Home Tour Tips from the Field: A Redfin Agent's Guide

Redfin field agents take our customers on home tours, host open houses and attend inspections. As our mobile force on the ground, each sees on average 50 – 60 homes a week. Across all our markets, field agents toured a total of 5,795 homes in April. Exposure to that many properties gives them a great eye for evaluating what’s for sale and watching how their local market changes week to week.

Seattle field agent Kathi Kelly-Billings recently posted some great suggestions in our forums on how customers can get the most out of home tours. We’d like to share her tips:

Find Your Target Area Before You Tour

  • Drive the area: closest freeway entrance? Nearest grocery store? Traffic patterns? Attend open houses to get a feel for prices/neighborhoods. Try all of this on a Sunday when there are a lot of open houses.
  • Check the commute time: try the drive on a weekday, ask in our forums, or friends in the area.
  • Research schools: Schooldigger and GreatSchools are great websites. Even if you don’t have kids, buying in a good district with good schools will help when you decide to sell.

Know What You Want & Don’t Want Before You Tour

  • Make a list of all your needs, wants and no-ways: the list will expand as you get further into the process and then you won’t need one—you’ll just know. But it’s still a good starting point. Must have a large level lot? “Light and bright” very important? Would like a bonus room but not a necessity? Need a 4th bedroom for when granny comes to visit? Need space for a dog run?
  • Are fixers worth your time? Many fixers are foreclosures and can come with a lot of problems. The price may seem like a bargain; but in the end, is it worth it? Here’s what we often see:
    o The roof needs replacing before the bank will consider financing.
    o Furnaces and appliances are often non-existent or broken.
    o Carpeting/flooring soiled past livability.
    o Mold, siding, plumbing, electrical and structural issues.
    o Most of these homes need at least $20-30K just be livable—not even considering aesthetic enhancements.

Also, dealing with banks and the tightening of FHA rules makes these processes difficult. Take some time to decide if repairs will fit in to your financial budget, time constraints and patience level.

  • Newer/New Construction lots are often smaller: everything is new and shiny–appliances, plumbing/electrical systems, carpeting. The living spaces are bigger/more open than older homes. They probably won’t need a lot of upkeep in the next few years. But if you are looking for a backyard to throw a baseball or plant a large garden or perhaps, practice with your band, these places probably won’t have enough room.
  • Older homes often have larger lots: but they may have older systems that need updating. Just think about what’s most important to you.

How to Visualize the Lot Size

Paying attention to lot sizes is a very easy way to whittle down your list before you tour, depending on your needs. So many times, I set foot in the door of a house with a touring customer and they say, “oh, this lot is too small–we need room for ____.”

If lot size is important to you, here are a few guidelines. Use the pictures to get a sense of the backyard’s size. (Unfortunately, wide-angle lenses can distort the pictures). Excuse the “baseball” comparisons…

  • Under 4,000 Sq.Ft.: will probably be just 5 feet (on sides) and 15 feet in front and back, or smaller, depending on where the house is situated on the lot. If it has a picture with a good sized front yard and is under 4000 sf, this means the backyard will be very small. Great for non-gardeners or workaholics. Rule these out if you want to put in a swing set or have large BBQ parties.
  • Under 6,000 Sq.Ft.: will have some yard but you probably can’t toss a baseball very hard. A small garden area is possible with small outside entertainment area.
  • Under 8,000 Sq.Ft.: you could toss a baseball, but not if you are playing anything above Little League. Enjoying a nice sized garden is possible along with a large outside dining area.
  • Over 12,000 Sq.Ft.: you could throw a baseball hard and hit a grand slam as well. Great tree-fort material, too.

Get In Touch With a Redfin Lead Agent Before You Tour

Experienced, top producers in their markets, Redfin lead agents handle on average 4 – 5 deals a month. Directly responsible for your success, they answer all of your questions, negotiate hard to get you the best deal and guide you through the whole process.

We’ve found that our first-time home buyers really benefit from connecting with a lead agent sooner rather than later in the process. Since over 50% of our customers are first-timers, more handholding is welcome and of course, expected.

The more you know what you want going into the process, the easier it becomes. And the better chance of getting the home you have always wanted.

Good luck in your search!

Kathi Kelly-Billings
Redfin Field Agent


  • http://blog.redfin.com/blog/author/glenn%20kelman Glenn Kelman

    Kathi, this is the best advice I’ve seen in a long time on how to tour homes!

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    Fixers are NOT worth your time! My brother got caught up in that house flipping, get rich quick real estate program that’s floating around. Bought a house for pennies on the dollar, but never adequately inspected it. Just about all of the plumbing had to be replaced. No water heater. Broken kitchen appliances. Hideous brown stains on some of the back bedroom walls. It was just a mess, and now he’s deep in debt. Don’t get greedy and try to turn a foreclosed home.

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