The house-hunting process looks different for each person and homebuying experience. Some people fall in love with a home within the first few viewings, and others take a bit longer to choose the one that is best for them. Whether you’re “one and done” in a hot market, or taking your time to find just the right place, use this helpful tool to remind yourself about some of the important questions to ask and key points to keep in mind.
1. Location, Location, Location
Does this area, neighborhood, school district and town/city work for your life? What are the taxes here compared to other areas nearby? Check out what businesses and restaurants are around, think about how long it might take you to get to work or school and talk to your realtor about the type of surrounding area that would be ideal for you.
2. Home Values
Ask your realtor to do a comparison – also called “comps” – of home values in the area. See if they are comparable to the house you’re considering, and if the asking price is fair for the neighborhood it’s in and the amenities it offers. The mortgage lender you choose will also do a comp review as a part of the appraisal process, so it’s helpful to know this information upfront. Getting your mortgage partner on board early will help with this – check out how.
3. Curb Appeal
When you look at the house from the outside, does it make you feel like you’re home? Consider the exterior and whether you will want to update the paint, landscaping or other aesthetics. If you’re buying in certain communities, there might be rules on how you need to maintain the exterior of your home, so keep that in mind as you consider each property.
Look at the entrance to the driveway and/or garage to make sure that it’s accessible for your vehicle(s) and outdoor duties. Watch the traffic pattern around the house and think about how easy or difficult it may be to come and go.
5. View From Every Room
Some say that windows are the eyes of a house. When you’re inside, walk around each room and look out the windows to see the view. This can help you decide how close or far from the street and neighbors’ houses you would like to be. The window walk-through may show you that you’ll have a beautiful fall color scene behind your house, or that you can see directly into a neighbor’s bathroom—and vice versa! This is also a good opportunity to check the age of the windows, and whether they open and close or feel drafty from the inside.
6. Age of Roof, Appliances and Key Items
Check the age of the roof and if any repairs have been done on the roof or chimney. The house sell-sheet may have this information, but if not, also ask about the age of the appliances and plumbing fixtures like the laundry and kitchen appliances, central air, furnace and hot water heater. Confirm which will be included in the sale of the home. Older items may not be a deal-breaker, but it’s good to keep in mind that you may need additional budget set aside for replacements in the near future. Your mortgage team can help to prepare for post-purchase expenses like this that could be built into your mortgage. For instance, ask if your lender offers a no closing cost option; being able to save these funds can go a long way toward any home purchases or fixes you might need to make.
7. Use Your Senses
Do you see, hear, or smell anything inside or outside of the home that you’re uncomfortable with? Things like excessive highway noise, unkempt properties nearby, peeling paint, and musty or moldy smells inside may be red flags for larger issues. Talk with your realtor about anything that you’re “sensing” could be wrong.
8. Space and Storage Options
First, double-check that the number of bedrooms listed is accurate and will work for you and your family. Next, check out your storage options and think about where you will put items you currently own or may need to purchase for this home (i.e. a grill or lawnmower). You’ll want storage spaces—garage, shed, attic, basement and cupboards—that are relatively clean, dry and climate-comfortable.
9. What Will You Need on Day One?
If this is the house for you, plan for the next steps after an accepted offer. Think about potential moving expenses, support from friends and family or a moving company, and what items you will need right away. Things like window treatments are often must-haves on day one depending on what’s in the house already, so consider this as you tour the property.
10. Notes and Photos
The final item is to make a quick rundown of notes, questions to follow-up about, and what you liked or did not like about the house. Realtor photos are great for quick reference, but it is also helpful to take your own photos of rooms, amenities and potential problem spots to compare and contrast when looking at several homes in a short period of time.
Small Steps Toward a Big Decision When House Hunting
There are so many things to take into account when buying a home. Understanding how these—and other—“little” things can affect your purchase decision can help guide you toward the perfect place. Make sure you work with your realtor and mortgage lender to identify the most important elements in your search, as they’ll help you think of things you might not have considered. The Summit Federal Credit Union Mortgage Team is here to answer your questions and partner with you on your homebuying journey. Learn more.