You’re in the market for a home, you’ve seen the listings on Trulia, and you’ve put together a short list of potential properties. There’s even one with the exact number of bedrooms you need, just enough square footage, and that renovated kitchen you’ve been dreaming of – and it all looks good in the photos.
But while a picture online can say a thousand words, seeing a home in person truly speaks volumes. Visiting a property is your first opportunity to “kick the tires.” Of course, the first instinct at an open house is to run straight to the kitchen, the master bedroom, and bathrooms, but when pounding the pavement scoping out prospective homes, don’t overlook these 9 critical areas:
You have to remember that you’re not just buying a house, you’re buying a neighborhood, too. And that, perhaps, is the most important takeaway from seeing a property in person. Fortunately, on Trulia, it’s easy to get the inside scoop on neighborhoods. During your visit, though, be sure to pay attention to traffic speeds, the condition of other homes in the area, and whether or not there’s plentiful access to amenities your family needs.
Again, you’re buying a house, but it’s important to note that the neighbors come with it, like a package deal. Scope out the homes on either side of the property – and don’t overlook the neighbor in the back of the house. You might think that what’s out of sight is out of mind, but that rule doesn’t apply if they have three large dogs that like to bark all day.
When you look out the bedroom window, do you peer right into your neighbor’s bathroom? If you wanted to entertain on the back deck, will your neighbor be close enough to give you unwanted barbequing tips? While privacy is always good to consider, the good news is that the issue may be easily resolved. Remember: Hedges make great neighbors.
The home’s exterior
Take a walk around the entire perimeter of the house; you might be surprised at what’s hiding along the sides, out of sight. Is there deferred maintenance? Pay close attention to the exterior paint. Does it look fresh, or is it chipping? Do the roof shingles look like they need replacing in the next 2-5 years? What’s the condition of the gutters or any other key items on the exterior? This is a telltale sign in what you’ll find inside.
One thing pictures online don’t show is the flow of the house. Do rooms feel spacious and well-laid-out? The hub of the home for today’s family is the kitchen. Is it open and inviting? Can family members lounge nearby or dine in an adjacent area? The way one room opens to the next is important when it comes to making the most of the space you’ve got.
A family with young children is likely going to want a home with their bedroom on the same floor as their children. But if you have teenagers, you may want to be on the other side of the house – or even on a different floor! So pay special attention to the layout of the house and whether or not it works for your lifestyle. Overall flow is important, but having space dedicated to specific, important parts of your life – like an office for someone who works from home – is equally as important.
Smells, stains, and nastiness
The nose knows. Check out the basement and even the attic. If you smell some ominous, it just could be. Water stains in the ceilings and along the baseboards in the basement are signs of flooding, drainage, or roof trouble – and water and dampness often lead to mold and mildew issues, so take note.
Light and air
When you’re in the house is there lots of natural light? Is the house designed in a way that, with weather permitting, there’s good air flow through the house? Not only is sunlight and fresh air enjoyable, but opening those windows and catching a breeze can help cut down on utility bills during those mid-summer months.
Is there a little or a lot? Will the home’s storage space keep you organized and accommodate all your stuff? I know that for some homebuyers, this is a deal breaker, so it’s better to check now before you fall in love with the rest of the house.