The Ultimate House Hunting Checklist

If you are looking at prospective homes, you probably have an idea of what you want. But do you have a list? Of course, everyone wants a big kitchen and a sizeable yard, but there’s more to it than that. Having things on paper means that you won’t miss anything or forget about it later. Also, you must look beyond size, condition, and number of rooms. Here are some other things you should look over before you make an offer on a house.

The Location

You can fix almost any imperfection in a home except for it’s location. When you are looking at a specific house, consider any potential home’s proximity to your work, the nearest doctor, and the nearest grocery store. Think about the charm of the neighbor hood, how the home is situated on the lot, the privacy you have from your neighbors, the ease of access, the parking situation, the noise from neighbors, the noise from traffic, the noise from pets, and access to public transportation.

The Site

Look at the site of the home. Is the house on a hill? If so, does it have a view? What about a lot of stairs to climb to get to the front door? How about a walk out basement? Do the neighbors windows look directly into yours? Is the yard suitable for the number of kids and pets you have? Is access to the property safe regarding driveway elevation or access to the front door? It is very expensive to change these things, so make sure you are okay with how things are from the first.

The Neighborhood

The house needs to meet your expectations, sure, but so too does the neighborhood. You should own the smallest home in the nicest neighborhood that you can afford. Drive through the neighborhood in the mornings, the afternoons, and the evenings to see how things change throughout the day. Are the homes in the neighborhood consistent in size and features? Are the yards tidy or messy? Are there any abandoned cars or stray animals running around? Would you feel safe walking to the mailbox at night? Are there a lot of children – and if there are, are you okay with their noise level?

The Curb Appeal

Your landscaping should reflect your lifestyle. If you live a laid back life, then you probably don’t want a hard-to-maintain yard. If that’s the case, it’s likely that your curb appeal will tank, considering all the plant life in your yard has died! However, if you have a green thumb, make sure there is a lot of room for a garden. A brick home is the easiest to maintain, unless you live in an area with a lot of earthquakes. Check to make sure the roof is in good condition, as well as the driveway.

The Size and Floor Plan

Does the layout of the house make sense? Do you really need as many bedrooms and bathrooms as the house has? Do you have enough furniture to fill the house? Do you have too much stuff and you need more storage space? Is the kitchen set up properly for how you will use it? Think about how the space will be used and whether it will be beneficial to your lifestyle now and in the future. You don’t want to buy a home while you’re wearing rose colored glasses and then later find out that it’s not the one for you.

The Bedrooms and Bathrooms

Decide how many bedrooms and bathrooms you really need. Sure, it’s great to have a couple of guest rooms, but you’ll be paying to heat and cool those rooms when they’re empty. If you think you’re going to add onto the house later in terms of bedrooms and bathrooms, make sure that you confirm that you’re allowed to do this with an architect so you don’t buy the house knowing you need one more bedroom – then not be allowed to build that room.

The Kitchen

It is said that the kitchen is the heart of the home. And so it should be! Of course, you can always remodel, but if that’s not in your budget after paying out a down payment, make sure that you can live with the kitchen that comes with the house. It doesn’t have to be your dream kitchen, but it should be workable. If the most that needs to be done is an inexpensive makeover, it’s as good as perfect! Don’t even worry about the appliances, as they can also be easily replaced.

The Storage

The older the home is, the less storage space it tends to have. If you have a lot of extra stuff, make sure there’s a place for it all to go. You can always add storage space, but you may have to sacrifice living space in your rooms to do so if you don’t want to add onto the house. Don’t forget about outdoor storage either – is the garage enough, or will you have to build a small shed out in the yard? Will you have enough room to fit your car in the garage after you get all of your storage stuff in there?

The Lighting

Some people love bright, sunny rooms. Some people like to keep it dark and cozy. Whatever your preference, check out the indoor and natural lighting options. If you prefer all natural, or you have a lot of window plants, does enough sun come in the windows to meet your needs? A hint – southern facing windows tend to get the best light. If you prefer more yellow, dimmed lightbulbs, and the house is currently sporting clinical, bright white bulbs, that’s okay – it’s just a matter of changing them out.

The Finishing Touches

A small, simple house can still look spectacular thanks to small details such as moldings, door frames, window treatments, hardware, and fireplaces. If you really want your new home to be a stunner, consider finding a place that already sports these finishing touches. If the house is your dream house but still needs a little touching up, that’s okay too – most of these changes are quite cheap and simple to do by yourself. Just be prepared to add these elements yourself if they are not present at the home tour and are important to you to have.

The Plumbing

Do the toilets flush? How is the water pressure? Are any of the pipes under the sink leaking? Is the water heater leaking? Make sure that all of the plumbing and pipes are acceptable – because you’ll be stuck with them once you get the keys. If you (or the inspector) notices an issue, you can ask the seller to fix them before you move in, or ask for money off of the price of the house so you’ll have extra cash on hand to fix the issue without stressing your finances much more than they already are after putting down that down payment.

Compare the features of the homes you view and rate them from one to five, with one being “poor” and five being “excellent”. View each house and neighborhood from that lens, and judge what you liked and what you didn’t like. This list can keep all of your thoughts in one place, making it simpler for you to pare things down and make a decision.

Other tips for house hunting:

  • Bring a phone or a camera for taking photos and videos of each house.
  • Only tour a house if you approve of the neighborhood.
  • Take notes as you walk through each house – you’ll forget the details later.
  • Revisit your top three favorite houses – it will help refresh your memory.
  • Talk to the neighbors to learn more about the house and the area.
  • Visit the house at night when neighbors are home. How is the parking and noise level?
  • Check your cell phone signal in the house. Make sure it’s strong.
  • Compare home values between your potential house and others in the neighborhood.
  • Ask your realtor about average monthly bills for each property you visit.
  • Hire a home inspector to check the electrical, heating, air conditioning, security, plumbing, insulation, water, and sewer systems to make sure everything is up to date and safe.
  • Check for damage to the foundation, driveway and pool by looking for cracks.
  • Make sure that the garage door functions.
  • Look for signs of pests such as ants, termites, or rodents.
  • Keep your expectations as realistic as possible.
  • Stay in your budget – you set it for a reason!
  • Ask your realtor about any known damages or home history.

House hunting can be stressful, but organizing and ensuring that each home is properly checked over can help you feel much more at ease and put together while you tour homes. You should never buy a home without first knowing everything you can about it. The only way to avoid that is to investigate and do your due diligence on each home you visit.

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