I Saw a House for Sale in St. Louis. I’m Interested. Now What?

Brick house with text overlay that reads "I saw a house for sale in St. Louis. I'm interested. Now what?"

A “for sale” sign has popped up on a house you’ve always admired. Or maybe you see a sign on a house that just looks interesting, and that could be perfect for you and your family. Whether you’re already in the process of house hunting, or if you’re not really looking yet, you might be intrigued enough to take a closer look. 

A tour might tell you if the house is worth pursuing. What’s the best way to start the ball rolling? Here’s how to approach a house for sale in St. Louis.

The Internet is a Great Starting Point

A good place to start researching a home that’s for sale in St. Louis is to look for an online listing. Check the website of the real estate agency named on the for sale sign, or try a general website like zillow.com. Just remember that those sites do not and cannot replace a good local agent!

That said, online listings provide a lot of good, general information. Some data might rule the house out immediately, such as too few bedrooms and bathrooms or a budget-busting asking price. Beyond the basics, potential buyers can learn about special features and updates that make it even more attractive. 

Real estate agencies invest heavily in online marketing. Professional photos, aerial views, and virtual tours have become commonplace. These give viewers a good sense of the layout, decor, and condition of the home. It makes it possible to get a good look at a house for sale before scheduling an in-person showing.

Are Open Houses Still Happening During the Pandemic?

House for sale with open house sign

Even with the increase in online real estate marketing, open houses remain an effective way to attract potential buyers. Once upon a time—before the pandemic—motivated house hunters could hit a dozen open houses on a weekend if they wished. Likewise, someone who saw a for sale sign and was curious could take a look, too.

Real estate agents are still holding open houses, provided they do not conflict with state and local COVID-19 restrictions. But it’s harder to just “pop in” out of curiosity. The health and safety of buyers, sellers, and agents is a primary concern, so these events look a bit different.

When a potential buyer decides they’d like to tour a house for sale in St. Louis, they may encounter some of these pandemic-related practices:

  • The open house may be handled by “appointment only”
  • The realtor may show only one buyer and his or her family the home at a time
  • They may restrict the total number of people touring the home at the same time to no more than 10
  • Face masks are almost always required
  • 6 feet of social distancing between guests, and the use of hand-sanitizer, are encouraged
  • Agents are allowed to require a temperature check and may ask screening questions, such as if guests feel sick 

If it’s possible to attend an open house, it’s still the best way for a buyer to decide for him or herself if the property truly fits their needs.

If You Already Have a Buyer’s Agent

Part of a buyer’s agent’s job is to bring houses to their clients’ attention. So what should clients do if they find a house that they’re interested in on their own? Even though they could easily pick up the phone and call the number on the for sale sign, it’s best if they contact their agent instead.

This is because an agent’s job involves much more than just finding properties. Having them make the initial contact with the seller or their real estate agent is a definite advantage. Their relationships and connections can get a buyer in to see a house sooner than someone acting on their own. 

Their knowledge of the market can help a buyer determine if the house is fairly priced. They may also have inside information about the house or the neighborhood. If their client decides the house is worthy of an offer, their expertise in negotiating and taking charge of all of the inspections and paperwork will be extremely helpful. 

Finally, going straight to the seller or their real estate agent prevents the buyer’s agent from making their commission. At closing, it’s up to the seller, not the buyer, to pay the commissions for both the seller’s and buyer’s agents. Cutting them out of the process at the onset won’t save the buyer any money and could sour the relationship. 

If You Haven’t Hired a Real Estate Agent

It’s perfectly acceptable for someone without a buyer’s agent to contact the listing agent directly when they see a house for sale in St. Louis. It’s best to be honest if they’re in the early stages of looking or are just mulling over a move and aren’t completely committed yet. But agents know that the potential for a casual shopper to become a serious buyer is always a possibility, so getting to see the house is not out of the question. 

When someone shows an interest in a house they’re listing, a real estate agent may present them with a Missouri Broker Disclosure Form. This is not an agreement, but simply a disclosure of their professional responsibility to the seller. If the buyer hires a buyer’s agent, they will use the same form to indicate that they will act in the buyer’s best interest.

When the House is For Sale By Owner

House for sale by owner

A sign on a house for sale in St. Louis might indicate that it is “For Sale by Owner.” In this case, the buyer can contact the owner directly. It will be up to the owner when and how they show the home to potential buyers. 

Some buyers think they will save money if they deal with an owner directly, but this isn’t always the case. Buyers can take advantage of the knowledge and experience of a buyer’s agent without any cost, since all agent commissions are usually the seller’s responsibility. 

It is well worth finding an agent who can negotiate price and walk their client through the buying process. Consider reading our article: What to Look For in a Realtor: A Guide for St. Louis Buyers and Sellers.

Be Prepared in Case It’s Perfect

Buying a house at the spur of the moment isn’t an everyday occurrence, but it does happen, especially when the market is hot and interest rates are low. Buyers who become interested in a house they happen to see for sale need to be ready to act fast. Low inventory in the housing market means that a desirable house might get several offers, so they’ll need to move quickly if they’re serious.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to meet with a lender as soon as moving becomes a possibility. Knowing the price that one can afford, and lining up financing ahead of time can turn a wishful thinker into a serious contender when it comes to bidding on a house. 

Finally, consider finding an agent to represent your interests. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties is there to help when you see a house for sale in St. Louis.

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