Shopping for a new home can be overwhelming. With such an expensive purchase and long-term commitment, you want to be certain that you’re going to be satisfied.
When you go into a home viewing knowing what to look for, you’ll have an easier job figuring out which houses don’t quite meet all your needs and which ones you could see yourself living in.
At every viewing you attend, keep a pen and pad with you to make notes about the house, so you can remember specific features later on when you’re comparing houses.
Note the general condition of every room you visit. Flip all the light switches, take note of the state of the flooring and windows and (if you can) taste the water that comes out of the tap. You could end up spending a good chunk of your life in that house, after all. You want to know ahead of time if there are things that are going to be annoyances or cause problems down the road.
Make sure all the rooms have adequate lighting, both natural and built-in. Make sure there are ample electrical outlets for your needs (especially if there’s not adequate lighting, as you’ll be plugging in a lot of lamps) and in places that make sense so you’re not running extension cords across the length of your living room.
Your real estate agent will be a helpful resource in determining what to look for, as they can tell you what a house’s strengths and weaknesses are and help you set your expectations and priorities.
Beyond these basics, you’ll want to have a list of things you’re looking for in each individual room of the houses you’re considering. To help you create this house-hunting checklist, here are some things you should be looking for in your prospective home.
Don’t let your excitement about a perfect interior make you forget the importance of a sturdy exterior. The big thing you want to check for is the condition of the roof. How does it look? Check for signs of damage or disrepair. If you can, find out how old the roof is, as that can tell you if the house will require a pricey roof replacement shortly after purchase.
Does the house look generally well-maintained? Are there cracks in the foundation? Are any porches, decks or patios in good condition?
You’ll want to check your own needs and preferences as well. Is there enough privacy? Is the backyard a good size for you? Some people want a big backyard, while others don’t want the responsibility that comes with maintaining a big lawn. If you have a dog, will you need a house with a fence? Are you looking at homes with pools in the backyard? Pools can be fun, but they require a lot of time and money in maintenance.
There’s a reason why a good kitchen is so high on many buyers’ priority lists. People love their kitchens, and they’re often one of the most-visited spots in a home. Having a good one can either be a point of practicality or pride, depending on how much cooking or entertaining you do.
The layout of the kitchen is likely going to be pretty important to you. If you do a lot of cooking, you’ll at least want a layout that gives you enough space to move around with ease. If you have a big family or enjoy hosting parties, you’ll also want a lot of counter space and room for seating. Do you need enough space for a full kitchen table with chairs, or will a few barstools at the counter suffice? Do you need a formal dining room as well?
Check for wear and tear on cabinets, as they can cost a lot of money to replace. What material is the countertop made of? Do you like the general look of the kitchen, or will you have to go through expensive renovations to be satisfied with it?
Take a closer look at the kitchen components. Find out if any appliances are staying with the house. Is the range hookup gas or electric? Be sure to note which prospective houses utilize which, if that’s important to you.
Check under the sink to make sure it’s not leaky. Pay attention to the size of the sink as well, especially if the kitchen doesn’t have a dishwasher. You’ll want plenty of room for dirty dishes. And speaking of dishwashers, you should determine whether it’s a deal breaker if a house doesn’t come with one.
What are you looking for in a living room? Do you want it to feel cozy and warm or chic and modern? Keep your ideas in mind when looking at the living room, but try not to let any current décor sway you. Instead, look at the basic layout and style of the room. Does it fit your tastes? Could you see yourself relaxing in this space?
If you already have furniture that you plan on moving into this room, how well do you see that blending with the style of the room? Buying new furniture, though not as expensive as purchasing a house, isn’t cheap, so you want to make sure it’s not going to clash completely.
As with the kitchen, consider the layout of the room, as well as the location of any wall outlets. Is there an electrical and cable outlet near where you’d want to put a TV? Is the room large enough for your needs? Do you need a carpeted living room for your kids to comfortably play?
With your bedrooms, you want to make sure you have adequate space and ample lighting. Bedrooms should be big enough to comfortably fit at least a bed and a dresser. Open the closets to see how big they are. You’ll want to be sure you have enough closet space for the amount of clothes you have.
Another thing to consider is if the bedrooms include ceiling fans. Some people need a fan, especially in hot climates, and while you can always buy a floor fan at the store, a ceiling fan is going to blend in a lot better with your décor than your standard box fan.
Whether the bedrooms are suitable for your needs will depend on what you plan on using them for. For example, families with small children might not want a house where the master bedroom is on a different floor from the kids’ rooms. If you plan on converting an extra bedroom into a home office, you might prefer a layout where the bedrooms are away from the hustle and bustle of the kitchen and living room. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to what best fits your needs.
When you’re checking out the bathroom, make sure everything is in working order. With the seller’s or your agent’s permission, flush the toilets, test the faucets and even turn on the shower. Make sure the fan works. Look under the sink and around the toilet for leaks and water damage. Keep an eye out for mold as well. It may seem a little overbearing, but if you’re seriously considering buying the house, you want to make sure there are no post-move-in surprises, like low water pressure or plumbing problems.
Make note of what type of shower or tub each bathroom has. Is it just a shower or a shower and bathtub combo? Does it have glass doors or a curtain? Is the bathtub made of porcelain or plastic (which doesn’t retain heat as well)?
When viewing the basement, make a note of whether it’s finished. Some people prefer a finished basement for added living space.
Keep an eye out for signs of water damage. Take note of any musty smells and look for water stains or mold growth.
If the basement is finished and you plan on spending a lot of time in it, pay attention to how much lighting it has. It should also have at least one accessible door or window, in case you need to get out quickly in an emergency.
If you haven’t already, you might want to consider hiring a home inspector to look at any house you’re seriously interested in. While you’ll likely be able to discern the livability of most rooms on your own or with the help of your agent, you probably don’t have the expertise needed to determine the condition of the attic. A home inspector will be able to identify any problems that could lead to costly repairs and evaluate if the home poses any risks to the health and safety of its occupants.
If you don’t get a home inspector but have the chance to get a peek at the attic yourself, look for signs of leaks and damage to the structure of the roof. Be on the lookout for animal droppings as well, as that could indicate if there’s an infestation you need to worry about. Rodents in your attic can cause a lot of damage.
How much space do you need in your garage? If you have more than one car, you might want a multiple-car garage. Do you need a lot of storage space in your garage or room for a workbench? Make a note of the total amount of parking space the lot has, including the length and width of the driveway and if there’s street parking available.
Make sure the garage door works well and appears to be in good condition.
What you want and need in a house is going to heavily depend on your personal tastes, needs and lifestyle. Use this guide as a jumping-off point to create your own personalized list of things to look for when hunting for your perfect house.
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