Being a homeowner is part of the fabric that weaves the tapestry of the American dream. It’s a mark of true adulthood and independence. It means your hard earned money is being invested into equity, and not just flying out the window month after month, year after year. This accomplishment can bring out many different emotions: pride, excitement, relief; and on the other hand, anxiety, worry, and fear. What if you made any mistakes? What if something goes wrong? How much will it cost? Will you be happy here? It’s not as simple as moving from a rental, you own it now. You can no longer call the landlord to come and fix a problem, now, you are your own landlord. Ask any new homeowner and they will tell you that they went through the same range of emotions. 

We’re here to give you some helpful advice and guidance on what you can look for and think about before you purchase a home. A mixed bag of some common sense stuff and not-so-obvious details. 

First things first — BUDGET.

This seems like a really “duh” way to start, but you’d be surprised at how many people overestimate what they can afford and subsequently feel disappointed and discouraged at what kinds of properties fall into their budget. You should have a clear breakdown of your finances and how your money will work for you. After you’ve set your budget for a purchase price, and have included additional costs like any upgrades, fixes, renovations, HOA fees, etc., you will have a much better understanding of what you can truly afford. 

Now that you’ve gotten that figured out, the fun part starts — house hunting. It’s quite easy to miss little details here and there when you’re so excited and initially viewing a property “as a whole.” You’re already envisioning where the furniture will go and if you like the street name. But as they say, “the devil is in the details.” Below is a list of things you must look for and ask about to get a better idea on the “health” of the property, and what could potentially save you from mounting costs in the future. This information could also be beneficial to negotiations with the seller of the home. 

Probe the Plumbing

Ask about the age, material and type of piping for the home. Bring in a plumber to do an inspection and use a camera to take a look at the main sewer, making sure there are no major problems. Another thing you should ask is how old the water heater is, which typically needs to be replaced every ten years. 

Pay Attention to Paint

Fresh paint in a home that’s for sale isn’t out of the ordinary, but if you walk into a home that looks like it hasn’t been renovated in decades, with no other upgrades other than paint, take a closer look at the walls and what’s behind them. If there’s drywall or fresh paint in a particular part of the house, this could be a sign of something that needed to be fixed, or a literal cover-up. 

Review the Roof

If the roof is more than 20 years old, you’re most likely looking at repairs or replacement, which could cost on average $10k. Ask when the roof was installed and ask to see the warranty. WIth older homes, you could be dealing with several layers of roofing, and a possibility of asbestos. It’s advised to have an expert take a look at the roof, as it’s not easy for the untrained eye to make an assessment just by looking at a roof. 

Feel the Floors 

Have you ever done the cup test? Put a glass cup on its side on the floor and see if it rolls? It may sound ridiculous, but it works! It’s not likely that you’ll come across a floor that’s so uneven that this will happen, but it’s not impossible either. Take notice as you walk around — does it feel even, is there a slant, is the creaking more pronounced than it should be? One way to know that there may have been some creative plumbing going on, is to look for dips or unusual sagging of the floors near a bathroom. 

Observe the Outside

The landscaping is often overlooked by potential buyers, and sometimes even home inspectors, but is a big part in the overview of a property. Large trees can sometimes pose a threat to the structure of the home with root issues, or can be roadblocks to any future add-ons or renovations; and tree removal can be very costly and sometimes illegal, depending on city codes. Smaller issues that are more manageable are leaves filling the gutters, and insect or rodent infestation, especially if trees or shrubbery are in close proximity to the home. 

Our best advice is ask about the history of the home. Ask the selling agent about previous ownership, and the duration of time the previous owner/s held the property. If you come across a swiftly flipped home, there may be a higher chance of quick fixes and cosmetic repairs, but no significant updating with plumbing, electrical, or structural parts of the home. Ask about the history of repairs, including who did them, if there are warranties, and if the warranties are extended with the house, and not only applicable to the previous owner. 

We hope these tips will help you along the way in the journey of finding a home you love! We know it can be daunting and extensive, but the reward is just on the other side of that door.

Written by: Tania Mahmoudpour