My younger sister is trying to buy a house right now, even during a pandemic. This has me thinking about what I learned though our experience of buying our first home. Also, I realize that investing in a home is a good thing because people will always need places to live, even in uncertain times. Below is what to look for when buying a house.
If you are ready to buy a home, here are the questions I always ask. These questions are not in order of importance since everyone’s priorities will be different.
1. How are the essential elements of the house?
Things to pay very close attention to are the things that cost the most to replace or fix and keep you comfortable.
- Heating and Cooling System
- Plumbing (sewer, septic, well)
- flooding problems on the land or in the house (water can ruin a home quickly, so look for mold or bad ventilation)
- land ownership conflicts (This can be an ugly legal battle if this is not resolved.)
- insulation (think heating and cooling costs)
- poorly installed flooring
- unkept property (inside and out)
- windows (efficiency)
If you don’t pay attention to these things, they will get your attention very quickly and could cost you much more than you want to spend in time, money, and maybe even health.
2. Can you really afford the expenses of a home?
The first consideration should be your current budget. To get an estimate, check out a mortgage calculator. This calculator takes principle and interest, property taxes, homeowners insurance and HOA fees into consideration. For more accurate home-associated costs in proportion to your income, work with a mortgage broker. This is essential to looking for a home that you can afford now and in the future.
Most of us are wishful thinkers, but this does us no good when the bills come due. Many people overlook the many expenses that come with owning a home. Some things we have had to budget it are lawn care, pest control, home maintenance, home improvements, temperature control costs, water and waste fees and property taxes. These are the ones I can think of right now, but I am sure I am missing some.
If you are buying a home that will need improvements right away, understand the costs before making the purchase of the home. If you don’t want to really move in before changes are made, make sure you have the money to fix things sooner than later or you will regret your decision.
Write a list of all the things you would want to do to make the home feel more like you and see how much each thing would cost. For example, my sister knows if she gets this house they made an offer on that all the flooring will need to be replaced. So, knowing the cost of the flooring she wants is vital before making the offer.
3. What is the neighborhood like?
Many times we have gone to a home to look at the property and the owner or a neighbor would come out to chat. You can learn a lot from the owner and the neighbor by just asking good questions and being friendly. Don’t interrogate them, but you will find that most people say more than you ask of them anyway.
Do you like the area?
Is it safe?
Can you handle the neighbors or their pets or kids? (I often wonder what my neighbors think of my young children?)
What are the schools like?
4. What are your non-negotiable elements for a home?
Is the deal breaker having a fenced backyard or having upstairs laundry? You may be eager to buy a home, but don’t buy a home that does not meet your minimum requirements.
If it bothers you when you don’t even live there, it will bother you more once you have to deal with it all the time. Don’t be too picky, but don’t budge on the things that matter most to you.
Write down all the things you want and put them in order of priorities. Your top ones should not be ignored, but the ones towards the bottom of the list are likely to be things that you could live with. Check out one of my home transformations here.
5. Have you done a thorough walk-through and had a home inspection done?
When you are looking at homes, don’t just look at everything; turn on the oven, check lights and faucets, and look under rugs. Ask lots of questions of the current owners if they are around or ask good questions of your real- estate agent.
Get a home inspection done by a trusted professional and come to the inspection with pencil and paper. Take notes and consider all that will need to be done. Our home inspector was very good at checking everything and giving us tips on the things that were essential to be fixed and things that could be dealt with over time.
Remember to see the potential of a home under your care. Sometimes we see a home with teal walls and immediately count it out, but painting is an easy way to transform a home, especially if all the other elements meet your requirements. Consider the condition and layout of the home more than the colors and other cosmetic things that can be changed with little effort and money.
Please be patient with yourself and others as you make this purchase that is so important and big. Be very deliberate and do the work and you will soon be enjoying your home!