First-Time Buyer Chronicles, Part 6: Home Visits: Fun, Fun, Freak Out

We tried to be really organized about what homes we’d tour with our Realtor®. I did exhaustive searches using Zip technology, which not only allowed me to pinpoint the homes for sale in a very narrow space (that I defined myself) but also the homes within that area that fit my needs. 

Classic home for sale in Porltand, OR

We wanted a yard, good storage, at least 2 bedrooms, and preferably a garage. Nothing too big—we aren’t the world’s most diligent housekeepers or gardeners, but enough space to try to make something our own. Neither of us loves ranch style homes (unless they're Eichlers!), preferring Portland’s classic bungalow style architecture: porch and farm style kitchen, attic and basement. But, being the life-long renters we had so far been, we weren’t super clued-in to how to fix up fixer-uppers, so we were open to construction of any period, including Portland’s clever new green houses that mimic the classic old lines.

Contain Your Enthusiasm

Using search parameters accordingly (and signing for email alert when anything new in the area and style desired came up),  I devised lists of 5 -10 ‘possibles’ per outing with our agent.

Search homes in Portland, OR

This is where the agent expertise came in handy. I’m new to Portland; my husband is returning after a decade plus in California. Neither of us really has local knowledge; but my Realtor® did. He steered us way from places that looked great in photos, but that were perched on really busy intersections, in sketchy neighborhoods, or with problematic sales histories. And p.s.: digital photos sometimes don’t tell the whole story. Sometimes they lie! Our agent steered us away from homes he’d already toured that were more mess than we could handle. (Try your luck: Search Homes for Sale in the Portland Metro.)

He also counseled us against seeing 10 places a day. Yes, we were gung-ho to buy, willing to put in the time, willing to suffer! But it turns out, the human brain—no matter how gung-ho the human spirit—can only process so much information at a time. Visiting 3 houses at a time was actually more than enough for a day, since we would tour the home and neighborhood, then meet to look over the comparable sales and vital statistics (like crime, school, and walkability ratings) afterwards.

Organize Your Info

Even with just 3 homes per visit, I would find the kitchens blurring, the back yards fading, my knowledge of closet sizes evaporating, within a few hours of the visits, particularly after the 5th time touring. To combat that, I started taking better notes about all those things I really wanted to know about:

  • how big are the closets (measure and write it down)
  • What’s the yard like? Measure it.
  • Look at the sunlight, the neighboring yards, the current vegetation.  Write all that down.
  • Now take some pictures. Do similar things in every room of the house, writing down (or record it, speaking thoughts onto the phone.
  • Walk the ‘hood and observe: how does it look, smell, sound and feel.

When I got home, I would force Scott to print all the pictures and we’d organize all the notes and images into piles. Each house got its own pile. Then we’d get some wine (so necessary; so deserved!) and compare the day’s homes with past days homes. We’d actually be able, this way, to inform our decisions to take one or two houses out of the mix, to move one or two to the front for another visit.

And thus we made the home visit process work for us, rather than us working (slave laboring!) fruitlessly for it. “Course, it helped a ton to have a patient, informed local real estate agent who wasn’t pressuring us with “you better buy this one right now!” comments.  So my final advice:  find an Realtor who can help make finding the home right for you more fun, and less freak out.