking?
- How is the noise level on a Friday night? Are your neighbors throwing big parties?
- Are your neighbors throwing big parties?
The main idea is just to see how the neighborhood and surrounding community transform throughout the day (and week) and to make sure those evolutions fall in line with what you want and need as a homeowner.
To see neighborhood activity.
You’ll also want to get a handle on activity in the area.
- When is the neighborhood at its busiest?
- When are kids playing in the yard and parents working in the garden?
- Is it a ghost town at night?
Make sure the high-activity times jive with how your household works. You should also make sure you feel safe coming and going at different times
To scope out your neighbors.
Finally, you’ll want to use your outings to get to know as many neighbors as possible — the ones beside, across, behind, and catty-corner from you.
- Do they have kids?
- If so, what ages?
- Are there college students who are going to be partying?
- Bachelors who will be coming and going?
- Late-night shift workers who could make noise in the wee hours of the morning?
- Are any neighbors loud or particularly raucous?
Try to get a feel for who your neighbors would be, how they operate, and whether that meshes with how your household operates.
You don’t necessarily need every neighbor to be just like you, but you will want to make sure there are no dealbreakers — and neighbors are often one of them.
A Pro Tip for Re-visiting
If visiting a home a million times seems like a pain, then consider renting an Airbnb in the neighborhood for a few days. Stay a night or two, and live the life of a community member for a bit. You can even use it as an opportunity to check out local grocery stores, restaurants and other amenities — establishments you’d likely use if you lived there.
If, after a few days, the home still feels like a good fit, then you’ve probably found the right place. Plow forward, and buy that property!
The Bottom Line
Think of your second, third, fourth, and even your Airbnb visits to a home like fact-finding missions. What additional info and insights can you come away with? How can you better inform your home buying decision before putting down hundreds of thousands of dollars? Be thorough in your outings, and take notes each time you visit a property. The more information you have, the better decision you’ll make for the long run.
Are you thinking of buying a home?