Houses are like spouses — some grow on you over time, some strike your heart like a thunderbolt. But true love is true love, so don’t worry about how it happens. Look at available homes with open eyes and an open mind, and evaluate each one as thoroughly as possible.
1) Location, location, location.
a. What’s your job commute going to be like? Is the traffic heavy or light at the times of day you’ll be on the road?
b. How’s the school district? Even if you don’t have kids, the quality of the school district affects your home’s value, so it pays to find out.
c. Is there much crime?
d. How convenient are shopping centers, libraries, churches and so on?
2) Decide which home features are most important to you.
a. Do you have pets? You may want to narrow the field to homes with substantial backyards.
b. Is your family growing? Make sure there are enough bedrooms for your family today and five years from now.
c. Be shrewd about storage space. Houses with cavernous rooms may be impressive to look at, but they sometimes compromise storage space to achieve that effect. Would you rather have a place to hang your crystal chandelier or a place to hang your coats?
d. Will any remodeling be required to make the home move-in ready for you? If so, are you handy with a hammer or would you prefer to find a home that needs little work?
3) Ask questions.
Resist the temptation to traipse starry-eyed through each home you tour. Look at any pros and cons as honestly as possible, and ask questions. Some good questions to ask your agent or the seller:
a. What service providers (cable, Internet, telephone) are available in the area, and is the house completely wired for each?
b. How much do you pay yearly in city and/or county property taxes?
c. How much do utilities run each month? Does the house use gas or electric for the furnace, water heater, and appliances?
d. How old are the major appliances, and which are included with the house?
e. Have there been any major repairs to the house, and if so, when were they completed? For example, how old is the roof? Has water ever damaged the basement or foundation?
f. Ever had problems with insects, spiders or rodents?
Look inside cabinets, inside closets, at baseboards, at window casings, at door frames, where walls meet floors and ceilings. Look for any signs of damage, wear or poor construction.