When you fall in love with a home, the things you like about it can blind you to its problems. Next time you go to an open house or tour a property with an agent, keep your eyes open with these top tips:
- Take a look at general upkeep. Is it clean? Are lawns left uncut? Do walls need paint? If the small stuff hasn't been taken care of, there's a good chance that bigger issues have been ignored as well.
- Test it. Try out lights, faucets, toilets, air conditioning and major appliances.
- Check for water damage. Look at ceilings and drywall for stains and bulges. Water that works its way in through a leaky roof or a cracked foundation can rot wood, create mildew and destroy possessions.
- Watch for "spongy" floors. Take note of soft, springy sections, squeaky or uneven areas - these can be a sign that costly floor repairs are needed.
- Check doors and windows. Make sure they fit snugly in their jambs and operate smoothly. Feel for drafts. Look for flaked paint and loose caulking - if wood isn't protected from moisture, it will rot.
- Look at the foundation. If you see deep cracks or loose mortar and bricks, there may be a significant structural problem. Soggy areas near the foundation are also a warning sign.
- Make sure there's enough storage space. If you are moving from a home with large closets and a shed, make sure your new house is able to store an equivalent amount of belongings.
- Measure. Make sure your furniture will fit into your new house.
These tips are for your own first (or second) look at a home. For true peace of mind, you should always hire a certified home inspector before you buy.