What to Look for on a First House Viewing
Buying a home can be a little overwhelming with the various properties available and the different types of mortgage loans. Before making an offer to buy a home, you should feel confident that you have chosen the right property for your current and future needs.
Here are suggestions on what to look for when viewing a house for the first time.
Why is the House for Sale?
It is a good idea to ask either your real estate agent or the actual owner why the home is being sold.
There are lots of valid reasons for people to sell a home. Perhaps they have a family that is expanding and need more room. Or their family is shrinking and needs less room.
Maybe the primary wage earner has accepted a promotion to a great new job in another state. Or the primary wage earner lost their job and wishes to sell to save on monthly expenses.
What you are looking for is valid reasons about the people and their personal situation. If they are selling because there is something major wrong with the house, then you are buying their problem.
What is Included in the Price?
Sellers make custom requests for most transactions. It is a good idea to ask either the seller or the seller’s agent for what is specifically included in the price.
Any item that is permanently attached to the home, like the doors, the roof, and similar items, will be included in the asking price.
But there may be some things, like window blinds, that are either not included or the seller has chosen to take them with them.
Like a transferable warranty on the new roof, there may be other things that are included in the price.
Get a detailed list of the included items and determine if you feel it is fair and just with the surrounding market prices.
Did the Current Owner Make any Major Repairs or Improvements to the Property?
Occasionally the existing records found at the local county courthouse may disagree with the facts about the home.
For example, the records may show that the home has 3 bedrooms and no formal dining area. But your inspection of the home shows that there are 4 separate bedrooms and a large dining room.
If the homeowner chose to make the addition on their own and did not follow the local codes and ordinances, you may have a problem on your hands.
Conversely, the air condition system may have been replaced with a new unit along with new ductwork in the past few years. This would make the home much more efficient and easier to keep cool during the hot summer months.
When was the Home Listed for Sale?
Sometimes people make mistakes and put a price on their home that is just out of reach for that particular market. This leads to multiple failed offers and possibly a few price reductions.
When a home has been on the market for a long time, buyers may assume there is a major issue with the home. They may make the same assumption if they learn that the price has been reduced multiple times.
This is when you should speak to a real estate agent and request a comparison-based price for the home.
If the comp price from the agent is reasonably close to the current price for the property, then it sounds like the home was simply listed too high in the beginning.
Do a Thorough Job of Looking in and Around the Bathrooms
Water is necessary to human life and it can also be one of the biggest sources of pain to a homeowner. Leaking roofs, running faucets and clogged plumbing lines are just a few examples of how water can lead to major damage in a home.
When you are inspecting a home, take your time investigating the bathrooms. Make sure all the faucets turn on and off without any drips or leaks around the handles. After you have checked that water is getting into the tub and sink properly, watch the water drain too.
You don’t want a bunch of clogged pipes the first time you shower or wash your hands.
Flush the toilet and listen for any odd noises. Watch the bowl to see if everything flows out properly and determine how long it takes for the freshwater to refill. Look around the base of the toilet for any leaks after flushing. Then check the walls around the bathroom to look for any water spots or leaks.
Pipes within walls and ceilings can develop a leak that is not obvious while you are standing in the bathroom.
How Does the Neighborhood Feel?
This is an important aspect of owning a house, but it can take some investigation and time to get the right answer.
Each neighborhood is different. Some areas are filled with young families that have small children. Other neighborhoods have older families and empty nesters with very few children around.
And then there are the melting pot neighborhoods that have a little bit of everything to it.
To get a feel for the area, you will likely need to make several trips to that neighborhood. A good idea is to visit the place around the beginning of the workday as well as at the end of the workday. This will give you firsthand knowledge of the kind of traffic conditions to expect as well as just how many people are out and moving around at different times.
You may also want to pay a visit to the neighborhood on Friday night and a Saturday morning. If there are any loud parties in the area, Friday night will likely be the best time to witness the celebrations. This will let you know if there are any homes that are popular hang-out spots and if this will add to traffic concerns or noise levels.
Saturdays are busy days for most people. Is the neighborhood filled with people handling lawn chores and doing maintenance on the home? Are their kids playing at the local park or in the yards? Do you see a lot of people jogging, walking, or riding bikes?
All of this information is something that cannot be gathered from Google or Facebook. It will take time and work to find out what kind of place this new neighborhood will be.
Only you know what kind of area you are searching for to call home.
Look out for Natural Disasters from a Variety of Factors
Some places are ripe for natural disasters. Homes along lakes and rivers can be crushed by a flood. Areas along the base of a mountain may have to worry about snowdrifts. And certain places, for whatever reason, seem to be locked in a path for either hurricanes or tornadoes.
This is something you can find out from chatting with potential new neighbors as well as the real estate agent. They should have accurate data that points to whatever natural storms and disasters have occurred over the last 10 years.
When Was the Roof Installed?
If you are looking at a home that was built within the last 3 years, you should have a good roof with a decent warranty in place. But if the home is older, you will want to have the roof inspected.
A roof is very expensive to replace, and for good reason. It does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to protecting the majority of the home.
Finding out that the roof has 1 year left on its existing warranty means that you could be spending a lot of money on a new roof soon after buying the home.
Check out the Size of the Closets
One thing that a lot of homeowners underestimate is the amount of space they will need for storage. Much of the time, closets are the place where things are stored throughout the year.
Before leaving your existing home, look around at the various closets. Count how many you have, how big each one is, and how much space you have in each closet. Compare this information to the closet space in the home that you investigate.
If you currently have 5 closets that are busting at the seams and cannot hold any more items, a home with 3 tiny closets will not suit your needs very well.
Go over the Basement and Attic with a Keen Eye
Attics and basements can be an afterthought that gets used very little, or they could be major areas for bedrooms, dining rooms, or entertaining areas. Regardless of which route you choose; you don’t want an overlooked problem in either the basement or attic to turn into a major repair issue.
If the home has a basement, check to see if there are personal items piled up along a specific section. Ask the agent or the homeowner to move the items away from the wall so you can do an inspection.
Basements can have some simple issues like old paint that is peeling and needs to be re-touched. Or it can be a spot where there are water problems, either from the gutter system outside or the plumbing as mentioned before. There could also be mold in the basement due to untreated problems.
If the attic is unfinished, you should bring along a small flashlight to help you look around and do a quick view of the area. Signs of problems would be rotten boards, droppings from mice, and odd smells that could mean either mildew or mold. Also, check the level of insulation in the attic.
Test out the Doors and Windows
Along with the roof and the insulation in the attic, the doors and windows help to conserve energy in the home both in the winter and summer.
Check to make sure that you do not feel a draft coming through a closed window or door. Look at the weather seal strip around the doors to see if it is in good condition without any tears or rips.
You also want to open and close all the doors and windows at least a couple of times. Make sure the locks work properly. You also want to see how easy or difficult it is to open and close either a door or window. If the home has foundation issues, it will impact at least one of the doors or windows making it too difficult to close or open correctly.
Check out the Home’s Major Systems
You also want to check out the heating/air conditioning system along with the water heater. These items tend to run well for years with minimal maintenance, but they can be extremely expensive to replace.
With the heating & air conditioner, you want to find out if it is a split system or a single unit. Find out how old the system is and if there is an existing warranty.
Inspect all the return vents for the heating and air conditioner system to see that they are clean and free of anything blocking airflow.
Similarly, for the water heater, find out when it was installed and if there is an existing warranty. Inspect the area around it to look for clues of water leaks. Also, check the water in both the kitchen and bathrooms to see if hot water is getting to all the faucets in a reasonable amount of time.
Summing Up What to Look for on a First House Viewing
Using these reference points when you inspect a home for the first time should arm you with lots of items to look for. Keep in mind that buying a home will be a major purchase decision. You want to be a wise spender and do a good job of getting a solid home for your money. So do not let peer pressure or outside influencers sway your decision about choosing the right home for your needs.
About the author: This article on “What to Look for on a First House Viewing” was written by Luke Skar of MadisonMortgageGuys.com. As the Social Media Strategist, his role is to provide original content for all of their social media profiles as well as generating new leads from his website.
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