Experience brings caution. Here are some tips for buyers when they are seeking a new home:
- Know what you can afford and stay within your budget. Overextending financially is a great source for stress, and all of the physical discomforts that go along with it.
- Take your time when looking at a home, and ask “How will this work for me?” A home must be functional. It may look beautiful, but if the floor plan does not fit your lifestyle, you’ll regret the move.
- Say hi to the neighbors. If you see someone outside, say hi to them, and ask how they like the neighborhood. Their response may be quite revealing and help you learn if the neighbors will make your life a delight, or a nightmare.
- Does the house have good curb appeal ? If you care about appearance, this is the first thing you will see every time you come home. If there are issues, can you resolve them quickly and inexpensively?
- Look behind the plants. Overgrown plants may be concealing maintenance and repair needs that could stretch your resources.
- Are there odors in the house ? Pet smells can make you sick, and some cooking ( grease ) smells can be particularly strong. Odors are hard to get rid of in a house, and treatment can be quite expensive.
- Do floors squeak or sag ? This can be an indicator of wood deterioration, another expensive repair.
- Do wall sockets have black marks ? This occurs when plugs arc and can be a sign of electrical issues.
- Look under sinks. Is the wall discolored or soft ? Do you have white buildup on the base of the cabinets ( signaling leaks )?
- Check cabinet doors. Do they open and close properly ? Are they solid or loose on the hinges.
- Inspect the ceiling. Do you see watermarks or fresh repairs ? Painting over watermarks doesn’t fix the leak, and it will come again with the next rain.
- Get an independent inspection and read the report carefully. You paid for it, so ask questions if anything is not clear.
Finally, if the house is a fixer upper, be sure you are ready for all the work that will be needed, and have the financial resources for the unexpected. It’s great if you have the skills, patience, and resources, but your life will certainly not be pleasant if you lack for any of these, and have a big project. Fixer uppers often have deep damage. What you see on the surface is only a reflection of deeper problems. Also, those shows on TV where houses are transformed in just 2 or 3 days are fun to watch, but don’t tell the whole story. It took time to create plans, acquire materials, and get permits. In the end, the projects take a long time.
And a note of caution. Some people like to buy a property, “fix it up”, and then sell it for a huge profit. Look at these very carefully. Sometimes the work is excellent, but often it is totally cosmetic. I’ve recently viewed a property that used watered down paint, didn’t do proper prep or repair work, and was very sloppy in how the “glitz” was added. Upon closer inspection, a buyer would have faced extensive re-work costs and a lot of time when the property could not be fully used. Look over all properties very carefully. If it looks like there might be a problem, trust your intuition. Have your agent investigate it carefully.