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What To Look For When Buying A House

couple house hunting with real estate agentBuying a new home is an exciting and stressful time. Home buying is an involved process and there are so many elements to it. The home’s location, property, size, price, and functionality are all important, but there are many other important things to consider when purchasing a home. The team at Liberty Moving and Storage has come up with an actionable home buying checklist that tells you exactly what to look for when buying a house!

Make a List of Nonnegotiable Items

You’re hopefully going to be living in whichever house you choose for years to come, so it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly. Since you’re going to be spending considerable time and money on this home, you need to make sure that it has everything you personally need. 

Of course, this list of nonnegotiables will be different for everyone, as everyone has specific tastes and needs. Families with young children are likely to put an increased focus on quality education, while a couple without children may not find that on their list of priorities. 

When crafting your list of make or break elements, make sure not to include anything that is not a hard deal breaker. For example, you may be dreaming of a home with a beautiful kitchen but the house your real estate agent just brought you to had old, dated cabinets and wood fixtures. 

Since cabinets, decor, fixtures, and appliances can all be easily changed, they shouldn’t be deal breakers. Sure, everyone would like to move into their dream home, but it’s more practical to find a home that crosses off of the boxes you’re looking for and, from them, convert that into your dream home!

Cost

There is no sense in wasting your and your realtor’s time by looking at homes that are way out of your budget. To ensure that you are not exceeding your budget or getting your hopes up for a house you won’t be able to afford, it is of paramount importance that you, and whoever else is purchasing this home with you, have a full understanding of any and all budgetary restraints. 

It’s also important to realize that while the listing price is a great estimate, it is not the final price you’ll be paying. You will need to factor in closing costs, as well as the costs of insurance, taxes, maintenance, and any possible renovations. 

Taxes

When house hunting, you should always specifically look into the town’s taxes. Property taxes can often make or break a home buying experience; when left as an afterthought, people can find themselves close to signing a home before realizing that when they factor in the property taxes, they’re over budget. 

There are few feelings more defeating that getting so close to signing on a home, only for an overlooked element, like taxes, to cause the entire deal to fall apart. Avoid this crushing emotional roller coaster by checking the property taxes well in advance. 

Location

Everyone’s heard the “joke” that the three most important things when looking for a house are “Location. Location. Location.” While location isn’t the only thing you should be concerned with, it should absolutely be on your house hunting checklist. The team at Liberty Moving and Storage has decided to further break down “Location” into three subcategories: town, distance, and physical location of property. 

Town 

Is this prospective home in a town you’ve never been to before? That’s certainly not a deal breaker, but it should absolutely prompt you to do some research into the area. Are there any town specific ordinances you should be aware of? Does the town handle trash and recycling, or is that on you as the homeowner? 

Some towns don’t allow for overnight street parking; depending on how many cars you have and the available driveway space, this could be a big issue. If you’re planning on hosting a lot of big parties, you’d be disappointed to know that your new town has a noise ordinance in effect starting at 9:00 pm. 

It is very important to research the prospective town and its ordinances before you physically visit the home, so that if there are any deal breakers, you won’t be wasting your time, and the time of your real estate professional. 

Distance

When we say distance, we’re referring to the house’s physical distance from your daily activities. Would it add an extra hour to your commute time? Are there local shopping centers and grocery stores within a reasonable distance, or will you have to make a trek every time you need a last minute ingredient? Is the property part of a strong school district that you can send your children (or hypothetical future children) to? Is the school district within walking distance from the home?

The house’s distance from your everyday activities and locales should certainly be considered, but its importance varies case by case. Some home buyers enjoy a longer commute, while some have less reliable cars and prefer to be in a suburban hub. You’ll need to determine how far up on your list of priorities the house’s location is for yourself. 

Physical Location of Property

When visiting the home, whether with a realtor or during an open house, it is smart to make a note of the house’s physical location on the property.  Are there any other elements on the property that could prove potentially disastrous? Are there any nearby creeks or dams that could potentially overflow onto your property and leave you dealing with a flood? Is the home deep into the property or is it practically built up against the sidewalk? Is there considerable distance between neighboring houses, or are all of your windows looking into your potential neighbors’ homes?

Of course, the location will not always be a deal-breaker when looking to buy a home. It should serve more as a scale. If you’ve found your dream home that checks off all your boxes, you might be willing to be more flexible as to where it’s located. Location is one of many important factors on our buying a house checklist. 

Backyard

While a trip to the backyard is probably already a stop on your tour of the prospective house, you should pay special attention when you’re out there. If you’re considering purchasing an older home, there’s a strong chance that it was heated by an underground oil tank. If there’s an oil tank buried below the property and it hasn’t been properly maintained, there’s a good chance that it is leaking throughout your property, contaminating it. 

Keep an eye out for a fill pipe sticking out in the lawn, as that’s a good indicator of an underground oil tank. If you find one, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s contaminated, but you should check with the homeowner (or real estate agent) when the tank was last inspected, as you don’t want to find yourself liable for not only your property’s oil cleanup but for that of your new neighbors whose lawns were also contaminated. 

Elements of the House

There are many individual elements inside a potential home you should keep an eye out for when viewing the house. 

Water Damage

When touring a house for sale, you should try to scout out any potential signs of water damage. Make note of any wet spots on walls, ceilings, or even floors. Some home sellers try to hide signs of water damage with cardboard sheets or by simply covering it with furniture, but you should do your due diligence by performing a closer home inspection. Ask them to move the furniture to the side, or simply do it yourself. 

Mold

With water damage comes mold, and nobody wants to purchase a home only to find out that it’s infested with mold. While inside the prospective home, you should make a point to take a look at the pipes and drains. If there are any tiny spots on the pipes, that’s, unfortunately, a strong indicator that there is a larger mold issue happening under the surface. 

The term “sniff around” may sound silly, but it’s a practical way to spot hidden mold. If you notice a strange, musky scent coming from the walls, ceiling, or cabinets containing pipes, let your internal red flags wave! 

Ventilation

Does the home seem properly ventilated? Are you burning up in one room but freezing in the next? This is a strong sign that there may be some internal ventilation issues with the house. If you notice that paint is peeling off the walls, this could also be a sign of ventilation issues. 

Noticing a potential ventilation issue is not necessarily an automatic hard stop for that home. Depending on your budget and plans for remodeling or home improvement, you may be able to solve the ventilation problem relatively easily. However, if your heart is not set on this particular home and you notice ventilation issues, don’t feel bad about moving on to the next one!

Windows

It’s good practice to take a moment to inspect the windows of a potential home. You should not only check that the window frames are tight and fit perfectly, but you should also make sure that the windows easily open and close. If the windows seem to give some resistance to closing or opening, this could signal either improper installation or potential foundation issues. 

Foundation

There are few things worse than purchasing a home only to find out after the fact that the house has foundation problems. They’re sometimes difficult to detect, but we have a few tips to look out for when inside the home to decide if its foundation seems strong and intact. 

Try to open and close multiple doors, both interior and exterior, making sure they all fit perfectly and close without any issues. If you notice that one corner of the door doesn’t seem even, that’s a strong indicator that the home has foundation issues. 

As previously mentioned, you need to pay attention to the windows, making sure that they also fit perfectly within the frame without any resistance. 

Take a look at the floors, paying special attention to any places where it seems to be sagging down or slightly drooping. This could also be a sign of a bad foundation. 

Finally, inspect the cabinets on the kitchen walls. Do they fit snugly against the wall or does there appear to be a small gap between the two? While a tiny gap may not seem like a big deal, the size can increase over time which would, of course, mean the foundation damage is getting worse. 

If ignored, foundation damage can ruin a home. If you’re a prospective home buyer and notice foundation issues, start waving your red flag. If you’re a homeowner trying to sell a house with a bad foundation, you should look into getting it repaired prior to selling the home. 

Storage Space

Determining if the house has enough storage space for your needs is one of the easier tasks when checking out a potential home. You should already have a pretty good mental image of how much stuff you’ll need to store, so when you’re touring the home room by room, check the closet space. 

When completing the attic and basement run through, you should be able to decide if each room offers enough space to store your belongings. Depending on the area in which you’re looking, storage space may not be as readily available as you desire it to be. Older homes traditionally have less storage space than newer homes. There are some solutions to this, including cabinets, shelving, and external storage facilities, so limited storage space may not be a definitive deal-breaker. 

Wants vs Needs When House Hunting

When you’re checking out prospective homes, you’re probably trying to imagine yourself in them. Sometimes that can be difficult due to the decorations, wall color, and rugs, but those are all elements that you can easily change when it becomes your home! 

Wants

Things like the light fixtures, color of the walls, and rugs shouldn’t be deal breakers when buying a home. Sure, everyone wants their new home to be not only move-in-ready, but also have everything they’ve ever wanted, from cream walls and hardwood floor to a big chandelier and black kitchen cabinets. 

As a house hunter, you should instead focus on the more critical issues that you could find yourself on the hook for once you purchase the home. The current home owners might have a hideous shag carpet in the living room that’s making it impossible for you to imagine yourself living there. It can be difficult, but just remind yourself that the shag carpet will leave with the current homeowners! 

Needs

Needs are the nonnegotiable elements the home must have for you to consider buying it. While things like color certainly don’t fall into this category, things like number of rooms and bathrooms are important and should be considered. If you have two kids and you’ve promised them each their own bedroom, viewing a home with only two bedrooms would be a waste of time. 

Understanding the specific needs of your family (or friends, or just yourself, depending on with whom you’re moving) can help you narrow down the houses you’ll go to see, therefore giving you more time to closely inspect the houses you visit for the abovementioned elements, instead of wasting time at houses that don’t fit your needs. 

If you’ve found a home and are planning on moving to or from the New York City area, consider contacting the team at Liberty Moving and Storage to handle all of your moving needs. In business for over 70 years, Liberty Movers have the experience and expertise to make your move as easy and stress-free as possible! Give us a call today for a free moving estimate today!