In the age of coronavirus, video tours are quickly becoming the go-to alternative to in-person tours. But for prospective buyers, there’s more to the process than asking your smartphone-wielding agent to show you the chef’s kitchen and that walk-in closet one more time. In fact, there’s also a whole other world outside waiting for you to explore—virtually.
Sure, you probably are already fond of the home’s curb appeal. (It’s what attracted you in the first place, right?) But since you can’t be there in person, your agent should show you the exterior—and the yard—from all angles.
According to the experts, these are outdoor places your agent shouldn’t overlook when giving you a virtual home tour.
1. All four corners of the lot
Google Street View can provide photos of the neighborhood. But here’s the thing: Those images might not be current and won’t show changes to the property or features like a new fence.
“It’s a good idea to stand in the corners of the property and pan around, showing all angles—not only to see the lot lines but to provide a better sense of how far the house is from each perspective,” says Jared Wilk, broker with the Shulkin Wilk Group at Compass, in Boston.
2. The neighbors’ houses
Having friendly and helpful neighbors is a wonderful thing—but not if they’re too close for comfort.
“Imagine if you’re entertaining—how close would the neighbors be if they were eating outside at the same time?” asks Dustin Fox, real estate agent at Pearson Smith Realty in Ashburn, VA.
Have your agent show you—and maybe even measure—how close the neighbors are from the house you’re considering.
3. Outdoor components
This can mean a wide variety of outdoor amenities, tools, and other aspects that you see outside—all of which are important to making a smart offer on a home, says Traci Shulkin, a Realtor® with the Shulkin Wilk Group at Compass.
“I show them the sprinklers working, gates, fences, and mechanicals up close,” she says. “And any exterior features that might impact a buyer’s decision to buy—like a nearby cell tower or recycling center or even areas of the property that are showing wear and tear.”
Don’t forget to have your agent show you features like the shed, garage, or pool house.
“It is important to walk around the entire structures, because a seller will often clean up just the front or have accumulations of [stuff] simply thrown behind their shed,” says Wilk. “If we don’t take note of this, then the seller may ‘forget about it’ and leave this to be your problem as the new homeowner.”
And don’t forget to scour the hidden areas of the building for any animals that are living or nesting. (Or ask your agent to do so.)
5. The landscaping
Gorgeous landscaping is beautiful, but you might need more than a green thumb to keep it that way.
“If there are a lot of existing trees and flower beds, this will require mulching, weeding, and regular maintenance,” Fox says. “Most buyers don’t factor in the added costs of paying a landscaper to mow and mulch.”
Take note of how close the trees are to the house and if they’re healthy. Large tree roots can permeate pipes, and dying trees can topple over in a storm.
6. Walkways and driveways
Just how long is that lovely tree-lined driveway? What’s the condition? And how steep is it? If you live in an area that gets snow, you may think twice about driving up and down in the winter and paying for snow removal.
7. The land
It’ll be a letdown if you’re looking forward to playing croquet in the backyard only to find it drops off to a steep rock bed. That’s why experts suggest buyers make sure to see how the house is set on the lot, especially if it’s below grade.
Does the backyard slope? Is there standing water that could point to drainage issues?
8. The deck
Subtle details of wear and tear are difficult to see on a video, so be sure to have your agent zoom in to inspect for damage and structural integrity.
“Have them shake and grab the railing to see if they’re loose,” Fox suggests. “Is there wood rot? Are the deck boards in need of replacing, or power washing and staining?”
9. All sides of the house
A fresh coat of paint and a new door are just a few curb appeal tricks to attract buyers, but what lies beyond the charming facade?
“The main things we are looking for are exterior deficiencies, such as large cracks in the foundation, rotted trim around the house, an older AC condenser, or an aging roof,” Wilk says. “A buyer wants to know what type of expenses they are going to incur as potential homeowners.”
10. Playground equipment
If you have kids, playground equipment in the backyard is a bonus if it comes with the house. If, that is, the stuff is in good shape.
“The broker should really take detailed videos and pictures,” Shulkin says. “Homeowners tend to not take great care of these outdoor structures, and they show a lot of wear and tear from rain, snow, and sun.”
11. The sounds
If possible, you can still request some quiet time during the video tour to listen for noises that might be a deal breaker. Listen for planes overhead, barking dogs, and especially traffic noise.
“This may not be a big deal for you moving into the home,” Fox says. “But it could take thousands off the value when you go to resell it.”
Download our new app to get the noise data at the house you’re interested in buying.