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NEIGHBORHOOD OF THE WEEK: Economical home tours — saving money at the pump

by TYLER WILSON/Special to The Press
| March 13, 2022 1:00 AM

As spring approaches, more and more people will be getting the “real estate bug.”

Thankfully, it’s not related to the stomach flu or another COVID-19 variant. As the weather warms, more properties tend to become available, prompting potential buyers to investigate the housing market.

For some, myself included, checking out open houses and touring homes isn’t necessarily an activity exclusive to active buyers. Maybe you’re a person thinking about buying at some point and wants to get a firsthand look at options in a potential price range. Maybe you like open houses because you enjoy free bottles of water and Costco cookies. Those chocolate chunk ones are delicious, but I’m a sucker for a moist, fragrant oatmeal cookie, and those Costco bakers deliver the goods on those as well.

Whatever the reason, home shopping can be the anchor to a pleasant weekend afternoon of just driving around town. That being said, we’re dealing with extremely high gas prices. To be clear, we’re not minimizing the tragic reasons behind that increase, but the price at the pump can definitely have an influence on activities and spending habits.

Fortunately, with a little bit of planning, you can still engage in a thoughtful, in-person home search and limit travel costs by taking a few extra steps in the planning phase before you head out the door.

Plan your route

While making plans can hinder the spontaneity of a home hunt, spending even a few minutes on a battle plan can save a lot of time and gas by eliminating “back-and-forth” routes. Make a list of those open houses/neighborhoods/home tours alongside a real estate agent to determine the best way to make from point A to B to C, etc., in your timeframe. You might even manage to fit in more just by arranging each stop on a logical loop.

If you want to make it a family affair, give your kids an opportunity to map out the plan… just maybe cross-reference their strategy with Google Maps.

Investigate the details of online listings

With various real estate apps and websites that compile the area’s MLS (multiple listing service), you can obtain quite a bit of information about available properties from the comfort of your own home. Obviously, if you’re serious about a property, you’ll want to take a look in-person, but every person who has gone house hunting in the past will tell you they’ve toured at least one property that ultimately proved to be a waste of time and effort.

Taking a World’s Greatest Detective approach to the MLS, be a real estate Batman and hone in on the details of attractive listings. Those details can be used to determine if a property is really worth an in-person visit.

For one, look for inconsistencies. Say you’re looking at something with 2,000+ square feet and/or with four bedrooms, but you’re just not seeing those details depicted in the pictures. Take a closer look, or ask your Realtor to inquire about more information. I’ve come across listings with attractive attributes that wind up having conflicting details, like saying the home is 2,000+ square feet but it includes the unfinished basement in that measurement, or counting a tiny office space as that fourth “bedroom” (where’s the closet?).

Take a close look at all those pictures too — blow them up — because you might notice some visual tricks in the photography that make a space look more appealing than it actually is. While most agents and sellers are upstanding citizens and salespeople, it’s not rare to come across images that paint a property in its best light rather than its honest light.

Know your needs when it comes to location

Look, no knock against any given area or town, but some locations just won’t appeal to certain buyers. No matter the price, if a person doesn’t want to drive 30 minutes or more to work every day, don’t even waste your time looking at those fringe areas.

Take a hike or a bike instead of the car

LOL, just kidding. Nobody wants to exercise while looking at houses, especially if you plan on stuffing yourself with those Costco cookies.

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Let us know about more story ideas, standout neighborhoods and developments that we may feature in an upcoming Neighborhood of the Week. Contact Tyler Wilson at twilson@cdapress.com.

Real Estate Agents, take advantage of Neighborhood of the Week by sending in your suggestions for featured areas, including sites outside the normal confines of Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Hayden.

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Photo by TYLER WILSON