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Moving quickly to tour a home in a hot market may give you an edge over other buyers. (Getty Images)

Whether it’s because it’s spring or just a hot real estate market, homebuyers know there’s some fierce competition out there.

You might be caught up in the heat of the moment and ready to risk it all to win a bid or, conversely, you’re feeling discouraged about being able to make a seller the most attractive offer. Neither mindset is ideal for finding the right home.

To set yourself up for success during the house hunting process, prepare for home tours to get the most out of the experience and be ready for your next steps. Here are six things homebuyers can do to maximize a house tour.

[Read: 8 Things You Can Learn From a First-Time Homebuyer Boot Camp.]

Move fast. A house tour is a noncommittal part of the homebuying process, so don’t hesitate about jumping into a tour as soon as the property is listed for sale, especially when the market is hot.

Real estate brokerage and information company Redfin reports the national median days on market for residential properties in January reached 53 days, six days less than the same month in 2017. The early months on the calendar typically reflect the longest numbers of days on market for the year, dipping lower in the spring and summer, though the days on market appear to be trending downward from year to year as well.

Talk to your real estate agent about any schedule the seller’s representative may have set up. Holly Gray, a real estate broker for Re/Max Pacific in Bellevue, Washington, says it’s common for houses to go on the market on a Thursday, with plans to review offers the following Monday or Tuesday. It’s important to tour the house as soon as possible once it’s on the market so you have a few days to consider the pros and cons before making an offer. A house's first weekend on the market will likely include an open house, so get ahead of the crowds if you can by touring the property on Thursday or Friday when it's freshly on the market.

Get a full understanding of your financial situation. Most buyer agents won’t want to start showing you houses before you’re preapproved for a mortgage, but you should also have a firm grasp of your expected monthly costs for owning a home before taking serious tours.

A thorough conversation with your agent about what you can afford, the type of properties that fall in that price range and the condition you can expect is necessary. Otherwise, Gray says you’ll find yourself making plans to customize a house that aren’t feasible.

“Oftentimes we’ll be looking through a house, and people will say, ‘I don’t like this wall right here, can we take it down?’” she says. “Well, if this house is $300,000 and that’s the top price that you can afford, that’s going to drain all your savings, and [knocking out a wall is] not really an option for you.”

[Read: 12 Things That Trip Up Homebuyers.]

Have a couple open houses under your belt. To help you get in the groove of touring a house you’re seriously considering, it’s worth getting a few practice runs in by checking out open houses. Even if you’re not seriously considering the property for purchase, then you’ve at least got the experience so a serious tour with your agent will be more focused on meeting your needs.

“If that’s the first house they’ve seen, they don’t have the context to understand if that’s the right house for them,” Gray says.

Keep your eyes peeled and have someone take notes. If the house met your needs on paper, take the tour with your checklist of must-haves in mind and point out issues that may be deal-breakers.

Gray says she takes notes during tours as her buyers mention a crack in the wall or possible water leak. If the listing agent doesn’t have an answer for it, it’s something to ask about in the inspection.

Especially if the home is priced below the expected market value, keep an eye out for potential problem areas. Even a seller who hasn’t had the property inspected prior to listing should be aware of major problems.

“It’s very rare that a home[owner] doesn’t know of … a major crack in the foundation or major water leak in the roof,” says Drew White, founder and owner of AmPro Inspections in Colorado Springs, Colorado.



Visit again at another time of day. The house has the right number of bedrooms, an updated kitchen and nothing stood out as a glaring issue. If you aren’t bumping up against the deadline for bids quite yet, see if you can visit again at a different time of day.

A home in the Southwest with big windows and skylights can heat up quite a bit in the summer. Conversely, you’re in the northern U.S., an east- or north-facing home may be darker and require more heating and artificial light. Gray says sunlight matters to many of her Seattle-area buyers: “It might have good morning sun but no afternoon sun.”

Make sure you didn’t catch the house at its ideal time, and weigh whether these downsides would be a problem for you – or your utility bills.

[Read: Not Finding the Real Estate Agent You Like? Consider a Nontraditional Brokerage.]

Start thinking about next steps. It may be the first house you visit with your agent or it may be your 15th, but eventually you’ll be ready to make an offer. When that happens, keep the next steps in mind to keep the process moving. Key to preventing a deal from falling through is to be on top of your due diligence and be prompt with providing your lender with the necessary paperwork.

However, don’t skip key parts of the process for the sake of winning the seller over. Waiving the inspection, for example, can lead to unpleasant surprises – like mold – down the road, and most lenders won’t agree to those terms.

White says that even with prelisting home inspections becoming more common, many buyers still bring their own inspector in. “You might as well have your own guy do it,” he explains.

Organization is key to getting through a successful home purchase, even before you've stepped inside your future house. You’ve already been dedicated to prompt action from the point the property went on the market, so you should keep the same attitude until closing.


The 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2019

The Best Places to Live in 2019

Photo of colorful bars, clubs and businesses at the famous Sixth Street music and entertainment district of downtown Austin, Texas, USA, illuminated at night.

(Getty Images)

What are the best qualities of your hometown? It may be that it’s easy to get around, there are plenty of job opportunities or it attracts new residents every year. To determine the Best Places to Live rankings, U.S. News looks at data on the country’s 125 most populous metro areas, including the cost of living, job market, crime rates, quality of education and more. The data is weighted based on the responses from a survey of more than 2,000 people throughout the U.S. to determine what matters most to them when picking their next place to live. Read on for the 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2019.

Updated on May 17, 2019: This slideshow was originally published on April 9, 2019, and has been updated to reflect a change to the methodology in the desirability category, which did not affect the overall Best Places to Live rankings.

25. Melbourne, Florida

25. Melbourne, Florida

Sunset over the Melbourne Causeway

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 568,183
Median Home Price: $198,425
Median Annual Salary: $48,240

After ranking No. 29 in 2018, Melbourne moves up four spots this year, in part due to its rapid growth in population and high-quality high school education. The Quality of Life score for Best Places to Live factors in college preparedness among high school students, access to quality health care, property crime and murder rates, morning commute and overall well-being.

24. Salt Lake City

24. Salt Lake City

Morning orange sky over Salt lake city utah

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 2,399,521
Median Home Price: $324,198
Median Annual Salary: $47,272

Salt Lake City is recognized for its strong job market, ability to attract new residents and overall quality of life. The biggest contributor to the Utah capital’s ranking at No. 24 is its affordability. Salt Lake City residents spend just 22.14% of the median household income on housing costs, which includes mortgage payments, rent, property taxes and utilities.

23. Portland, Maine

23. Portland, Maine

The Portland Head Light at sunrise just outside of Portland, Maine.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 525,776
Median Home Price: $223,367
Median Annual Salary: $48,970

The most populous metro area in Maine may be one of the smaller places in the top 25, but Portland residents are quite happy. Of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., Portland ranks sixth on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, which asks residents how they feel about their hometown.

22. Greenville, South Carolina

22. Greenville, South Carolina

Downtown Greenville South Carolina.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 872,463
Median Home Price: $172,067
Median Annual Salary: $43,230

Situated in the mountains of South Carolina, Greenville takes the No. 22 spot on the list. Greenville gets its best score for affordability. Residents of the metro area benefit from having to spend just 21.44% of the median household income on housing expenses.

21. Dallas-Fort Worth

21. Dallas-Fort Worth

Dallas, Texas, USA downtown city skyline.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 7,104,415
Median Home Price: $248,375
Median Annual Salary: $51,250

The most populous metro area in the top 25, Dallas-Fort Worth’s highest score is for population growth due to net migration. The Dallas-Fort Worth area grew by 5.7% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

20. Charlotte, North Carolina

20. Charlotte, North Carolina

A foggy and colorful sunrise in Charlotte, North Carolina during the morning rush hour traffic.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 2,427,024
Median Home Price: $213,983
Median Annual Salary: $50,150

Moving up two spots from 2018, Charlotte gets its highest score from fast and sustained population growth. The Charlotte metro area grew by 7.06% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration alone.

19. Washington, D.C.

19. Washington, D.C.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Georgetown Washington DC.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 6,090,196
Median Home Price: $376,767
Median Annual Salary: $69,210

After ranking No. 8 on the 2018 Best Places to Live list, the District of Columbia fell back this year to No. 19. While the nation’s capital continues to have a strong job market and high median annual salary, the area’s cost of living has increased and net migration slowed between 2013 and 2017. The metro area grew by just 1.88% due to net migration during that time period.

18. Sarasota, Florida

18. Sarasota, Florida

Going toward Downtown Sarasota from from the Ringling Bridge

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 768,381
Median Home Price: $237,260
Median Annual Salary: $42,680

After ranking No. 34 in 2018, this metro area on the Gulf Coast of Florida jumps 16 spots to No. 18. Sarasota is the third-fastest growing metro area out of the 125 places on the list. Between 2013 and 2017, Sarasota saw a population increase of 13.1% due to net migration.

17. Boise, Idaho

17. Boise, Idaho

Boise, Idaho

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 677,346
Median Home Price: $221,475
Median Annual Salary: $43,880

Idaho’s capital makes the list with high scores for population growth due to net migration and housing affordability compared with its median annual household income. Boise’s lowest score, however, is in desirability among U.S. residents when considering where they would want to live.

16. Asheville, North Carolina

16. Asheville, North Carolina

Epic Sunset over Downtown Asheville North Carolina NC cityscape with blue ridge mountain range and Mt. Pisgah featured in the background.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 445,625
Median Home Price: $248,500
Median Annual Salary: $41,210

Set in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville receives its highest score for desirability, where it ranks 16th out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. Additionally, the Asheville area grew by 6.16% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration.

15. Nashville, Tennessee

15. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville Skyline and Bridge at Sunset.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 1,830,410
Median Home Price: $248,883
Median Annual Salary: $47,110

Nashville takes the No. 15 spot overall, with many U.S. residents viewing the Tennessee metro area as a desirable place to live. People are also acting on that feeling, as Nashville has grown by 6.88% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration alone.

14. San Jose, California

14. San Jose, California

San Jose California

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 1,969,897
Median Home Price: $1,080,017
Median Annual Salary: $77,180

The capital of Silicon Valley climbs three spots from No. 17 in 2018. With a median annual salary of $77,180 and an unemployment rate of just 2.6%, San Jose continues its reign as the metro area with the strongest job market out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

13. Grand Rapids, Michigan

13. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids, MI, USA - June 7, 2007: People on the Pedestrian bridge over the Grand River in Grand Rapids MI

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 1,039,182
Median Home Price: $181,533
Median Annual Salary: $44,770

Grand Rapids ranks sixth out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for affordability. The western Michigan metro area also scores highly for quality of life, which takes into account the quality of public high school education, commute time, property crime and murder rates and general happiness among residents, per the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index.

12. Madison, Wisconsin

12. Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin, USA downtown skyline at dusk on Lake Monona.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 640,072
Median Home Price: $247,967
Median Annual Salary: $52,190

Madison takes the No. 12 spot in the Best Places to Live ranking, in large part due to the metro area’s job market. Madison residents benefit from a median annual salary of $52,190, which is above the national average of $50,620. The unemployment rate, at 2.2%, is 1.7% better than the national average of 3.9%.

11. Huntsville, Alabama

11. Huntsville, Alabama

This could be anywhere downtown.  The various brick buildings, and the fresh contrasting painted building give us a glimpse into the past.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 444,908
Median Home Price: $167,300
Median Annual Salary: $53,600

Huntsville is the smallest metro area in the top 25 Best Places to Live. This northern Alabama metro area is the most affordable place to live out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. and offers a flourishing job market, with many local companies focused on science, technology, engineering and math.

10. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

10. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina, USA downtown city skyline.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 1,824,266
Median Home Price: $249,294
Median Annual Salary: $53,788

The Raleigh and Durham metro area continues to be an attractive place for people to relocate, thanks to its affordability and job market. Research, technology, education and health care are consistently growing industries in the area.

9. Seattle

9. Seattle

Neon Public Market sign at sunset

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 3,735,216
Median Home Price: $442,333
Median Annual Salary: $63,120

Moving up one spot from 2018, Seattle ranks No. 9 this year thanks to its consistently strong job market and high desirability among U.S. residents as a place to live. The job market contributes to its reputation as a great place to live, with Seattle ranking seventh out of the 125 metro areas on the list for desirability.

8. Portland, Oregon

8. Portland, Oregon

Portland, OR, USA - July 16, 2015: People ordering food from the multi-ethnic fast-food vendors in downtown Portland, Oregon

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 2,382,037
Median Home Price: $375,425
Median Annual Salary: $55,330

U.S. residents view Portland as a highly desirable place to live, with the city taking the No. 1 spot in that category in a four-way tie with Colorado Springs, Colorado, Honolulu and San Francisco. Additionally, a strong job market and consistent growth in population due to net migration over a five-year period leads to the Rose City’s rise in the rankings.

7. San Francisco

7. San Francisco

Aerial view of San Francisco and the Oakland Bay Bridge. See other photos from USA:

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 4,641,820
Median Home Price: $768,517
Median Annual Salary: $69,700

Ranking No. 20 in 2018, San Francisco jumped to No. 7 this year. San Francisco continues to have a strong job market, and even more U.S. residents are saying they would like to live in the City by the Bay. San Francisco received a perfect score for desirability.

6. Minneapolis-St. Paul

6. Minneapolis-St. Paul

Minneapolis Minnesota Downtown and the Stone Arch Bridge at Sunset

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 3,526,149
Median Home Price: $237,367
Median Annual Salary: $56,030

Minnesota’s Twin Cities metro area takes the No. 6 spot, continuing its climb up the rankings after scoring No. 9 in 2018 and No. 17 in 2017. A major reason for Minneapolis-St. Paul’s jump is the metro area’s low cost of living. Area residents spend just 21.5% of the median household income on housing expenses.

5. Des Moines, Iowa

5. Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa, United States, North America

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 623,113
Median Home Price: $178,942
Median Annual Salary: $50,600

Des Moines takes the No. 5 spot this year, with continued growth in its job market, sustained net migration to the metro area and solid quality of life scores. Des Moines also maintains a low cost of living compared to the median household income.

4. Fayetteville, Arkansas

4. Fayetteville, Arkansas

bikers and walkers use the Razorback Greenway over the dam at Lake Fayetteville in Northwest Arkansas on a sunny day with whit clouds

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 514,166
Median Home Price: $177,942
Median Annual Salary: $45,830

This fast-growing metro area in Arkansas has long been a strong contender in the Best Places to Live ranking – and this year is no different. A low cost of living compared with household income, strong population growth due to net migration and high quality of life scores all contribute to Fayetteville’s No. 4 ranking in 2019.

3. Colorado Springs, Colorado

3. Colorado Springs, Colorado

The beautiful City of Colorado Springs in the middle of summer

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 698,595
Median Home Price: $286,700
Median Annual Salary: $50,050

At No. 3 in the overall Best Places to Live list, Colorado Springs also shares the top spot for desirability as a place to live among U.S. residents with San Francisco, Honolulu and Portland, Oregon. High marks for college preparedness among high school students and a consistently strong job market help Colorado Springs rank near the top of the list this year.

2. Denver

2. Denver

beautiful drone image of the golden cupola of the Colorado state capital building in the city of Denver

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 2,798,684
Median Home Price: $393,842
Median Annual Salary: $57,400

After taking the No. 3 spot in 2018 behind Colorado Springs, Denver is back in second place in 2019. Denver remains desirable to U.S. residents and has a flourishing job market, but migration to the area has slowed over the last couple years.

1. Austin, Texas

1. Austin, Texas

Weekends finds Austin, Texas 6th Avenue closed to cars, allowing foot traffic to easily come and go from the city nightlife, bars, and clubs.  Horizontal, long exposure image.

(Getty Images)

Metro Population: 2,000,590
Median Home Price: $292,500
Median Annual Salary: $51,840

For the third year in a row, Austin is the No. 1 Best Place to Live in the U.S. The capital of Texas continues to receive interest from the tech industry, contributing to a strong job market and high desirability among Americans as a place to live. Aside from the job opportunities, new residents are attracted to Austin for its eclectic arts and music scene, which are highlighted in the annual South by Southwest festival, which features music, film and television attractions.

The Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2019:

The Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2019:

USA, Florida, Stuart, Aerial view of suburbs

(Getty Images)

  • Austin, Texas
  • Denver
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • San Francisco
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Seattle
  • Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina
  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • San Jose, California
  • Nashville
  • Asheville, North Carolina
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Sarasota, Florida
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Greenville, South Carolina
  • Portland, Maine
  • Salt Lake City
  • Melbourne, Florida

Read More

Tags: real estate, housing market, housing, home prices, new home sales, existing home sales, pending home sales


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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