Buying a home is an emotional process and it is easy to get caught up in the excitement. It is important to avoid pitfalls when making a home selection and to make as many rational decisions as possible. Buying a home is also a significant financial decision and often requires you to differentiate between what you want and what you need. What needs to be in existence versus what can be added later is another financially based train of thought. What do you look for while house hunting? Sometimes the less obvious factors have the biggest impact on your day-to-day experience in a home. Here is some information to help you feel empowered to make an informed decision on your next home. Keep these specific elements in mind as you are looking through houses.
Consider the Location
Is the property easy to access?
What about the neighborhood in general - is there a lot of traffic or noise? Is it located in a flight path or near where school traffic will monopolize the roads twice a day? Are there a lot of homes for sale?
Is the home near to parks, restaurants, shopping, public transportation, and other facilities? How far are you from work and schools?
Do you have cell phone coverage in the area?
What are zoning and ordinances for pets and other animals?
Is street parking allowed?
The Physical Site
Is there a view? Or are you the neighbors’ view? How close are the neighbors?
Is the home situated low, creating concern for flooding?
Which direction does the house face? Is there natural light in the home? Will ice and snow melt off the driveway? Remember: south = natural light + heat
How long and wide is the driveway? Will you be able to clear snow? Can you turn your car around? Do you share a driveway with neighbors?
What is the grade of the lot like? Can kids play, dogs run, etc.? Are you allowed to install a fence?
Is the Home Sound?
Is the siding or outside finish easy to maintain? What condition is it in?
Is the roof in good condition? How old is the roof?
Is the driveway really steep? Are outdoor steps really steep?
What condition are steps and sidewalks in?
Are the windows and window frames in good condition? Is there wood rot, cracking paint, or condensation between panes?
What size are the windows? Do they let in enough natural light?
Hairline cracks are to be expected, large cracks are to be inspected.
Is the attic accessible? Is it insulated?
Are there issues with the foundation? Look for gaps, uneven floors, large cracks, wonky windows, or tilted door frames.
Is there mold or water damage? Notice if there is a musty odor, flaking plaster, or water marks on the walls or ceilings. Look for soft wood around the interior of the windows.
Is the electrical panel updated and done to code? In an historic home, has the wiring been updated? Are there sufficient outlets? What condition are they in?
Is the plumbing solid? Check the water pressure, hot water temperature, size of the water heater, and for insulation of the pipes. Look under sinks for moisture issues and check that all toilets flush properly and faucets run properly.
How old is the HVAC system? Is there a warranty? Is the size of the unit sufficient for the space?
Are floors in good condition? Lift up rugs, look for damage.
Does the garage door work? The remote?
Does the doorbell work?
Are there smoke detectors? Carbon monoxide detectors?
Look for signs of deferred maintenance – long grass, chipped paint, burned out light bulbs, leaky faucets and toilets, or rust on the HVAC system or larger appliances.
Space and Configuration
Do the number of bedrooms and bathrooms meet your needs?
Are there enough living spaces?
Do the room sizes accommodate your needs and your furniture? Bring your furniture measurements and measuring tape when you tour houses.
Notice the window placement. Will they impede your ability to place your furniture?
Is there ample closet and other storage space? Open closets and cupboards to see how they are working for the current owners.
Will the home accommodate your future space needs? Consider the needs of children as they grow, your own age, aging family members who may join you…don’t necessarily buy for the life you have today.
Do you like the layout and flow? Are bedrooms and bathrooms where you want them?
Where is the laundry room? Is it near the main living area or near the bedrooms? While this is a personal preference, it is definitely something to take note of.
Is the ceiling height comfortable?
How steep and/or long are staircases?
Is there a workable indoor-outdoor flow? How do you get to the grill, the yard, the garage?
Is there enough room for all of your vehicles?
Kitchen and Bathrooms
Is the kitchen fabulous? Does it require minor changes or a gut job? Ask when the kitchen was last renovated and the age of the appliances.
How much preparation space is there? How much storage space?
Is there a pantry? Is it large enough for your needs?
In what condition is the kitchen sink? Is it an appropriate size?
Has the kitchen faucet been updated? Does the current faucet function properly?
Is there a garbage disposal and does it work?
Is there a dishwasher?
Are the bathrooms usable in their current state?
Will cleaning, a fresh shower curtain, and new paint work or are the bathrooms in desperate need of complete remodeling?
Are the toilets solidly set? Are they leaking?
Is there enough storage space for your toiletries and linens?
Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t fall in love with a house you can’t afford and remember to factor in renovation costs when estimating your total.
Don’t overestimate renovation potential of a home or the possible return on your investment.
Don’t overestimate your renovation and handyman skills.
Don’t assume there is nothing better available at your price point. Be patient, don’t settle, and don’t be desperate.
Don’t ignore too much scent – what is it trying to cover?
Does the house embrace you the moment you enter? Are you envisioning your belongings in the house without effort? Do you not want to look at any more houses? As you look for your next home, exercise a little patience. Set your priorities and know your must-haves versus your wants. Resist the urge to call the number on the sign! Let your realtor do her job to avoid safety issues and keep you from wasting your time with homes that don’t fit your established criteria. Flip switches, run water in all the faucets, open doors and windows, and look in closets and cupboards.
Make a comparison chart if you are looking at a number of houses and walk through the ones you are interested in multiple times and at different times of day. Remember that your realtor can help you determine the difference between a valuable feature and a personal touch (think vegetable garden or chicken coop).
I would love to work with you as you go through the journey of buying a home - contact me today!