There are plenty of things to consider when looking for your next home. Things like location, schools and commute all factor into where you’re hunting, but let’s say you have that all figured out. Let’s say you found a great house in a great neighborhood and you’re ready to set up a visit. What should you look out for once you step inside?
To make it easy to remember, let’s break it all down into three categories: Topical Improvements, Dollar Drags and Red Flags.
A house is more than the color of its walls, so why let a little atomic tangerine turn your stomach on an otherwise idyllic abode?
All things considered, paint is pretty cheap. It’s even something intrepid homeowners can change themselves. The same is true for outlet covers, light fixtures, sink fixtures, wallpaper, vent covers…the list goes on.
These simple, low-cost changes help make a house your home. And if anything in a house happens to clash with your personal style, keep in mind that it can be changed relatively affordably.
A Topical Improvement is an inexpensive change that isn’t enough to keep you from making an offer.
When there’s an improvement that needs to be done, but it’s not enough to keep you from making an offer, you’ve run into a Dollar Drag.
Let’s say you’ve found an immaculate house. The asking price is just right and you’d move in tomorrow. That is…except for the deck. You know, the one that’s a hair’s breadth from collapsing into a heap? The one unfit for patio furniture, but somehow supported by a 15-year-old charcoal grill?
Yeah. That’s a dollar drag – a fixer-upper project that puts a monetary weight on your wallet. Some Dollar Drags might include
- That aforementioned deck or a crummy patio
- Replacement countertops
- New carpet
- A scratched up doorframe from either a large dog or the previous owner’s pet grizzly bear
It’s no fun to know that you’d have to dump cash into your house as soon as you walk through the door. But look at the repairs this way: You get exactly what you want and you control how much you spend.
Just be careful. A Dollar Drag might be an indicator of something more serious, so be sure to factor that into the inspection and the asking price. Seller concessions might be in order.
Sometimes walls do talk. Hearing what they have to say is the tricky part.
Red Flags are indicators of larger issues and could be serious enough to keep you from putting a bid on a house.
Red Flags also come in many shapes and sizes. The key to visiting homes is to make sure you use your senses:
Follow your nose
Notice any funky smells? Like Victoria points out in her Zing post “Buying a Home: The Basement”:
Along with visual cues, you can search out water-related problems from a musty smell, which is usually a sign of dampness. You also want to check for mold because it can cause you serious health problems down the road.
How about any overly-antiseptic or clean smells? Overkill on the Pine Sol might be an olfactory cover-up in the making.
The eyes have it
Look for any cracks or discoloration around windows, basement walls, baseboards and around doors. Water infiltration may have a part to play.
Also, look for any recent repair work. Fresh paint, drywall patches or dust might spell out recent repairs. Be sure to ask your realtor about the work, and for clarification from the buyer.
Sounds like trouble
Finally, listen to the house. How does the HVAC sound when it’s running? Is it running like a well-oiled machine or a tank out on maneuvers?
Every house has its usual cacophony, but anything that’s either out of the ordinary or too much to ignore could mean costly repairs.
Get touchy feely
Touching questionable areas around the house might be out of the question at this point, but an inspector can highlight any issues that come to light.
Take notes and use your best judgment. If something stands out, ask yourself whether or not you’re willing to put up with the associated costs of making this house something you’ll love.
You’re the best judge of your financial standing and your patience, so go in knowing what you’re willing to endure. With an open mind and a realistic attitude, who knows? Your diamond in the rough just might turn out to be your dream home.
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