Look Beneath The Surface When Shopping For A House
Buying a home is an important milestone in most people’s lives.
The transaction typically involves a lot of emotion as well as a lot of money. Take your time, do your research, and address these seven elements when looking for a house.
Life In The House
At an open house on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, you may get a highly-filtered “Instagram” version of the home and its neighborhood. Experts recommend making multiple visits at different times to get a more realistic picture of the property and community.
Are there noisy teenagers hanging out? Do you hear the same dog barking every time you go? How’s the traffic after work?
Don’t forget to also consider the time of year – will you get a panoramic view of the neighbor’s junk collection when your trees shed their leaves in the fall?
And think about events that might take place during another season. For instance, if there is a little league field around the corner, what will the lighting and noise be like during baseball season? Talk to neighbors to get the scoop.
The Parking Situation
One of the perks of being a homeowner is having a place to put your car when you arrive home. If that is important to you, take note of how easy or difficult it is to find parking when you view a prospective house.
You may have other considerations: If you drive a truck, will it fit in the driveway? Is there a fire hydrant that restricts your parking? Is there ample space for visitors? Do you have to share a driveway with a neighbor?
These are things that many people only think about after they become a nuisance.
If you are buying a home that is part of a homeowner’s association (HOA), get a copy of its CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions).
Your homeowner dues are listed there, and so are the rules of the community. It’s your responsibility to read and accept them before competing your purchase.
You don’t want to discover, too late, that you can’t park your RV on the property.
Other potential prohibitions include restrictions on pets, renters, home improvements or the number of guests you can invite to use the common areas (such as a tennis court or pool).
Transportation may be a factor to examine. If you have young children, how will they get to school? Is your neighborhood walkable, and how far is it to the nearest grocery store? Is it well-lit, and are there sidewalks?
If you commute to work, how long will it take, and what are your transportation options?
You know what your monthly mortgage payment will be, but what about other bills? Ask the sellers for copies of their statements from utility companies, so you can get a sense of what it costs to heat, cool, and power the house.
Consider the home’s condition as well. Experts at HGTV say you can expect to spend between one and three percent of your home’s purchase price each year on maintenance and repairs.
Check the home’s history to see how many previous owners there were, how long they lived there, and what the selling price was each time it changed hands. This can be done by searching the property address on the Web site of your county Assessor’s Office.
It might raise a red flag if you notice that people don’t tend to stay for long. Doing further investigation might reveal problems with bad neighbors or things going wrong with the house itself.
You might also want to ask the seller for a C.L.U.E.® Home Seller’s Disclosure Report. CLUE stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, and it provides a five-year history of insurance losses at that address. The report is free to the seller and can tell you if there are hazards on the property or if it’s prone to weather damage or burglary.
If you’re serious about a house or neighborhood, look into its zoning rules. This is especially important if you think you might start a home-based business, remodel, cut down any large trees, bring in horses or other farm animals, or purchase a boat or RV.
Zoning information can usually be found online, at your local planning department on your city’s or county Web site.
Use Your Head When Buying A Home
Home shopping can be fun, but don’t get so caught up envisioning your new life that you forget to add these practical steps to your checklist.
Once you find a property that has the attributes that are most important to you, you can move forward with confidence and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with making an informed decision.