10 Things to Look at When Home Shopping

November 7, 2018

Written by Debbie Ingram

When shopping for a new home, everyone looks for the fun, cosmetic finishes- the
flooring, countertops, light fixtures, and paint colors, or the practical things– the floor plan, room sizes, appliances, back yard, and storage space. But, often, we become wrapped up in picturing our furniture arranged around the fireplace, or the lounge chairs on the pool deck, and we forget to check out some important areas that become a big let-down when the home inspection report comes in. To know what you are getting into from the start and avoid disappointment after you’ve made your earnest money deposit, remember to check out these items on your initial visit.

1. The Roof. A quick visit to the county permit website can often tell you when the roof was last replaced. If not, your real estate agent can inquire on your behalf. Do a visual inspection from the yard, looking for worn or missing shingles and depressions that may signify a leak. From inside the house, look for water stains or mold on the ceiling.

2. The HVAC System. Check the thermostat to see if the indoor temperature matches the thermostat setting. Look at the air handler for signs of moisture, mold, or rust. Also, check the air intake and output vents for dirt or mold that may signify that the unit has not been well-maintained. Ask your agent to find out how old the system is, and if the owners had regular maintenance service. If possible, look at the air filter to see if has been changed recently.

3. Plumbing. A quick check for water or mildew underneath sinks can tell you if active leaks are present. Watch for dripping faucets and turn on water to check for leaky handles. Check outdoor faucets and laundry hookups as well. Notice if you hear toilets running and look for water stains on walls and floors. Check the water heater for signs of leaks or age.

4. Doors and Windows. Peek behind blinds or curtains to look for cracked glass. Double paned windows that are fogged up will need replacing. Also check locks to make sure they function. Check sliding glass doors to see if they slide easily and lock properly.

5. Flooring and Foundation. In Florida, some cracking is to be expected with movement of the sandy soil, but excessive cracking in concrete, tile, stucco, or concrete block, that doesn’t follow grout lines, may warrant investigation by foundation specialists. Separation of baseboards from floors or crown molding from ceilings, cracked tiles that extends from room to room, missing grout, and doors that don’t shut properly are other signs of foundation issues. If you notice area rugs placed in odd places, take a look to see if they are covering damaged floors.

6. Electrical. In older homes, open the electrical panel to see if there is an old fuse system that will need to be updated, and look for GFCI outlets in the kitchen and bathroom.

7. Attics and Crawl Spaces. If the attic is accessible, and it is safe to look, check out the amount and type of insulation, and look for signs of damage to the attic ceiling. If the home has a crawl space, take note of where the access points are located and how much space there is for working underneath the house.

8. Pool. If the home has a pool, find out how old it is, if it is concrete or a vinyl liner, and who built it. Find out if the company still in business. Ask if the filter system is chlorine or salt. Check for missing tiles, and cracks or discoloration in the bottom. Make sure the drains are covered. Ask how old the pump is, and if it is maintained by a pool service or by the owners.

9. Landscaping. If the neighborhood has a Homeowner’s Association, find out if they perform any of the maintenance,  and if they have any restrictions on what can or cannot be planted or removed. Notice if there are large trees very near the house that could fall on the home in a storm, or roots that may grow into the foundation or plumbing. Look for an irrigation system. Be honest with yourself about whether the amount of maintenance required fits into to your budget and lifestyle.

10. Deed Restrictions. If the neighborhood is deed restricted, ask to see a copy. This will cover items such as whether you can park a boat or RV in the driveway, if you can put a shed or other structure in the back yard, what type of fencing is permitted, whether you can have a chicken coop, and whether additions or alterations can be made to the home.

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