Buying a house is both overwhelming and scary – especially when it’s your FIRST house. We made a lot of mistakes in our house search, some big and some small, but we’re ultimately happy with our decision and we consider this a learning experience . . . for when we buy a second house some day. Here’s a list of ten things (some I knew and some I didn’t until after the fact) to look out for when buying a house. Keep in mind, I’m no expert, this is just based on our experiences. I hope this helps some first-time home buyer out there!
Derivative of “Sale Pending” by Dan Moyle, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License
You should be 100% comfortable with your realtor. You should feel like they’re working with you and for you. They should answer all of your questions and they should fight for you. They should look at all the houses you want to look at. If you don’t feel right in any way, trust your instincts and get a new realtor. You might worry about hurting someone’s feelings, but remember that buying a house is a major MAJOR purchase. Stick up for yourself.
This was a biggie for us. Of course, I am sure there are awesome home inspection companies, but don’t rely on the home inspection alone. We actually got our money back from the company we used because they missed so many major issues.
Next time we buy a house, we’ll get a home inspection and also get an actual real-life electrician and a licensed plumber to come look at the house. Every electrician and plumber we’ve had here has told us they often go do look-overs and give free estimates for work that needs to get done . . . before buying a house. Usually, these kind of estimates lead to real work for them, so it’s worth it for their company.
And it’s worth it for you, too. You can take their advice and do one of two things: run the other way as fast as you can, or use their knowledge and estimates to negotiate the price of your offer.
It probably goes without saying, but be present for inspections. Home inspectors are not allowed to really touch or move anything . . . but you can.
Guess what? People know this and will put furniture or stacks of boxes or hang clothes in front of problems. If it’s easy to move, scoot it and see what’s lurking behind that oddly placed chair or under that throw rug.
When you’re thinking about buying a house, act like you live there. Open and close every door, drawer, and window. Turn on all the lights and then turn them all off. Turn on every faucet to check water pressure. And then taste the water while you’re at it. Get your phone out and check the signal, check the wi-fi, make a phone call. Open and close the garage door. Turn on the heat and/or the air conditioning. Sniff out any weird smells. Sniff under the sinks. SNIFF THE BASEMENT. All of it, every corner. Just do it.
“Home Inspection” by Mark Moz, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License
Here’s an example for you: We didn’t open all the cabinets in the kitchen when we first looked at the house. At the final walk-through (no turning back now), I noticed that the cabinets weren’t installed quite right and the stove is blocking a whole corner of cabinetry. Like, we have a drawer and door that we can’t open or get in to. Surprise!
And one more: When the home inspector was checking out the house, we went to turn on the light in one of the bedrooms. It was missing its bulb, and all around thought nothing of it. Guess what? There was no bulb because the wiring was done incorrectly for that fixture and was a fire hazard. We fixed it right away, of course. But that’s something that could have been fixed before we moved in, had we just put a bulb in there and tested it.
Have someone (the inspectors, plumber, electrician, your dad) show you where and how to use: the main water clean-out, the main water shut-off, the gas shut-off, where to shut off the outdoor faucets. Some genius who owned our house at some point down the line TOTALLY ENCLOSED our outdoor faucet shut-offs and the main water clean-out. We had to open and wreck a part of the basement wall and a part of the basement ceiling to un-enclose them.
Maybe this doesn’t matter to you, but it does to us. We have a lot of electronics, so checking each room for outlets is key. Are there enough outlets for your needs? Are they easy to get at? Do they work? Get an electrician to check all the outlets to make sure they are functioning and up to code. ESPECIALLY in the bathroom, the kitchen, the basement, and the garage. These areas have special needs as far as outlets go.
Also, look up. Does each room have a light in the ceiling? If not, you’ll need floor, table, or hanging lamps. And you’ll need outlets to plug them into.
Sure, let the home inspector look up there. But then YOU look up there, too. Check for water damage and holes. Check the whole thing for junk. You don’t want to access the attic from the garage one day and find 200 pounds of lumber, a big mess of old household materials, a ladder, a kiddie pool, a 100 pound spool of welding wire . . .
Listen, look in every area of the attic so that any problems and garbage can be taken care of before you move in.
When buying a house, do not get all wrapped up in the aesthetics only. Look in all the nooks and crannies. Look at the entire foundation. Get behind bushes, look under sinks, behind and under furniture and rugs. Do this inside and outside. See “Don’t rely on the home inspection alone.”
Are they what you want? Do they work? How soon will you need to replace them? Consider these things when you make an offer.
source, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License
We had to get the fridge and the washing machine and the dishwasher repaired within the first two months, even though they all looked brand new (Surprise! You can buy dirt-cheap appliances these days that look like awesome new stainless stuff. They are neither real stainless nor functional). Example: Our oven doesn’t have a broiler or an automatic door light, which is hard for me because I used the broiler all the time, and I also like to see things.
And an aside: Pinterest told me that front-loading washing machines are the thing to have. You know what they really are? Back-cramping, moisture and smell harboring little PIAs that eat socks and create big hairballs that get in all of your clothes. Want to know what else? They don’t last as long as top-loading washers because of some scientific centrifugal force thing. The repair guys told me that. You’re welcome.
Paint colors can be changed. Wall paper can be removed. And so can cruddily installed chair rail, baseboards, molding, drop ceilings, carpet, etc. You can breathe a lot of life into the yard by taking good care of it and planting some cheap perennials. Don’t pass up buying a house with good bones just because you don’t like the aesthetics. Figure out what requires elbow grease and sweat equity vs what will require a lot of money and some professionals to fix.
Go online and check for the estimated value of your potential house. Google “How to find home values” or check out your local real estate websites and poke around.Then snoop on the neighbors and see what theirs are worth, too. This will help you get an idea of what to offer, but keep in mind that these are rough estimates only. Take this number and subtract anything off that needs a major fix (we’re talking plumbing issues, not paint colors). Use your professional estimates as bargaining chips against the asking price.
Well, that’s it! I hope this helps someone out there in the world. Please let me know your experiences and if you have anything to add to this list!