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Take Me Outside! 11 Exterior Things You Shouldn’t Miss During a Home Video Tour

June 11, 2020

Outdoor video tour

SDI Productions/Getty Images

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.”

4. Outbuildings

Backyard shed
Garden shed

chuckcollier/Getty Images

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

Long driveway
Think carefully about a long driveway.

KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

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

Zoom in on the deck.

chuckcollier/Getty Images

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

Backyard swingset
Backyard swingset

stu99/Getty Images

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.

The post Take Me Outside! 11 Exterior Things You Shouldn’t Miss During a Home Video Tour appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

How to Test-Drive a Neighborhood Before You Buy the House

November 18, 2019


Would you buy a car without giving it a test drive? Probably not. A test drive helps you understand what it would really be like to own, live with, and use a car, giving you the opportunity to notice subtle details that you can experience only by taking it for a spin. After all, this is a sizable investment.

And buying a home is an even bigger commitment. After all, you’re not just buying the property itself, but a new life in terms of your community, your commute, the local restaurants, you name it.  

As a real estate agent in San Francisco, I’ve seen countless clients stress over whether or not to purchase a property. In my mind, their anxiety is rooted in the unknown. What if it’s dangerous at night? What if none of my friends wants to visit me here? What if I find out something about the neighborhood that I’ll hate when it’s too late to do anything about it? 

The good news is, moving to a new place doesn’t need to be a completely blind leap of faith. This is why I always encourage my clients to take the neighborhood for a little test drive first. Here’s how.

Live like a local

The first step of this process is to spend some time in the area—ideally by booking an Airbnb listing as close as possible to the property. Sure, this isn’t free, but the peace of mind this can give you about an area is worth the investment.

Try to book for at least three days, preferably Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. In doing so, you’ll be able to see what the neighborhood is like on both weekdays and weekends.

From there, spend some time exploring the neighborhood during the morning, afternoon, and evening to gauge noise levels and safety in the area.

To get unfiltered, real-time crime updates on your area, check out the Citizen app, which provides crowdsourced crime reports.

One former client of mine, Gray Hoffman, decided to take my advice and test-drive San Francisco’s Polk Street.

“We had previously visited the property several times during weekday afternoons. On paper, we felt it could make a great home and solid investment,” he recalls. “We booked a studio apartment nearby for a weekend and quickly realized that the raucous weekend partygoers, while fun at first, would probably become disruptive.”

Hoffman didn’t buy the house. He also found the experience of test driving so insightful, he now recommends it to friends and clients.

Run through your daily routine—and commute

In addition to noise and crime levels in the area, you’ll want to get a sense of your daily commute to and from work, shopping routine for groceries, and other errands. Make sure to use the mode of transportation you’ll be using, whether that’s a car, bike, bus, or otherwise.

Another former client of mine, Maddie West, thinks test-driving your commute is particularly important if you’re commuting between suburbs and city.

San Francisco is an awesome city, but some parts can definitely be sketchy,” West says. “I often leave work late at night and, as a woman, there are definitely certain public transport stops I’d prefer to not use. It’s better to learn these kinds of things sooner rather than later.” 

Sample the nightlife

Happy hours and weekend festivities are a common part of building a social life. As such, you should spend at least one night going out where you coordinate with friends to grab dinner or even head out bar hopping. Your goal should be to see as many venues as you possibly can, to get a sense of the ambiance and demographics of the local nightlife and social scene.

My friend Elen Gales, for instance, has lived in cities as diverse as Manila, Jakarta, Kathmandu, Colombo, Sacramento, and San Francisco. As such, she’s my resident expert on how to size up and quickly integrate into a city’s social scene.

“You should go out a few times with several different groups of friends—it’s particularly helpful if they have different perspectives and lifestyles from each other,” she says. “It’s important to get unfiltered feedback from your friends about the area—after all, they’ll be visiting you there!”

Make sure to make it clear to your friends that you haven’t decided whether you’ll buy just yet, since, as Gales adds, “Your friends will be more comfortable giving you their honest opinions if they know that you haven’t made a commitment on the place yet. And the perspectives you’ll gain will be valuable.”

The post How to Test-Drive a Neighborhood Before You Buy the House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

The New Rules of Neighborly Etiquette: Do You Know Them All?

December 31, 2018

neighbors at door


Neighborhoods just aren’t the same as they used to be.

Gone are the days when everyone on your street knows you and waves when you pass one another by. One recent study by the City Observatory found that only about one-third of homeowners know their neighbors by name! That’s a huge change from generations past, and it’s altered the unspoken rules of neighborly etiquette.

Whether you’re the new kid on the block or you’ve been at the same address for 20 years, there are certain etiquette rules you’re expected to follow to keep the peace in your hood, and those rules are evolving just as quickly as the world we live in. We spoke to experts to find out exactly what those rules are today, so we can strive to be the perfect neighbors we wish we had.

Old rule: Just pop by and knock!

New rule: Try texting first

Many of the changes in the way that we interact with our neighbors are due to advancements in technology.

“The technology that was created to connect us has left many ever more [physically] disconnected,” says Sophie Kaemmerle, a neighborhood expert from NeighborWho. “There is a tendency for many of us to turn inward and live in a digital neighborhood, instead of interacting with the people around us.”

The upshot? People just don’t show up unexpectedly at your door anymore—if you do, there’s a good chance you’ll catch your neighbors off guard.

Instead, “Sending people a message to say that you would like to swing by, rather than just showing up unannounced, is appropriate,” says Kaemmerle. “A text saying you have something to drop off and ‘Is now a good time?’ allows the other person to make sure they have pants on before you ring the doorbell!”

Old rule: Kids can still drop by to ask if your tykes can play

New rule: Kids have busy schedules, so texting applies here, too

So maybe we adults should consider texting before dropping by, but surely it’s OK for phone-less kids to drop by unannounced and ask for the children of the house to come out and play, right? Not so fast, says Kaemmerle.

“It’s best to use technology to plan play dates for your kids, by emailing or texting other parents rather than letting your kids simply show up and knock,” she explains. “Kids these days have a lot of extracurricular activities, and unless you know the other family really well, you probably don’t have an inkling about their schedule. It’s courteous to be mindful of those busy schedules by planning play dates in advance.”

Old rule: Neighborhood watch keeps us all safe

New rule: Limit your video surveillance to your own property

As crime rates go up and the cost of video equipment goes down, it’s not uncommon to see video cameras pop up on houses on your street. In fact, around 20% of all Americans aged 18 to 49 use video surveillance in their homes.

If you decide to take the plunge and install your own, where exactly should those cameras be pointing? Is it a big deal if your front porch camera also happens to be recording your neighbor’s front yard?

Experts agree that is a very, very big deal.

“For reasons of privacy, I would encourage property owners to limit the scope of all videotaping to the boundary of their own property,” explains etiquette and manners expert Sharon Schweitzer, who is also an attorney.

She adds that you should double-check by watching your video to make sure you’re not accidentally recording beyond your own property lines.

It’s not always possible to keep the camera on your own property, especially if you have a small lot, or are recording something close to the edge of your property.

“If you are recording anything beyond your property line, it is best to communicate with your neighbors and check with an attorney,” advises etiquette consultant Jodi RR Smith. “Different states have different right-to-privacy and recording laws.”

Old rule: Face-to-face interactions are best

New rule: Being Facebook friends is fine, too

While every etiquette expert we spoke with confirmed that you are under no obligation to befriend your neighbors on Facebook or other social media sites, Kaemmerle says there are good ways to connect with your neighbors online—especially if you’re not apt to do it face to face. In fact, doing so may be the key to forging the connections that have been lost over the years—and to keeping up with what’s happening in your area.

“While technology might have started the trend toward fewer interactions with your neighbors, it can also be the key to changing that trend,” she says. “There are digital platforms now that are designed specifically to create neighborliness.”

Kaemmerle suggests searching Facebook for groups specific to your city, town, or neighborhood. She also advises trying the app Nextdoor, which uses your address to automatically connect you to private message boards used only by those living in your area. By using these sites, you can pitch in when there’s a lost cat, stay in the loop if there’s suspicious activity in the area, and even keep up to date on things like yard waste collection.

Old rule: Swap keys with a neighbor you trust in case of emergencies

New rule: Swap alarm codes and other electronic passwords, too

You can’t be home 100% of the time, so it’s always good to have one neighbor you trust have access to your house in case of emergencies. In the past, that boiled down to a key swap. Today, it could include everything from security alarm codes to garage door passwords—whatever they’d need to keep your place safe.

“If you trust your neighbor and vice versa, share alarm codes, garage codes, and home electronics instructions, in case you ever need to assist while they’re away,” explains Schweitzer. “For example, if your neighbor’s garage door is open or they are away during a freeze and the heat needs to be turned on, you’ll be prepared to be a helpful neighbor.”

Old rule: Construction on your property is your business alone

New rule: Alert neighbors to any construction plans that might make noise

Construction projects aren’t just hard on you—they’re also hard on your whole neighborhood. The noise, the dirt, and the added traffic are enough to drive anyone nuts, so be considerate of your neighbors when you have a project going on.

“If you’re doing construction, send an email or written note to all neighbors with your contact info, in case there are any issues with the contractors if you’re not around,” advises etiquette expert Lisa Grotts.

After the project is over, invite everyone over for libations as a thank-you for putting up with the ruckus—and forging stronger neighborhood bonds. (The old-fashioned custom of sharing a drink face to face works just as well now as ever!)

The post The New Rules of Neighborly Etiquette: Do You Know Them All? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.