Taking the plunge into homeownership is a big deal, but it’s crucial to mind all the details. Despite your excitement, you don’t want to fall in love with a home and end up under contract with a seller who won’t make repairs, only to find out during inspection that the electrical system needs to be completely rewired. Here are five important areas to consider when you’re looking for a new residence.
Space for now and later
A house may look perfect at first glance, but you want to make sure it has enough space for you both now and in several years. If the house is vacant, it can be hard to picture how your furniture will look in the space. Be sure to take measurements and make sure you won’t be out of room immediately after the movers finish bringing your belongings inside. Consider as well the space you’ll need if you’re planning on having children, starting a home-based business or have a hobby that will require extra shelving or storage for your collection.
Surrounding area at different times of day
Many potential buyers only visit the home at specific times or days of the week. If you only see the house on Saturday morning, the area may look a lot different than it does when neighborhood parents are dropping their children off at school or when commuters are driving through to get to or from work. Visit the home at different days and times, including rush hour, a weekend evening and the beginning or end of a school day. Also pay attention to traffic and whether it’s easy to get out of the neighborhood onto major streets.
Problems with major systems
Although a house may look great on the surface, it could be a money pit down the road if there are problems with the home’s mechanical systems. Look at the age of the furnace, air conditioner and water heater and make sure each is in good working condition or can be repaired for little cost. Investigate the plumbing, watching for leaks, problems with water pressure or pipes that look old and may have blockages in them. Check the electrical panel to see whether there is space for more circuits if you need them. Also look at the exterior of the home, paying attention to whether the roof or siding will need work soon.
Neighbors and community
Unless you know the area well, you’ll want to talk to some neighbors to learn more about your new surroundings. Ask them how long they’ve lived in the area, what percentage of homes in the surrounding blocks are owner-occupied and how frequently people move into or out of the area. Also ask about neighborhood events and whether there’s a community organization or neighborhood improvement association that meets regularly, all of which are signs that people care about the neighborhood as a whole.
Taxes and utilities
Many buyers get so focused on the amount of the mortgage payment that they forget about the other monthly costs of living in a home. Get information on the amount of the property tax bills for the last several years and factor these into your expected costs. Find out from the sellers how much they pay on average for utilities. If the home is a different size or type of construction from where you live now, the cost could be significantly different and greatly impact your budget.
Finding the perfect home can take a while but be sure to take your time before making a final decision. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a home that isn’t quite right. The little things that bother you during a tour may end up becoming the big issues that drive you from the home down the line.