House Hunting Fundamentals
House hunting? Use this handy checklist before you make the offer
(BPT) – House hunting can feel like an adventurous new chapter in your life. If you’re lucky enough to find the property that checks off all the “must have” boxes – appearance, size, price, location – it’s easy to fall in love.
Not so fast. Before making an offer on any property, it’s smart to take a deeper look at the overall structure and its systems, just to make sure warning signs of major and costly problems are not hiding in plain sight. If the house holds more issues than your budget (and drive to renovate) can handle, it might be best to walk away.
Of course, once the offer is accepted, it’s always a smart idea to hire a third-party home inspector to take an in-depth look at the property. In the meantime, one last pass-through with this checklist in hand can give you peace of mind about taking the next step.
Exterior: Walk around all four sides of the house, scanning it from ground to rooftop. Note the condition of the doors and window frames, and look for cracked or peeling paint or signs of loose siding. Higher up, eye the chimney, making sure it appears straight and is in good condition, while the gutters and drainpipes should be in place and functional.
Roof: Ideally, the roof would be 10 years old or less, so scan the roof for the classic warning signs of aging and neglect. Things like curled and missing shingles, dark stains, moss growth and signs of sagging can signal serious issues. (A home inspector can confirm if full replacement is needed, or if a few simple repairs would stabilize things for another decade or so.)
Yard: Take note of the landscaping. Is there a slope angled away from the house, or is there a potential for a flooded basement after a major rainfall? Mature trees provide lots of shade, but watch for overhanging branches, as these can break off in a storm and do major damage to the roof. Finally, take note of the condition of the driveway and sidewalks.
Foundation: The sight of a few hairline cracks in the cement is no cause for panic. Do look for telltale signs of serious issues, such as widening cracks, water stains, and bulges. It doesn’t hurt to bring a level to make sure the walls are straight.
Plumbing: In addition to checking the basement and under-sink pipes for signs of leaks, scan the ceilings for water stains. Open all the faucets to check the water pressure as well as the time it takes for hot water to reach the tap. Check this out carefully in your house hunting.
HVAC system: Know the age of the heating and cooling systems, and check these for tags and other signs of routine maintenance. If the system is older than a decade, that can spell costly repairs and a replacement in a brief time frame. When it comes to older systems, energy efficiency is another consideration, according to Tom Tasker, product manager with Champion.
“Newer HVAC systems are remarkably more efficient when compared to those from even a decade ago, which means they keep your house comfortable for as little as half the cost,” says Tasker.
For example, Champion Momentum Variable Capacity residential systems are rated up to 20 SEER, which stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. Compare these to the 10 SEER systems of 25 years ago, and that can give you an idea of what to expect in potential energy costs, he says.
Appliances: Note the age and condition of things like the refrigerator, oven and range, washer and dryer, and hot water heater. As with the HVAC, older appliances tend to consume more energy and you’ll face a shorter timeline for needed repairs and replacements.
Buying a house is a big decision, but knowing what you’re buying can go a long way in assuring you that you’ve found the right place! Happy house hunting.
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8 responses to “House Hunting Fundamentals”
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This is a really useful checklist. How does it vary if one is renting a house versus buying? I will be in the market for a home shortly and will remember to keep these areas in mind. Items like the HVAC system and plumbing in the basement seem so easy to overlook. Glad I won’t now!
Hi Addison. The checklist is mainly used when buying a home and can save you a bundle. When renting, you wouldn’t be responsible for maintaining any of these items. However, if you’re renting a home or even an apartment, you don’t want to live somewhere where the property isn’t well maintained. Checking to see how these types of repairs are handled is a good idea too.
I like this article. It has a lot of suggestions that one should look out for when buying a home. Just avoiding one of these problems could save a lot of money.
Thanks for your comment Mike. Yes, when you’re spending that amount of money to buy a home, you need to be very sure there are no big surprises that will pop up in the near future.
A few months ago, I was house hunting for my first home. I didn’t have a clue what to look out for and took my dad with me. He had a checklist made up covering just about everything you included in your article. We did find a house that had all of the items I wanted & the home inspector gave it a clean bill of health.
Thanks for your comment Jessica. You were very fortunate that your dad is knowledgeable in what to look for when house hunting. Many first timers are on their own. Good luck.
I’ve been reading a lot of posts on your blog this past year and this one really helped me out. I am house hunting for my first home and it can be a scary experience. After reading your checklist, and printing it out, I feel a more comfortable. I also found a full time experienced agent who has been very helpful. Many thanks.
Thanks David. It’s good to hear that our post helped you. We hope that you find the home that you are looking for, and at a good price. Good luck.