Have you really found your dream home? Here are 10 things home buyers should look for during a home tour.
Are you in the market for a new home? Buying a home can be an especially exciting and fast-paced time period. Especially during the summer months, real estate can move very quickly. You may only have one opportunity to tour a home before making an offer if you decide it’s the home of your dreams, or risk losing out to the couple walking in just after you… Gather as much information as you can about the home before you tour, and scrutinize the disclosures provided by the seller.
It can be easy to become distracted by an impeccably staged or beautifully decorated home. However, it is important that you not focus too much on elements that can be changed or replaced fairly easily and economically (like paint colors and counter tops). Rather, pay attention to what will REALLY matter in your life and components that are difficult and/or expensive to modify. It might be helpful to start by making a list of what each of you need and want in a home and then working to prioritize your preferences. But here is a list of items that you definitely don’t want to overlook.
Location is key. If the home is not in the right community or subdivision, or in the wrong school district, you can rule it out before visiting. Make sure to drive around the neighborhood via different routes and times of day. Look at neighbors’ homes, nearby buildings and streets in search of things that would make living in your home less pleasant, including odors, traffic and noise. Also, don’t ignore the neighbors. Do the neighbors take care of their yard? Is their porch or yard cluttered with junk?
Square footage and floor plan
Don’t believe everything you see on home improvement shows! They make it look very easy to knock out walls and create larger rooms. However, if the property is going to need a lot of demolition, you may want to reconsider. Big-demo projects are expensive to change and the scope of work can become quite large. Ideally, the home should have all the rooms you need, plus a layout that works for your family.
You may not have the professional expertise to be able to tell if a roof has reached the end of its natural life, especially from the ground. However, if it looks worn, it is a sign that you need to ask more questions, including the age of the roof. If the roof doesn’t meet certain standards, you may not be able to get a mortgage or homeowners insurance.
Signs of water damage
Look for discolored or dark spots on roofs and walls or a musty or mildew smell. Even marks low on a wall might indicate a previous flood. Water damage that is repaired quickly is usually not a big deal, but a leak that went undetected for months could have caused significant damage or brought mold. It also could be a sign of damage that has not been repaired.
Perhaps you are considering an older home. Make sure to check the electrical panel. If you see the words “Federal Pacific Electric” or “Stab-Lok” anywhere on the panel, you’re looking at a potential safety hazard. Replacement of this panel would be something that needs to be done immediately – and perhaps something that will prevent you from getting a mortgage or the homeowners insurance required for a mortgage. For all homes, keep an eye out for wiring that looks crude or jury-rigged. Note if the wiring appears old and worn out as it may need some maintenance, and those expenses can add up. The electrical panel may be just the first sign of underlying wiring or electrical issues.
Furnace and AC units
It’s good practice to ask to have the air conditioning and the plumbing turned on, and listen for unusual sounds. A home inspector will examine these components more carefully, but you can get some idea by looking and listening.
Foundation problems can be extremely expensive to repair. Watch for cracks in any exposed concrete in the home (i.e. garage floor), floors that feel uneven when you walk across them, or doors that stick when opening and closing. Cracks in ceilings and walls may or may not matter. Foundation issues might create such cracks, but so can less serious causes (i.e. normal settling or even slamming doors).
Yard size, features, and shape
It is easy to change the flower beds. However, ask yourself how long you’ll have be in the house to see new trees grow into a mature canopy. If you want your children to be able to safely play outside, a yard with a steep slope or limited grassy space will probably not work.
Evidence of previous wood-destroying insect (termite) treatment
Sometimes, evidence of previous wood-destroying insect (termite) treatment can be easily seen (i.e. small, evenly-spaced, filled in holes in the concrete next to the house). Sometimes, the only way you will know about a previous termite infestation is to ask the seller or seller’s agent. A house with termite damage also calls for an inspection by a structural engineer to “report on the integrity of the framing and whether any additional support members need to be added.” If you want to buy a house with termite damage, do so only after you have paperwork from the termite company (paperwork that you would show your lender) stating that the house now has a termite warranty.
Be sure to schedule a home inspection
So you’ve gone through the previous 9 steps, the home has passed muster, you’ve made an offer, and your offer has been accepted. Now it’s time to schedule a home inspection. Home inspections, although not required, have become a critical step during the home buying process. You’re not just buying that amazing chef’s kitchen or perfect master bath. “You will be buying any problem issues that you likely would never have found during your tour of the home,” says Texas home inspector, Micah Stephens of SafeShield Inspections, LLC. The inspection is your opportunity to gain insight into the current condition of the home and use the material in the report to negotiate the deal and make an informed decision.
The bottom line…
DO pay attention to everything. DO ask lots of questions. DON’T expect perfection. As a home buyer, it is important to remember that no home is absolutely perfect. Even an inspection on a newly constructed home will likely include some noted defects on the inspection report. Most of your inspection will be related to maintenance details and minor imperfections with the property. However, an inspection can help bring attention to possible areas that should be addressed with the seller before you buy the home.
Your future deserves the attention of a professional. If you have questions or would like more information on a home inspection, please contact Micah Stephens with SafeShield Inspections, LLC at (832) 953-6992 or email Micah@SafeShieldInspections.com. Request a FREE QUOTE here.