What to Look for When Buying a Home

what to look for when buying a home

Shopping for a new home? Images of new appliances, large master bathrooms, and walk-in closets are probably dancing through your mind. But what about the other stuff? You know, the things lurking behind the walls that can turn a dream home into a nightmare?

A wishlist for a new home should include much more than marble countertops. It’s important to look carefully at everything so you can be sure the investment will be a good one – and there won’t be any surprises. Getting a home inspection as part of the buying process will help you catch problems before it’s too late.

Below are a few things to look for when home shopping.

Keep An Eye On the Roof and Ceilings

A roof might be one of the most boring things to examine in a house – and one of the most important. As you’re going to showings, take a few minutes to eye the roof before you walk in. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to climb up there.) A new roof can be quite expensive and we usually find out we need one only after damage has already been done (think rainwater pouring into your living room after a storm).

What to look for: The condition of the roof. (Also, make sure the gutters are all properly aligned and draining water away from the house.) Ask about the age of the roof and check the ceilings. Saggy ceilings can be a sign of water damage that’s already happened.

Look for Watermarks, Mold or Damp Smells

Speaking of water damage, it’s one of the most obvious red flags there is. If there’s water damage, you can be sure something is leaking, whether it be the roof or the plumbing. What’s worse, that could lead to mold and significant – and costly – damage to the home.

What to look for: Discolored walls or floors or damp smells. If you can see discoloration on the paint, you might even be able to make a guess as to where the water may have come from and how extensive the damage might be.

Turn On Every Faucet, Open Every Door

Many people spruce up their homes before putting them on the market. That means signs of problems like water damage could have been painted over. That’s why you should turn on every faucet and open every cabinet door when you walk through the home.

What to look for: As you turn on the faucets, look for leaking near the fixture and under the sink. When you open cabinet doors, look for mold. You might also want to keep an eye out for dark spots that could indicate a rodent or bug problem.

Count the Electrical Outlets and Ask About the Wattage

Electrical outlets can be easy to forget about until you move into the home. But if you do forget, you might move into a home that doesn’t function as well as you thought it would. Since you’re probably already arranging the furniture in your mind during your walk-through, go ahead and count the outlets too.

What to look for: Are there enough outlets for all the electronics you use? Are they placed conveniently and logically? Ask about wattage to make sure it’s powerful enough for your technology.

Beware of Large Cracks

Most homes will eventually “settle” and show hairline fractures. But those fractures shouldn’t turn into large cracks. At the same time, a brand new home shouldn’t be showing any cracks or signs of wear and tear. Beware of cracks if they seem extensive.

What to look for: Take note of any large cracks in and around the home. If there are a lot of them – or any that look troubling – it’s worth asking the realtor about them.

Don’t Forget the Details

A smart seller will stage their home. This is a great way to showcase how the home can function for new buyers. Unfortunately, it can also be so effective that the glossy veneer hides some of the more important details. The same goes for a new renovation. If a home is staged, look past the design elements. Examine the details that will stay when the furniture is gone. If a home has had recent renovations, look at new appliances and fixtures to see how good they really are.

What to look for: Signs of problems and shoddy workmanship. So the home has new fixtures in the kitchen – do they match? What brand of appliances did they choose? Did the renovations address problems with the flow of the home or did they simply upgrade a still-dysfunctional room? If you see a lot of decisions that don’t make sense, then the workmanship might not be up to par or the budget may not have been high enough to deal with the real issues of the home.

Don’t Worry, You Don’t Have to be An Expert

This list can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to be an expert or a contractor to make a good home purchase. Simply look at homes with a discerning eye so you don’t get swept away by a great neighborhood, square footage, or stainless steel appliances. Once you decide you’re going to buy, the home has to pass inspection. At that stage, any underlying issues should be uncovered and the inspector can tell you what kind of contractors can do the repairs. You may want to get repair estimates.

If a home is found to have certain issues that the seller is unwilling to address, the bank may not even approve the mortgage. While that doesn’t sound ideal, it’s actually a protection for you. None of these things have to be a deal breaker. It’s just good to be aware of them before you make an offer on a home. Knowledge is power – the more you understand when you go into this process, the better the decision you’ll make.

About the Author
Shannon McNay