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Young couple pose outside their new house, holding the keys victoriously.

20 Things to Share with a First Time Homebuyer

April 08, 2016

You may fall in love with a house over the course of a few visits, but the countless issues you discover a month after moving in may make for a short honeymoon. It’s easy to find basic info on the things you should check before moving into a house, but what hidden details should you be asking about? Some of those details might surprise you!

  1. Cell Reception: Many people are dropping landlines, but will you be able to if your cell phone keeps cutting out? Try checking reception in various parts of the house.

  2. Are the Nights Noisy? Most home visits happen during the day. Is there a train track nearby that will lead to 3 a.m. train whistles? Does a hooting owl set-up residence in your tree? Ask the neighbors if your quiet neighborhood is quiet 24/7. Better yet, take a walk around the neighborhood in the evening, and see for yourself what the neighborhood is like after potential neighbors are home from work.

  3. Does the Yard Have a Slope? If the yard slopes toward the house, it can cause foundation damage and water in your basement. Make sure you get an idea of how the yard can affect your house.

  4. Check the water pressure: You don’t want the first shower in your new home to be a weak dribble. Test out the showerheads and faucets before purchasing.

  5. What’s the Internet Situation? Can you get high-speed internet, or are you limited to dial-up? If you’re in a more rural area, you may be limited to more expensive satellite internet.

  6. What’s the Foliage Like? Walnuts can be toxic to dogs, while falling fruit from mulberry and blackberry trees can cover your car (and shoes) in a sticky, staining mess. Does poison ivy lurk in the bushes? Will allergies be an issue in the spring? Check out the plant life to get an idea of what to expect.

  7. Slippery Hills/Driveways: If you’re buying in the summer, consider what the area will be like in the winter. Rolling hills could become an icy mess. Would the driveway be too steep if there’s ice? If there’s a dip at the end of your driveway, will it turn into a sheet of ice come winter?

  8. Meet your Potential Neighbors: Make time to chat with a few of the neighbors when you’re searching for a home. It will help you get an idea of what they’re like and if you want to live in the area.

  9. Are There Rental Properties on the Street? Ask about how many rental properties are in the surrounding area. If you’re buying a home and looking to cultivate a community or put down roots, you might prefer to do that in a neighborhood where there are other more permanent residents, or homeowners like yourself.

  10. Locate nearby Businesses: Some people want the convenience of living close to schools, grocery stores or other businesses. This could be a huge advantage if you don’t have a car, prefer to bike or walk, or use public transportation. For others proximity could be a drawback. A drugstore or grocery store might attract late traffic and the congestion during school drop-off hours or Sunday morning church services might make it hard to find street parking for your guests.

  11. Crack Open the Windows: There is nothing more disappointing than realizing your windows don’t open. If you are buying a home during colder months, double-check that windows open easily and aren’t damaged.

  12. Open Entry Doors: Front and side doors stay open for walk-throughs or open houses, but they could also be concealing an issue. Make sure the doors open and close easily. Try to lock and unlock the doors; the last thing you need is to be relegated to using a side door in your new home.

  13. Where is the Laundry Room Located? Laundry is a chore that is usually done frequently. Having the washer and dryer near a main living area might make your life a bit easier. Check to see if the laundry room or laundry hook ups are in a spot that’s convenient for you or if it’s tucked away in dingy basement corner.

  14. How Much Natural Light is there? Visit the home in the morning and afternoon. Pay attention to how much light the windows let into the rooms. Is it bright enough for you? Is it too bright? Typically, factors outside of the homeowner's control affect the natural lighting: the direction the house faces, size of windows, neighbors’ trees and shadows of surrounding houses.

  15. Inquire about any Wallpaper: Are the rooms wallpapered? If you plan on painting the walls, wallpaper shouldn’t prevent you from purchasing a home, but it might be nice to know if there are two layers--or 10--of wallpaper to remove.

  16. What is the Condition of the Floors? Home buyers love to hear that a solid hardwood floor lies beneath a layer of smelly carpet. If a seller tells you this, push them by asking about the condition of the wood floor and if they’ve ever seen it before.

  17. How Much Storage Space is there? Storage space is valuable but also often overlooked. Imagine where you will keep your vacuum cleaner, towels, linens and boxes of junk. If needed, is there room for additional cupboards or shelves to be built?

  18. Move the Furniture Around: The seller doesn’t necessarily have to tell you about problems. In fact, they might use furniture and décor to hide any lurking issues. Move the furniture around and check for any hiding wall cracks or floor problems that might be covered with furniture or rugs.

  19. What are the Monthly Fees? Inquire about the average monthly bills (like heat and electric) to get an idea of how much you can expect to pay. What is the property tax? Are there any monthly neighborhood or club house fees?

  20. Get your hands on everything: Literally! Turn on every faucet and light switch, open every window and door, flush the toilets, turn on the faucet and check the water pressure and drains, taste the water. You need to know how everything works firsthand and if there are any potential problems.

Make sure you feel good about your prospective home before you sign those papers. You have to stay with your home for a long time, so make sure you’re not missing anything that could be a major issue. A lot of the items above can’t be changed; some compromises are inevitable. Just make sure you’re informed about what concessions you’re making. For more helpful information about home buying and ownership, join our monthly newsletter list.