I mentioned earlier that we toured nearly 100 houses in person, and I rated over 2,500 homes on the Redfin app before finding our home. While we toured lots of houses that we wouldn't consider buying, I highly encourage house hunters to set foot in as many houses as possible. The experience of walking through all of those properties led us to knowing which house was the right one for us.
1: You'll hone in on your preferred functionality
We thought we wanted to live on a canyon with sweeping views of lush trees from a deck. But we quickly realized we didn't want to raise kids in a house without a yard. I also thought that charm was worth more than space, so I fell for a house with adorable built-ins and cedar siding but it had no dining room and the two bedrooms were less than 100 square feet each. While it was a fine house, it wasn't the best idea for our needs.
2: You'll discover your ideal house flow and floor plans
What I learned most from touring all of those houses, is what kind of flow and layout we wanted. I’ve analyzed lots of homes over the years while binge watching HGTV and admiring the homes of my favorite bloggers. But I never truly knew how I would like an open concept room until I stood in the middle of one. I hadn’t explored a split-level with a granny suite until I descended the stairs to that lower unit. Not until pulling down the stairs that led to an attic did we recognize our ideal storage needs. Being exposed to the variety of property layouts (good, bad, and really bad) did wonders for helping us to identify the right house for us.
3: You'll learn to prioritize
In San Diego, there are so few old homes in existence - let alone on the market - that we knew we would have to make compromises early on. There was a time when we were all over the place (literally and figuratively). In the same day, we traveled 45 minutes out of the city to a rural area with lots of land for chickens and gardens, and then explored a 900 square foot cottage without parking or outdoor space. We were having such a hard time finding a house that checked all of the boxes, that we started looking at houses that excelled at meeting one of our goals. This helped us realize which items were must-haves, and which amenities we could give up on.
4: You'll learn from current homeowners
Touring a house that’s still being lived in gives immense insight into how the home works for its residents. A kitchen with multiple rolling carts is evidence of a lack of storage and workspace. A mobile heater in the living room shows the HVAC isn’t covering the house well. In addition to spying on how people’s habits reflect upon the house, it’s also helpful to see how different lifestyles affect the property. Seeing a family lay down cushioned mats on top of their brick hardscaping reminds me that fire pits, koi ponds, and brick aren’t incredibly childproof. Houses with lots of stairs need ramps or elevators to get wheelchair-bound relatives inside. A family dog requires a fenced yard. Seeing how others live helped us discover what we wanted and gave us lots to consider for how we would grow into our future home.
5. You'll familiarize yourself with new neighborhoods
When we exhausted all of the market options in our ideal neighborhoods, we branched out to others. Some near, and some very far. Not only did we see different pockets of town, but we saw how different our daily lives would be living near a market, close to a school, far from the freeway, in a cul-de-sac, close to restaurants, etc. Of course, these all have pros and cons, it's all a matter of preference. For example, I would have no problem living near a cemetery, while that's a huge turnoff to other folks. These mini-tours of San Diego gave us a new-found love for our city. We still visit restaurants and shops that we discovered only by driving aimlessly through unknown neighborhoods.
If these aren’t good enough reasons to tour lots of properties, the best excuse is the open house snacks. If you’re touring houses in the heat of summer in San Diego - free ice cream.
Two years after buying our house, and many years from selling, I still wander into open houses in search of design inspiration - and free treats.