Home Buyer's Checklist: 15 Things to Look Out For

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Home Buyer's Checklist: 15 Things to Look Out For
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You have saved up enough money to buy your first home -- or move up to that dream house you've been pining for. Conventional wisdom advises you should not buy a house unless you plan to stay there for a while, so you'll likely live with -- or rather, in -- the decision you make for many years. Checking it out thoroughly up front will pay you back many times over, both in money and happiness.

Bones of the House
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Bones of the House

The first thing to check is the overall structure of the house. If you see walls that aren't plumb, if the floors don't feel solid or the walls are bowed inside, run -- don't walk -- away. The positives don't matter if the house's bones are bad.

Roof
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Roof

The old saying "a roof over your head" gets down to the real basics of what you are buying: shelter from the weather. So the roof's condition is of the utmost importance. If it has a lot of life left, you are lucky. If not, it's not a deal breaker. But make the seller accommodate that fact in the sales price; it could mean thousands off the market value. And get it in writing.

Fireplace
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Fireplace

A fireplace adds so much charm, character, style and warmth to a house that you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who actually doesn't want one. But many questions need to be answered about a fireplace's condition, especially if it is masonry. Does it need mortar repair? Has it been inspected recently? Is it covered so birds and squirrels don't think it's a tunnel to warmth?

Bathrooms
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Bathrooms

Luxurious baths are the trend and can make you want a particular house regardless of the rest of it. Even if the bathroom looks relatively new, check out the condition and quality of the fixtures. You want good water pressure in the shower, so test it out when you see the bathroom. Take a good look at the condition of the countertops, tub and tile work.

Kitchen
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Kitchen

You'll spend a large percentage of your time in the kitchen, and you want it to fit your family's way of working, living and entertaining. Imagine cooking a weeknight meal in that kitchen. Check out the storage situation. How new are the built-in appliances? Do you like the parts of the kitchen that are expensive to change, such as the countertops, cabinets and floor?

Basement
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Basement

One of the biggest headaches for new homeowners is finding out after a really monster rainstorm that it's left its calling card in their basement. So be sure before you buy that what you'll have is a dry basement -- all the time.

The Finishing Details
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The Finishing Details

Older houses exude an aura of times past that spells "home" to many people. Quality details and finish mean the house was valued from the beginning. But architectural detail and quality finish also send a message in newer houses; those without that aspect tend to be bland and tract-like. If these details need restoration, it could add up to a lot of money.

Age and Quality of Furnace and AC
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Age and Quality of Furnace and AC

When Mother Nature is pummeling your house with snow is not the time to discover that your furnace is on its last legs. Same goes for your AC in the middle of a heat wave in July. These systems are extremely expensive to replace. Then there's the the discomfort caused when they break down at just the wrong time. So check them out before you buy; if they aren't relatively new or in good condition, negotiate with the seller.

Carpet and Hard Flooring
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Carpet and Hard Flooring

Interior designers say the floor literally makes the room. So, if you aren't keen on what's there, count that replacement cost into your moving expenses. It's a lot easier to change it when the house is empty, and you will have what you like from the moment you move in. If you like what's in the house, pay special attention to its condition.

Soundness of Wiring
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Soundness of Wiring

Beautiful chandeliers and light fixtures can almost sell you on a house. But the infrastructure of your house, the wiring, has to be solid, safe and functioning. An inspector qualified to check wiring should sign off on this before you sign on the dotted line to buy the house.

Windows
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Windows

The windows of a house go a long way toward defining its style. Contemporary houses most often have expansive windows, sometimes covering an entire wall. More traditional homes' windows tend to be smaller and have panes; this look imbues the house with a cozy feel and lends itself to eye-catching window decor. So take a cue from the windows; if you like them you'll probably like living in that house. And their condition and insulation matter, too.

The View From Inside
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The View From Inside

Most people looking for houses are so focused on the inside of the house they forget to look out the windows and see the view. Check the view from various rooms in the house to make sure you aren't looking into someone else's windows, neglected backyard or some lovely sight like trash cans.

Privacy
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Privacy

There's a lot of talk these days about bringing the outside in and the other way around. If you like this idea and want your outside spaces to be almost as private as the inside of your house, consider the situation at the house you are looking at. Is your neighbor's backyard within earshot? Would they feel almost like guests at your patio party? Or alternatively, if you like the closeness of neighbors, you might be unhappy with a secluded backyard.

Yard and Landscaping
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Yard and Landscaping

No matter the size of the house, the existing backyard landscaping deserves consideration. If it has a pool, decide if you want one before you commit to that level of maintenance. If it's a small yard, will it serve all your needs? If it includes a beautiful garden, is that an asset in your view or just a bunch of work you'd rather not do?

Condition of Driveway and Walks
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Condition of Driveway and Walks

Driveways and walks are expensive to repair and are an eyesore if they are in need of it. Cracked concrete shouldn't knock a house out of consideration, but negotiate to get cash at closing to deal with the issue.

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