Home > Mortgages > Airbnb Wants You to Test-Drive Homes Before You Buy

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In a move that makes house shopping slightly less intimidating for the indecisive consumer, Airbnb and Realtor.com just announced a partnership where prospective homebuyers can try out properties for a bit before deciding to buy them. When you think about it, it’s actually kind of weird that we live in a world where a person will ask for samples of five different ice cream flavors before settling on a what to put in a $5 waffle cone, but the same person will take out a six-figure loan on a home in which she’s never lived.

Listings on Realtor.com with the option to try first will say “Airbinb before buying,” and while the news release doesn’t list specific locations, the feature will be available in neighborhoods across the country. Trying a bunch of places could get to be very expensive — you’re looking at several hundred dollars for a weeklong Airbnb stay — but that may be worth the cost if you feel it helps your confidence in purchasing property. To kickstart their partnership and help ease the expense of house testing, Airbnb and Realtor.com have a Try Before You Buy sweepstakes going on through Aug. 23 in which $500 toward Airbnb property trials will be awarded to a winner each week through the end of the sweepstakes.

Buying a home is a huge commitment: You shell out a big chunk of your savings for a down payment, go through a marathon of paperwork and sign on for years of mortgage payments, in addition to everything else that may pop up throughout homeownership. Given that outlook, it could be reassuring to test out the place and the neighborhood, to make sure you’ll like investing your time and money in the home for years to come.

Still, this casual segue from visitor to homeowner shouldn’t overshadow the details: Before you start thinking about buying a house, you need to take a close look at your financial situation. Prepare for house hunting by thoroughly reviewing your credit history — if there are any errors, get them fixed, and if your credit score needs work, make that a priority — and focus on paying down any outstanding debts you may have. You want to go into the process with as best a credit standing as possible, because the better interest rates you can qualify for, the less this big purchase is likely to cost you in the long run. You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com to see where you stand.

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