When buying a home, excitement is understandably the default emotion.
You overlook obvious red flags because you found your “dream house.”
It will all work out. Right?
First-time homebuyer or “I-am-ready-for-an-upgrade-now” homebuyer shouldn’t be seduced by a case of the lovebug, the irrational, infatuation with a property at all costs.
“Asking the right questions before purchasing a home makes you more confident in your decision,” said Luke McLean, Realtor at Allstate Properties in Davison, Michigan.
Here are five questions you must consider when looking at purchasing a new home.
Safety of neighborhood
You can research neighborhood crime reports through various methods. Many real estate applications, such as Zillow, have a built-in crime history map. Other resources for general crime statistics include the local police department, county sheriff’s department, and media publications.
For more specific crime information, consider the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports to “see how many crimes and what types have been reported in a neighborhood,” according to Discover. Don’t forget to research whether sex offenders are living in your prospective neighborhood by using the National Sex Offender Public Website.
It’s your dream home but will the utilities be a nightmare? Sure, your mortgage is a majority of the monthly expenses. However, heat, electric, and water bills can add up quickly. You can certainly have your agent ask for the home’s most recent utility bills. Don’t rely solely on the average energy usage, though, because every family lives differently.
Really concerned about this one? Think about hiring a professional to conduct a home energy audit. Then you have a good idea of what’s operating inefficiently and how much money you could save with fixes. Also consider whether the owner left behind old appliances, which are likely less efficient, and whether the local government provides tax incentives for energy efficient improvements, Realtor.com suggests.
Condition of basement
Now it’s time to review a big one, the kind of issue that cause major pain down the road: water damage in basement. Understand signs of water isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. Sometimes the past is the past. The owner had issues with sealing an outside door or no gutters or no retaining wall. It can be fixed and prevented. If it doesn’t appear recent, you can make an informed decision.
That said recent, ongoing water issues are alarming. Unless you are into mold and spending thousands of dollars in repairs. If so, proceed to next point. Be vigilant, suspicious, and downright angry about any signs of new dampness. “Even if the walls aren’t apparently wet, look for things like dehumidifiers, bucks of silica or other things that grab moisture from the air and keep it at bay,” Apartment Therapy writes. “If the home owners are smart enough to move these things, look for places near outlets that look clean (or leave a dust ring) where something like this might have sat.”
When you tour the home, linger a little longer in each room. Observe whether any room feels particularly unstable, as in too hot or too cold. This is could be the sign of a home that is poorly built and suffering from airflow issues.
Some companies may recommend investing in new HVAC equipment and windows, but this costly solution often does not solve the core discomfort problem, according to Pro Energy Consultants. They recommend using infared technology to pinpoint how air is flowing through the house. If you want to avoid this hassle, you may want to avoid a house you notice major temperature swings.
The unseen infrastructure
Finally, it’s time to go beyond the visible. No, we’re not talking the spirit of the house or anything spooky like that. What type of insulation is in the walls? What does the attic insulation look like? Does the home have the proper breaker box setup? Is the plumbing up to date? Ask about any issues with these items. They can affect your energy bills and the ability to use appliances in the home, as well as your safety in the home. Make sure they are up to code, but if not determine how much it will cost to update them as this is something you don’t want to be surprised about later.
Get a home inspection and ask these questions
If you’re serious about the home, realize a home inspection will cover most of the house, not everything. You may want to hire specialists to inspect inside the walls, roof or chimney, septic tanks, wells and sheds, according to Freshome.
If you want to save your sanity and pocketbook be sure to do your research and ask good questions to your realtor and home inspector before you place an offer on the home.
To learn more about the importance of a home’s insulation for your comfort and energy efficiency, check out our guide to insulation or fill out the form on this page for a free estimate.