So you've saved, started working with a great real estate agent, and finally found a house that you might call your own. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of finding an odorless house in your budget and close to work. But before you write an offer, or at least before you lift inspection contingencies, ask yourself these 27 questions.
Of course, no house is going to be perfect for you in in every way. Even people who design and build homes have things they wished they did differently. But it's better to consider everything upfront and decide to live with a minor issue than to find yourself annoyed daily by a factor you forgot to consider before buying.
1. What is the condition of the house? Translation: get a home inspection. Whether you are buying a 650 sqft brand new condo or a 4000 sqft historic mansion, get a home inspection.
2. Will I like my neighbors? This one is easy. Go knock on a few doors and introduce yourself. Not only will you be able to get an impression of their friendliness and willingness to help, they also will be the first person to tell you the dirt on the house you're considering.
3. Does this house have an HOA? If so, on top of just asking about the monthly fees you should find out the rules. Some can be quite stringent. There was a development near my first office in Sacramento that didn't allow pick-up trucks or for your garage to be open for more than an hour. No, I'm not kidding. Also, look into the HOA's management company and the HOA's financial strength.
4. How are the school systems? Don't have kids? Still a key piece of information that can impact property values and your resale.
5. What's the neighborhood like at night? Come back and drive the neighborhood after 10pm on a weekend. Is the townhouse that shares a wall with your future unit hosting a raging party? Would you feel safe walking alone here?
6. Is this a safe neighborhood? Your real estate agent won't touch this question if she's smart because of obvious liabilities. Call the local police office and check out crime maps online.
7. Would I live near any sex offenders? This information is readily available online at sites like familywatchdog.us.
8. Does my future road have street lights? If you like to walk your dog or go running early in the morning or after work, this might matter to you.
9. What's the natural flow of the floor plan? Is there a clear door for your guests to come through? Is there a closet for coats? Imagine yourself entertaining in the space.
10. How will this property fit with my animals? If you have dogs, is it fenced in? Consider getting an estimate on fencing before assuming you'll put one in after. They get pricey. If you have cats, is there a good location for a litter box?
11. How much upkeep will I need to do? As gorgeous as a lush green lawn and garden may be, are you okay with either paying for a landscaping service or spending many hours every weekend keeping it up?
12. Will my friends and family actually come visit me here? It doesn't matter if you have a full bar or an awesome pool. If all of your friends live in the same town and you move to another, you'll likely find yourself begging for guests to come.
13. Will any trees need to come down? Too close to the house? Any sap producing trees hanging over your future parking spot?
14. What path will I drive coming and going from the house? Any schools with drop-off lines creating traffic or oneway roads that double your drive time for simple errands?
15. Are there any annoying noises? If you are close to a highway, consider how loud it will be with an open window at night. Is the house next to a school with a D-list marching band? Are you near an airport or in a flight path?
16. What's my parking situation? Will you be constantly backing out of a driveway onto a busy street? Is driveway short enough that a car would have to block part of the sidewalk (and would you get a ticket for doing so)? Where would visitors park?
17. What will my commute be like? Actually drive your commute from the house a few mornings.
18. Where will I go for my normal weekly activities? Will you be close to a grocery store and shopping centers? In an adult sports league or have a game night- how far will those drives be?
19. Will my house work for me in all seasons? Is the house up a steep road in a snowy area? Will a neighboring swamp make summer outdoor time impossible without catching malaria?
20. What will home insurance cost? Get a real quote from an agent ahead of time, especially if you are in a climate that has extreme storms. For example, rates can be drastically different based on the house's roof in a hurricane area.
21. How old are these appliances? The house comes with appliances? Great! But if they are old you may find yourself replacing them in your first year and that can get pricey. Consider negotiating a credit for new appliances or a home warranty.
22. Can I really afford these payments? Err on the side of caution with your budget. Owning a house comes with many costly repairs and some, such as a busted septic tank or leaking roof, require immediate attention and money.
23. Is this house worth what I am about to pay? In the current seller's market, ending up with buyer's remorse is a real possibility. Read our tips for handling bidding wars and make sure to keep emotions as far out of the transaction as you can.
24. Where will my furniture go? If you need to start buying all new furniture to fit with an odd floor plan, you could break the bank.
25. How much natural light does this house have? Real estate agents know to turn every light on even during daytime showings. Shut them off and think about how the light matches your personal preferences.
26. What will my view look like in all four seasons? You'd hate to buy a house with a private backyard only to find out that when the leaves fall, you look directly at your neighbor's hot tub.
27. Do my neighbors take care of their property? True story: I leased a house in Hermosa Beach, CA despite the next door neighbor's overgrown bougainvillea plant and cobweb covered backyard. A month in, we discovered that the neighbor fed the pack of wild raccoons living under her house.
Of course, the majority of these questions shouldn't cause you to second guess or pass on a house that otherwise fits all of your requirements but I hope that by asking them, you will feel more confident in your home purchase. Check back and let us know which ones helped the most!
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Caity Salvatore founded Nestment.com when she was sick of hearing her friends complain about their real estate agents. She is out to prove that great agents do exist, and works as a matchmaker between home buyers/sellers and real estate agents. She spends her days interviewing agents and bingeing on Dunkin Donuts.