What To Know About Showings
The Basics of Showings
To state the obvious, showings are an important part of buying a new home. But knowing how or when to start can be difficult, especially for first-time home buyers. That’s why I decided to provide my industry insights into showings. I’ll cover when to start, what to expect, and some best practices to keep in mind throughout. My goal by the end of this article is to give buyers confidence about how to approach showings.
One of the questions I get a lot is, “Justin, when should I start looking (in-person) at properties?” The answer is always the same. Whenever you’re ready! In fact, when I get that question it is usually because they are ready and just don’t know where to start. I mention in-person, because according to a survey done by the National Association of REALTORS®, buyers on average spend 6-months searching properties online before deciding to get dressed, put on their shoes, and go take a look. (Sound like you?) But here’s the deal, looking at homes doesn’t mean that you have to buy. That is important to note.
I’ve shown one home to a buyers on the first day we met, and helped them to buy that home. I’ve also been working with clients for up to two-years before they found the right home. The goal is to find one that works.
YOU’LL NEED AN AGENT
If you aren’t already working with an agent, the first step is to contact an agent. For many buyers, the initial inclination is to contact the listing agent. Seems appropriate, right? The fact of the matter is that the listing agent was hired by the seller to represent their best interests, not a buyers. Buyers need an agent who can best represent their own interests. It’s okay to contact an agent within the same agency, but buyers should try to contact a different agent than the one who listed the property.
Think about it this way, if after a showing a buyer decides they want to put in an offer, do you think the agent who was hired to represent the sellers is better, or an agent hired by the buyer from the get-go? Probably not the agent who is trying to get their seller the highest price, right? Right.
Another benefit to buyers for finding an agent to represent them is that they can now use the same agent for all the showings. Agents work in a cooperation with each other, and have access to any homes listed on the market. It’s convenient to have a single point of contact. But what if buyer’s end up not liking their agent?
Unless specifically agreed otherwise, buyers are not contractually bound to a real estate agent (especially during the showing process). Again, there are a lot of benefits to working with one agent, but if not everyone is seeing eye-to-eye it might be time to switch.
Why might a buyer want to switch? The most common reason is when buyers have difficulty contacting their agent or their agent is frequently unavailable. If it’s difficult to get hold of an agent, that probably won’t change, and buyers don’t want to be stuck in a transaction with bad communication. Another common reason is if the agent is applying pressure. If that’s the case, that agent may be putting their own interests ahead of the buyers. But there can be any number of reasons a buyer may want to change things up. The point is, not all agents are created equal. Buyers should find one that they trust and want to work with.
Last tip on agents, it’s perfectly acceptable to interview a few different agents before you start looking at properties to buy. It’s even recommended that you do.
TIPS FOR SCHEDULING SHOWINGS
When contacting an agent for a showing, it is best if buyers provide the agent with a specific date and time. Leaving it up to the agent to decide the day and time may seem like the nice thing to do, but trust me, agents appreciate when buyers make that decision.
As a general guideline, it is best to try to request showings at least 24-hours in advance, and at the very least the next day. But that isn’t a hard rule unless there are tenants, then 24-hours is required. The property will typically fall into one of three categories, and depending on which, the availability for showings will vary. There are some special circumstances, too.
Vacant homes are usually the easiest to schedule. If no one is living at the property, it’s easy to schedule because less coordination is needed. Agents usually just need to check-in with the listing agency and get the go-ahead, even with as little notice as 20 minutes.
Owner occupied aren’t as available, but there is usually flexibility. For a lot of owners, they may be at work during a week day and it’s not an inconvenience to allow an agent to show a property on relatively short notice. Typically, however, it is customary to try to provide ample notice, such as 24-hours. Especially on weekends. This allows sellers time to prepare the house to be showed and make plans to not be present during the showing. Trust me, this can be a very good thing.
Tenant-occupied homes must abide by the rules of the road. There must be at least 24-hours notice provided to the tenants before access is permitted. Basically, don’t expect to be able to view a home right away if it has tenants.
Special circumstances can change the norm for scheduling. Most commonly this occurs for a newly listed property. It may be more acceptable at that time to request a showing with short notice. Buyers should contact their agent and see what’s possible.
THE RIGHT LENGTH OF TIME FOR SHOWINGS
There is no right or wrong amount of time to spend at a showing. In most cases, however, I’ve found that 20-30 minutes is about right. Of course, sometimes buyers know within the first few minutes that it’s not the right house. Opposite of that, I’ve also spent up to an hour or more at a showing. It’s a big investment and buyers should have a good understanding of a house before deciding to submit an offer, and that can take time. It is also not uncommon to schedule a second showing on a different day.
Buyers should note that in most cases someone is living at the house. It is customary for sellers or their tenants not to be present during showings. Buyers and agents should be courteous about the amount of time they are causing someone to be out of their own home, and try to find a reasonable balance.
Lastly, buyers should keep in mind that they will have additional opportunities to see the property. Such as during an inspection which can take 1-2 hours.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Every buyer is different and may be interested in different things. But for the most part, there are some basics for every showing that buyers can expect to happen.
When buyers arrive at a showing, chances are that their agent will have already provided them with some valuable information, or it may be that the agent provides it at the showing. Most of it the buyer has probably already seen, and the goal now is to see how it checks out in person. For example, buyers can see all the areas of the house in photos but it can be hard to piece together how it all lays out, and the showing is the time to do that.
Buyer’s and agents may also want to check to ensure some things work, like faucets or stove tops, but they should leave the more detailed investigating to a licensed inspector as part of the purchasing process once a home is under contract.
Agents also have varying styles when showing homes. Some are very hands on and like to act as a tour guide of sorts as they walk buyers through the property. Others may sit back and let you explore the house on your own but are with you in-step and prepared to answer any questions you have, provide important insights, and take note of any concerns that may need follow-up. Either way works, it’s just a matter of what buyers prefer. Buyers can always ask before hand how agents like to show houses, and agents are usually always willing to accommodate a buyers preferences, too. I should also note, too, that a lot of agents pay close attention to buyers personalities and will adapt their style accordingly. It’s a big part of sales.
Justin Gubatayao comes from a background in sales & finance that spans 14 years. Most notably working as a Branch Manager for Wells Fargo as part of a 5 year career. He holds a Pricing Strategy Advisor designation from the National Association of REALTORS®.