Buying a home is an incredibly important decision. When you consider just how much time you will be spending in this one building in the next few years—or even decades—it definitely adds pressure to what you might have previously believed to be a straightforward task. And whether it is your first home, or you have done this countless times before, it does not get any easier. So when you look at home after home, how are you supposed to figure out which one is the best for you?
There are many different parts of the homebuying process, but one of the most important is the walkthrough. This is when you will be able to see your prospective home and visualize yourself and your belongings inside of those walls. However, if you are not careful you can get swept away in the experience and end up with a home that you do not want. There are certain tricks that can help you avoid this scenario. Read on for a guide to some of the things that you can look for, and ways to avoid missing some crucial details before, after and during your walkthrough. The process of buying a home is never quick, and never easy, but with this guide you might just find that it is slightly less of a headache than you expected.
Before You Arrive/As You Are Arriving
You may think that going to look at a house a simple task, but there is a certain amount of preparation that you will have to do beforehand, otherwise this will not be as worthwhile of an experience as it could be. Start the process by creating a list—either physical or mental—of your specific wants and needs, and those of your family. Then arrange those features according to importance. Which aspects of a potential house are deal breakers, which are necessary, which are added bonuses, and which can you go without? This will help you to be more discerning when browsing various properties.
When you have a property that you intend to view, identify similar, recently sold homes and check their prices. You might want to ask for a CMA (competitive market analysis) for the area. Look around at other homes in the neighborhood as you are arriving, and look at the location of the property, is it a good location? How much are other homes nearby worth? Is the neighborhood generally nice, and is it close to important shops and amenities, as well as work or good schools?
As You Look at the Exterior
As you are pulling up, consider the “curb appeal” of the building. Is it well maintained, and does the style fit your tastes? Look around at the various amenities. If there is a swimming pool, think carefully about whether that is something that you actually want or not—remember there is a lot of maintenance involved, and if you do not live in a year round warm climate, you may not get much use out of it. The style of the house can give you clues to the age of the property, and you will want to consider that when it comes to making an offer. Also consider the size of the house, is it too big or too small for your needs?
As you look at the house, look for general maintenance issues. Look at the roof, is it new or old?
Look for missing tiles and see if you can see it caving in or decaying at any places. Are there any big fixes or obvious repairs that will have to be carried out? Check out the landscaping. If the yard or garden is well or poorly maintained, it can be indicative of overall maintenance habits, and if you are looking for a well groomed yard, it will be something that will cost you money to install.
As You Walk Around
When you are walking around the property, it is important not to be swept away by any interesting decor or nice furniture. Don’t be fooled by attractive colors or frills, as all of this will be gone when it is time to move in, and is not important. Similarly, don’t be blinded by bad furniture or general clutter. You should, however, think about whether your furniture will fit inside this house, or you will be looking at additional costs as you replace it.
Some of the main things to look for as you walk around are the age of the furnace, the windows/lighting in general, whether there is sufficient storage space, closets, and any water damage. Take a good look at the kitchen, as this is a big deciding factor in house value. Turn on some of the taps, and check the water pressure. As you look for windows, check for more than just good natural light—how are the views? You want to make sure that you do not look directly into a neighbor’s window, or straight at a wall or tree.
After the Walkthrough
As you are leaving the house, don’t be afraid to ask questions. A home is a big investment, and an important one, so you do not want to go into an offer without having first covered all of your bases. Do not be afraid to ask for another walkthrough. In fact, it may be useful to look through the house one more time before making the actual offer. When you are looking at house after house, they can often tend to blend together in your memory.
Go through the house in your mind and think about your daily routine and your family’s habits.
How well will it fit into this environment? Think about what this house is worth to you. There may be some features that would traditionally add value to a house that you might not even care about, and others for which you would pay a little more. The seller can put whatever value they wish on this house, but when it comes down to it, the only thing that matters is the price that you would put on it. After all, as with anything, a house is only worth what you are willing to pay for it.