things to look for when buying a house

Homeownership. It’s one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in life.

The market is hot and the real estate industry is thriving. Homes are selling at a rapid pace, with inventory down by 8.5% from last year.

In a seller’s market, you need to be ready to jump with an offer. But you don’t want to be stuck with a bad investment. You do want to find the perfect home, in the perfect neighborhood, for the perfect price.

So, what are the things to look for when buying a house? Prepare yourself with knowledge of the good, the bad and the ugly. This way you’ll be ready to jump when you find your dream home.

The Good

Wondering what to look for when buying a house? These 5 signs can lead to a sale.

1. A Strong Roof

It’s not only about what’s happening inside the house that counts. A roof in top condition is a great selling point. Like a solid foundation, it shows the home has good bones.

It’s not so much about age as how well the roof gets cared for and maintained. Slate roofs can live on for 100+ years. But each tile should be free from cracks and damage.

Also, pay attention to the color and material of the roof. A light colored roof will help cool your home off. While a darker roof will keep heat in your home.

Different materials have longer lifespans. A metal roof can last 50 years while a standard asphalt roll goes for about 10 years.

2. Quality Craftsmanship

Whether the home gets built new, or the previous owner made repairs, look for signs of quality craftsmanship in your next home.

Take a look at the workmanship level of these design details:

  • Trim (evenness and consistency)
  • Flooring (condition and spacing)
  • Countertops (condition and quality of installation)
  • Backsplash (evenness and spacing between tiles)

Architectural details will show the level of precision and care that went into building the home. It’s not so much about the age of the home, as the detail of work that goes into it.

3. Energy-Efficiency

Pay attention to the condition of the home’s heating and cooling systems. They should be up-to-date and well-maintained. Proper maintenance and clean filters are good signs.

Ask to see utility bills for the previous year. This will allow you to compare summer and winter expenses. Check attics and heating ducts for proper insulation.

Newer windows are great for insulation, including those with double-panes. Placement and size of windows are also important. This allows for the most amount of natural sunlight.

4. Neighborhood and Lot Specifications

You can change almost anything about a house, except for the neighborhood.

You also can’t do much about the size of your front and backyard. Unless you want to buy up other properties around you.

Make sure you’re comfortable with the amount of space between your house and the neighbors. If you want to put up a fence for more privacy, check with your realtor first about permitting.

Your realtor should be able to get you all the property specs you need. Be on the lookout for these signs of a bad realtor. They can make your home buying process a lot more complicated.

Older city homes may have narrow or non-existent driveways. This is not an easy fix, so make sure you’re comfortable with the amount of driveway space.

5. Interior Layout

A home may check all the boxes for an inspector. But if it doesn’t feel like home to you, it’s not the one.

Consider the location of bedrooms, bathrooms, and utility rooms. If the laundry is in the basement, make sure you’re comfortable with it. Or have design plans and means to install it in a different location.

The number of bathrooms is also something to consider. You can always add more. But it will be quite an expensive and involved project.

Every potential buyer has a list of must-haves for their new home. It could be an open floor plan, enough bedrooms for your growing family, or a massive backyard.

Whatever it may be, it’s important not to settle. Communicate your needs and wants to your realtor, as they should be able to find you the perfect dream home.

The Bad

These red flags are what to look for in a home inspection. They could be reason enough to not move forward with buying the home.

1. Foundation Issues

If the home has structure problems, it’s not going to be an easy or inexpensive fix.

Check for large cracks in the basement and exterior of the home. You may notice a few small cracks which can be a sign of an old home settling.

If the home doesn’t have a basement, take a look at the interior doors and windows. Note if the frames seem off-center or have issues closing. Also, check to make sure the floors are even.

After a thorough walkthrough, your home inspector will be able to point out any signs of structural issues.

2. Electrical Issues

Check all light switches and outlets to make sure they work. Older homes can have issues with wiring and electrical panels. If outlets or switchplates become hot to the touch this could be a sign of faulty wiring.

You’ll also want to look out for sparking, flickering, or dimming lights. Your home inspector will also check circuit breakers to make sure they function.

If the home is older, it may still have two-prong electrical outlets. This is not a deal breaker but may involve some slight electrician work to update to newer plugs.

3. Water Damage

Be on the lookout for water stains or saggy ceilings. This can be a sign of leaks or previous water damage. With water damage, you need to worry about mold and mildew.

Look inside the bathroom and kitchen sink cabinets. Here you can spot signs of mold around piping and drains. Overflowing gutters can be a sign of poor drainage.

Check for standing water in the basement. Pooling is a sign that there isn’t proper drainage in the home. You’ll also want to check the backyard for pools of water. Water should drain away from the home and its foundation.

Any of these signs could show there was a previous plumbing or leaking issue. The current homeowner should have paperwork to prove they paid to fix the issue. Without documentation, you’re taking a risk.

4. Termites and Other Pests

Termites are one of the worst problems for homes made of wood. Carpenter ants are a close second. A pest inspector should be able to tell you if there’s an issue.

Dead bugs, wing sheddings, and pest droppings are not a great sign. You’ll also want to look for holes and small bite marks.

Look for nesting from rats, mice, and birds. Listen inside the walls for any strange noises. Pests can also give off strange musty smells.

5. Cover-Ups

Random patches of fresh paint can be a red flag. They could be covering up damage or water stains. Check the bathroom ceilings for mold killing primer touch up jobs.

Too much scent is not a good thing. If you notice an overkill of air fresheners, it could be a cover-up. They could be trying to block odors from mold, smoke, clogged or sewage lines.

The Not so Ugly

These things may seem bad but aren’t always dealbreakers.

Outdated Kitchens and Bathrooms

As long as the appliances are in working condition, this is only a cosmetic setback. Take this as an opportunity to remodel in the future. You can choose your own layout, style, and design.

If you’re purchasing a foreclosed home, this can be a way to get a great deal.

A Small Living Room

You don’t have to sacrifice personal style for small spaces. Compact living spaces are trending. So get creative with materials, textures, and design elements.

Curb Appeal That’s Lacking

It’s easy to boost the curb appeal of a home. Enhance landscaping, add some shutters, or paint the front door. You can even add a porch someday.

Cosmetic Details

Hate the electric purple paint color that Pantone named the color of the year? Even though it’s covering all the bedrooms in a house, it’s not a valid reason to turn down your dream home.

Don’t let paint colors, bathroom flooring, or ugly carpets get you down. They are easy fixes after you move in.

Crossing off the List of Things to Look for When Buying a House

While it may seem all good, be knowledgeable of the things to look for when buying a house.

Even the most beautiful homes can have their faults. This doesn’t mean the home isn’t for you. Have an inspector run a list of pros and cons so you can determine any dealbreakers.

Once you’ve found your dream home, do your research on financing options. Be sure you’ve locked in the right mortgage rate. Here is more on fixed vs adjustable rates and which is better for you.