You've made the decision to buy, you've selected a Realtor, and you've been pre-approved. Now it's time to look at houses.
Here are some things you should be looking for.....
- From the outside - do you like the "feel" of the neighborhood? Is there evidence of children/pets? When we bought our house, we specifically wanted a neighborhood without a lot of street lights to distract from our astronomy hobby. We went back to see the houses we liked at several times of the day (and night) to be sure we liked the neighborhood.
- How is the layout of the house? Do you like the way the rooms flow into each other? Is the floorplan open? Some people prefer ranch style homes, others prefer split levels or Cape Cods. Does this house suit you?
- Are there enough bedrooms? Are they situated in a way that makes sense to you? Buyers we knew turned down a house once because the master bedroom was too far from the other bedrooms and their children were young. Another buyer chose a house specifically because the master bedroom was far from the other bedrooms.
- Are there enough bathrooms? Are they situated in a way that makes sense to you? Will you want to do any updating or upgrading in order to be happy here?
- Is the kitchen layout to your liking? Gourmet cooks may need more cabinet/pantry space than take out orderers. Would you need to update the kitchen in order to be happy here?
- Which fixtures are being conveyed? If a fixture is being conveyed, is it one that you want or would you want to replace it?
- Are there enough closets for you? Is there storage in the attic and/or basement that you can use?
- Are there any obvious signs of flooding, disrepair, or leaks?
- Is the yard fenced? Is there a pool that appears well maintained? Is the yard private?
- Is there a deck or porch? Does it appear well maintained?
Here are some things that you should be ignoring....
- Paint color
- Furniture choice and layout
- Garden plantings
- Where you want to put your furniture, area rugs, etc., unless you have a specific need for an unusual item (such as a grand piano or a dining table for 12).
Issues you care about, but not at the first viewing....
- Do the heat/AC/sink/stove/hot water heater/electrical outlets/switches work? A home inspector will reveal all of this to you and you will have the opportunity to back out of the deal or re-negotiate later. Now is not the time to do this.
- Are there termites or carpenter ants? Again, a home inspector will check this for you.
- Smoke/CO detectors. Your town will require an adequate number of these before you buy so their presence or absence doesn't affect you yet.
If you've decided this is the right house for you, go back and take a second look. Be sure to go at a different time of day and on a different day of the week - if you first saw the house on Sunday at noon, try Tuesday at 5 pm. You'll get a different sense of traffic and noise around the house.
At your second viewing of the house, ask yourself these same questions. If it still feels right to you, then your Realtor will help you determine an appropriate offer amount.
Congratulations! You're on your way to being a home owner!