You pull up to the curb and there it is – the home of your dreams.
Calm down. Take a deep breath and start again. The hardest thing to do when looking for a home is to remain objective. It is easy to fall in love with a home's appearance, but it's very important to look beyond the window dressing.
Here are some things to consider when looking at a home:
First appearances do count. Is the home dirty and cluttered? Are the lawns uncut? Are the walls chipped and in need of paint? If the owner hasn't bothered to keep the house looking clean and attractive, what problems are lurking below the surface?
Water can do a lot of damage to a home. It rots wood, undermines foundations, and leads to mould and mildew. Reshingling a house, or repairing a cracked foundation to stop water leaks, can be extremely expensive.
It takes an expert eye to find most water leaks (which is why we recommend you have a house inspected before you buy). If you spot stains, bulges and other signs of water damage on ceilings or walls, make special note that there could be a problem.
Appliances and fixtures
Test the lights, faucets, toilets, furnace, air conditioning, and all major appliances that are to be included with the home. Make sure everything is working as it should.
Floors should be smooth, even, and solid. Soft springy sections, excessive squeaking, and unevenness are all indications that expensive repairs may be needed.
Doors and windows
Check that doors and windows fit snugly and operate smoothly. Look for flaked paint and loose caulking. Check for drafts.
Walk around the yard looking for areas where water might collect. Soggy areas near the foundation indicate poor drainage.
Grout and caulking
If the grout and caulking around bathroom and kitchen tiles are loose and crumbling, there is a good chance water is finding its way into the wall or under the floor.
Look for deep cracks in the foundations or loose mortar and bricks.
If you are not planning to replace all of your furniture (and not many people are), make sure it will fit into the rooms of the new house. Be sure to bring a measuring tape. Rooms can be deceptive.
Make sure your new house has enough storage space for all your belongings. And that means more than just your clothes. Think of all the things that need to find a home – tools, gardening equipment, old toys, sports equipment, and all those wedding presents that are still in their original boxes. Check the size of the closets, the attic, the basement, and the garage. Rule of thumb: there's never enough storage space.
You should take a long hard look at a house before you put in an offer to protect yourself from disappointment down the road. But, nothing can replace the expert opinion of a qualified home inspector. Inspectors can spot problems that the average person would never find and they can usually advise you on how much it will cost to make the repairs. A home inspection can help you determine whether or not you are going to make an offer on a house, and if you decide to go ahead, just how much that offer is going to be.