What to Look for When Buying a House
Ever played one of those carnival games where you guess the number of marbles in the jar? Buying a home can sometimes feel that way. You look hard, you make your best estimation--but in the end, it's always a bit of a gamble. What's inside the package is almost never exactly what you thought it would be.
You might be excited about the possibilities for that bonus room over the garage; or maybe you're already envisioning family gatherings in the beautifully renovated family room. Whatever the home's particular appeal, park your emotions at the door and give the home a cool-headed, careful examination before you consider making an offer. The closer you look, the fewer the opportunities for surprises. And for a purchase this large, the less you leave to chance, the better.
Hire a well-regarded inspector. Ask your REALTOR, neighbors and friends to recommend a good inspector. Then hire the best one you can find. Enlisting the expertise of a professional inspector is a must to ensure the soundness and value of a home. An inspector will be able to tell you about problems both major and minor. If he or she can't assure you that the home is structurally sound and free of mold or moisture problems, you should probably pass on the house. Conversely, favorable answers to these 10 questions is a good indicator the house is a safe bet.
Ask to see utility bills. Ask your REALTOR to get a copy of the gas and electric bills from the past year. They'll help you determine if the house is energy efficient -- or if you'll need to plan for costly upgrades in the near future.
Read the warranties. Many items in a home are covered by warranty. These include appliances such as refrigerators and stoves, and other elements like windows, shingles, hot water heaters, some sidings and even garage door openers. Find out how much time is left on these warranties and what you'll be required to pay for once they expire.
Consider how the house sits on its plot. Ideally, the house should be situated on a mound slightly above its surrounding landscaping. Houses that sit in depressions are more susceptible to water problems, and even flooding.
Ask about maintenance. Every house has elements that require occasional upkeep. These include siding, the roof, and the HVAC equipment. Ask how often these features have been repaired, if any have been recently replaced, and what currently needs work.
Content updated on 12/14/2007