Things to Look for When Shopping for a Home

Things to Look for When Shopping for a Home

Buying a home is an investment in more than the financial sense of the word. It takes a lot of work to find the perfect home! You’ll likely be emotionally attached to your new home even before it’s yours.

Even if you’re enamored with a house, it’s important to remember that this is a huge financial investment and it pays to stay rational. A major part of that is going in with your eyes open and doing thorough inspections to make sure you know all of the house’s flaws - and that you are prepared to deal with those flaws. Getting a professional inspection is essential, but before that point you may be able to rule in favor or against a property using some of the ideas below.

Finding your next home can require looking at over a dozen places before finding the right one. Comparing neighborhoods, home layouts, prices, and weighing improvements vs paying for a move in ready home is a lot to keep track of. To help you we created our Property Walkthrough Checklist that you can print out and take with you to each place you are considering.

In addition to the basics our Property Walkthrough Checklist covers, here’s a detailed list of things you should be on the lookout for as you walk through your (potential) new home.

Before doing the walkthrough:

  • Check out the street view and bird’s eye view of the property at mapping sites such as Google Maps and Bing Maps to get an idea of the home and what is nearby.
  • Lookup the property at the county website and make sure the square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms matches what is being advertised. Also note the date of construction, taxes, recent permits, etc.
  • Take note of any potential hazards based on the property’s location. Is the property near a creek that floods, or is it in an area that has had landslides? Are there any major sources of pollution nearby?
  • For condos, note what the HOA fees are.

Big Ticket Maintenance Items To Watch Out For:

  • What is the condition of the roof? Look for any signs of leaks on interior ceilings.
  • What is the condition of the foundation? Look for large cracks and erosion, and that foundation vents are sturdy with no holes in the wire mesh.
  • What is the condition of the siding? Any peeling paint, cracks, etc?
  • Signs of flaking paint anywhere inside or out? This can present a lead hazard if the paint was from before 1978.
  • What is the condition of the flooring?
  • Is there any damage to the moldings?
  • What is the condition of the porch / patio?
  • Are there any signs of infestations of bugs or rodents?
  • Are there any signs of water damage anywhere in the home?
  • Does the house smell like mold, smoke, or have pet odors?
  • Do the temperature controls (heat and AC) work?
  • If there are chimneys note any cracks or signs of damage.
  • Electrical - note if the outlets are 2 prong (ungrounded) or 3 prong (maybe grounded, maybe not), and if there are GCFI outlets in the kitchen / bath, and note how the electrical panel looks.

Windows / Doors

  • Does the front door lock work smoothly?
  • Are their alignment issues with any of the exterior doors?
  • Are the deadbolts and doorknobs securely attached to the doors?
  • Is there a screen door or a security door?
  • Are the windows at least double-paned?
  • Are there storm windows with screens in the windows?
  • How difficult is it to open and close the windows?
  • Do all of the window latches work?

Kitchen

  • What condition and material are the kitchen counters?
  • Is there appropriate ventilation?
  • What condition is the kitchen sink in?
  • Is the kitchen sink slow to drain? What condition are the pipes underneath the sink in and is it dry?
  • What is the condition of the kitchen cabinets?
  • Does the hot water come on immediately?

Bathroom

  • Note the overall quality and size of the bathrooms.
  • Look for signs of leaks and or water damage under the sink and around the toilet.
  • Does the bathroom smell like mold?
  • Is there appropriate ventilation?
  • Is there mildew build-up on the walls or grouting?
  • Does the hot water come on quickly?
  • Is the water pressure in the shower normal?

Basement / Utility Room / Garage

  • How old is the water heater?
  • How old is the furnace?
  • Is the duct work sealed and insulated?
  • Is the basement finished?
  • Are there signs of water damage / flooding in the basement?
  • Is there plenty of storage in the basement / garage.
  • Do the garage doors open smoothly, do they have automatic openers?

Yard / Exterior

  • Is the yard fenced? What is the condition of the fence?
  • Is there an established lawn or other landscaping? Are there lots of weeds everywhere? Will anything need immediate pruning?
  • Are there any ailing trees that may need to be cut down or present a fall hazard to the home?
  • Is there any garbage in the yard?
  • Are the gutters in good order?

Neighborhood

  • Are there sidewalks?
  • Is the street outsize very busy, what is the speed limit, and would it be safe for your family / pets?
  • What condition are the neighboring houses in?
  • Are there any disabled vehicles on the street or in neighbors’ driveways or yards?
  • Is the house within walking distance to public transportation?
  • How far is the nearest school, and what is the quality of that school?
  • Is there a park within walking distance to the home?
  • How far away is the nearest grocery store?

Wrapping Up

  • How does the layout feel to you?
  • How were the overall colors and textures used in the home? Would anything need to be re-painted, or completely ripped out?
  • Is it move in ready, needing a little cosmetic touch up, or is it going to require extensive remodeling prior to moving in?
  • Is there adequate parking for your needs?
  • Note the condition of the appliances (stove, fridge, washer, dryer) and if they are included in the purchase price.
  • Note what parts of the home are south/north facing for purposes of natural light, seasonal temperature changes, and if there are any concerns with privacy.

Next Steps - if you are interested making an offer or have already made one!

  • Get a quote for a home owner’s insurance policy on the property. This is a good idea for budgeting purposes and factors into your overall mortgage payment (see our Mortgage PITI Calculator), but it can also reveal if there were any prior issues with the home such as mold, flooding, etc. If the quote is sky high something may be very wrong.
  • Check what the utilities cost for the home. The local utility companies may be able to give you a seasonal average. In practice this will depend on how much heating / water you use, but may reveal potential issues.

Notes:

To help you stay organized see our Property Walkthrough Checklist that you can print out and take with you to each home you are considering.

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