The search for the perfect home has narrowed to a few serious possibilities. Now the question is: what to look for when buying a home?
The savvy house hunter makes a detailed list of essential features for his new house but, even with that kind of planning, there are usually compromises to consider. The goal is to make an informed decision so there are no surprises after the moving truck leaves.
First Impressions Do Count
The key elements of that first impression are important, including location and curb appeal. Real estate agents often try to minimize items that are on the list of essentials and compensate with other attractive features. An experienced house hunter listens but always keeps an eye on his list that might include the following.
• Located no more than a 20 minute drive from office.
• Elementary school within walking distance.
• Driveway large enough for two vehicles.
• Large backyard for dog to run.
• Low maintenance landscaping.
On this sample list, landscaping is the only item that can be changed easily. If any of the other features are not available with this house, the house hunter has to decide if compromise is a possibility. That means taking a closer look inside to see if there are compensating features.
Checklist for Floor Plan
Home designers speak about space, function, and flow. The prospective homeowner should think in those terms when walking through the house.
Space and function. The amount of space needed and how it is used is a primary consideration. Some families need separate rooms for various activities. Others are content with multipurpose rooms. For example, the home office might be a workstation tucked into the kitchen. A large family probably need a separate laundry room, not just a washer and dryer in a kitchen cupboard. It is important to actually measure space to see how well furniture will fit.
Flow. The house should feel right to the house hunter as he walks from room to room. Perhaps, he is uncomfortable with the powder room opening into the kitchen or the dining room that is really a hallway. The flow that works for one family can feel disjointed for another.
If the existing design does not fit the needs of the house hunter, he must decide if he is willing to think about changes or compromises that could be made. Perhaps, there are walls that can be removed or rooms that can be repurposed. However, such changes add to the cost of having a move-in ready home and should be factored into the overall cost of the house.
Quality of Fixtures, Finishes and Materials
The fixtures and finishes in the house usually reflect the asking price. If the house hunter is serious about granite countertops and ceramic tile, he might be willing to replace the existing lower grade materials if the final purchase price is reasonable. The age of fixtures and appliances determines whether or not money has to be spent soon on replacements. In considering a compromise, the house hunter decides whether changes are cosmetic or functional, what they cost, and when they would have to be made.
Inspection of Structure and Systems of the House
Before the prospective homeowner makes a final decision, he has to look at the structure and the plumbing, heating, and electrical systems of the house. It is easy enough to do a preliminary inspection by searching for cracks in the walls or foundation, and turning on the water to check water pressure and drainage. However, it is best to engage a professional building inspector to check the following.
• Electrical system, Plumbing, Sewage and drains, Windows.
• Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
• Insulation, Foundation, Roof, Brickwork and chimney pointing.
It is not unusual for a thorough inspector to find items that require repair or replacement. He will probably include information about the urgency of the issues. The cost of implementing his recommendations can then be factored into any purchase offer.
Preparing an Offer to Purchase
If the buyer decides to make an offer, it is time to sit down with the real estate agent. The discussion will focus on comparable listings in the area, the cost of any changes or repairs, and the interest shown in the house by other prospective buyers. The house hunter can then be confident that his offer reflects all the information that answers the question what to look for when buying a home?