What to Consider When Buying a Home

The key turns, the door opens, the excitement mounts. Will this be the home of your dreams or a potential nightmare? What items should you beware of when checking out a home to buy? Follow this simple list below to help make sure that you are not just looking at the outward appearance of the home but also at the inward “bones” or structure of the home as well.

What to Look for When Buying a Home:

1.     Turn on faucets and even the shower—Does the home have the kind of water pressure that you like or need? If not, could this be easily fixed?

2.     A/C Unit-Air conditioning units are a major expense, and some houses can have multiple units that need upkeep or replacing. Make sure to take a look at the physical unit for signs of rust or decay and note how the home feels. Is the A/C working well to regulate the temperature? Ask the seller for the age of the unit or to see the service record & upkeep of the unit over the years.

3.     Roof-A new roof is a major expense. A quick visual examination of the roof will give you an initial idea of its age and condition, but you really will need an inspector to get up and walk on the roof to truly know how many more years you will be able to get out of it. Make sure to ask the sellers for the age of the roof and for a list of any roof repairs that have been done along the way!

4.     Appliances-Open all appliances that convey with the home and look inside of them. Don’t be afraid to turn them on and make sure they work properly (and then turn them back OFF again!). If you are planning on replacing appliances, take measurements to make sure that your new appliance will fit within the alcove/space of the current appliance!

5.     Ceilings-Many buyers forget to look up and take note of the condition of the ceiling. Make sure to notice if there are any visible water leaks or if there are ceiling patches and fresh paint. If so, ask questions about roof leaks and past water damage. Take note of cracking and settling lines as well. If the cracks run along the seams of the house, then they could just be regular settling. However, if the cracks run down a wall or in an unusual pattern, then they could be evidence of a larger foundation problem.

6.    Foundation-In addition to looking up, make sure to look down and all around the house at the foundation. Does it look like it is in good visible condition? Do you see any cracks on the outside of the house running in an unusual pattern through the exterior of the home? A foundation repair is one of the most major repairs you can do on a house—and a good reason to run the other way when considering a home purchase.

7.     Loose wires— Any loose wires that you see are obviously a safety issue. Make sure to ask questions about any light fixtures or electrical outlets where you see loose wires that don’t make sense.

8.     Under the sink—Make sure to take the time to look under all sinks at the pipes. Do any pipes look cracked or rusted? Do you see any water stains on the cabinetry or flooring below?

9.     Windows—Make sure to go over by the windows and stand for a while. Can you feel the outside air? Note the quality of the windows (single paned? double paned?) and how well they are doing at keeping the weather out of the home. This will have direct impact on your energy bills!

10.  Outside—Make sure to note the environment outside of the home. Is it located on a busy traffic street? Take a listen and make sure you like what you hear. Is it located in a potential flood zone?  Do you see any fire hazards?  Is there anything you need to be made aware of about living on or near a gas line? Make sure you are aware of any outside environmental hazards that could impact your peace of mind in your new home.

11.  Smell-Take note of how the home smells as you enter and remember that smells are hard to get out of a home.  Whether it’s cigarette smoke, a sewage line, mildew, etc, these odors can be difficult to expunge and should be considered when purchasing an existing home.

12.  Turn on all lights & open all cabinets –Make sure everything works well in the home.  For example: Is there a kitchen cabinet that collides directly with the dishwasher door when it is open? These are the sorts of functional, spatial issues that many buyers overlook when considering the purchase of a home.

13.  Flooring/countertop surfaces- Take note of the materials and condition of the flooring and countertops in the home. Although these may not be a deal breaker, they can be expensive to replace and need to be taken into consideration when considering the price tag of a home.

14. Think through the design & layout of the home—Does it fit with your lifestyle? Will there be a functional place to use most of your existing furniture? Is there wall space for your favorite wall hangings? Does the layout line up with what you value? For example, if you value hosting large parties, is there a great room space where people could mingle that would help facilitate this value?

15. Part of town/school districts—Location is a huge part of a home and can be one of the largest determiners of resale value. Make sure to do your homework about neighborhoods and schools before you begin looking!


What to Overlook:

1.     Paint- Many buyers let paint colors persuade them too much in the sale or refusal of a home. Remember that paint is a relatively cheap fix and can easily be changed in a matter of days in a home. If you love the home and the above list checks out, then overlook the paint color!

2.     Normal settling lines-As houses age, they develop normal cracks and settling along the seams of the house. However, these cracks can be “unsettling,” especially to first-time home buyers. If the foundation checks out, you do not need to worry about these normal crack lines (they can be caulked!), and the home is still safe to purchase.

3.     Small repairs- I’ve seen home buyers walk away from a home because they didn’t like the stone surrounding the fireplace, or the tile on the backsplash of the kitchen. Keep in mind that, on the grand scale of things, these are small jobs that can be replaced for anywhere from $800-$1000. So, if the rest of the house is wonderful, don’t let a small job like a fireplace surround or kitchen backsplash throw you off of your game.

4. If it isn’t PERFECT—Here’s a little secret for you: no house is totally perfect and there is a bit of compromise involved in every home transaction. So, if the home meets the most important criteria on your list then don’t eliminate it just yet. Continue to develop its potential in your head and see if the advantages of the home significantly outweigh the disadvantages. If so, then this still may be the home for you! For example, one client loved all the natural light in the house but was frustrated that there was not a window directly above the kitchen sink to look out of. After many weeks of debate, the clients decided to go ahead and get the house as the lack of window was the only hiccup for them. The clients then ended up using a mirror in that space instead that reflected all the natural light from the house, kept the kitchen light and bright, and helped the homeowners keep an eye on their kids while they were doing the dishes! The moral of this story is to keep an open mind about the home and know that you are looking for the home that speaks to you and your family’s needs the most!

Seasonality in Real Estate

While you might not think the seasons of the year have an influence on the price you are paying or asking for your home, it can make a big difference – in some cases, as much as 10%.

Seasonality of Real Estate—What are the Key Factors?

1. Weather-Weather impacts the seasonality of real estate differently, depending on the climate your home is in. For example, in some popular ski resort towns, homes prices can skyrocket during the winter months, while winter impacts the market in other areas negatively. Understanding how the weather and its seasons impacts real estate value is an important consideration both for buying and selling.

 2. School Year- Studies have shown the busiest moving times of the year occur during the summer, with June being one of the busiest months and July 31 the single busiest moving day.  This data means that people are most likely to shop the housing market from the beginning of May through the summer months.

 3. Holidays- Many people do not want to move or uproot their family during the holidays, which essentially eliminates the period between November and January.  Many people do not want to add a move on top of all the extra obligations of the holiday season.  However, as a buyer, the holidays would be a good time to leverage a lower priced market combined with some holiday vacation days! 

What Does Seasonality Mean for Home Buyers? 

For a home buyer, it’s better to buy in an “off season.”   As a buyer in off season, you will have more negotiating room, less competition, and overall lower prices for the houses on the market during the off season. In addition, sellers may be more willing to give more concessions such as money for repairs or a longer closing period in order to firm up a contract on a house during the leaner selling months.

What Does Seasonality Mean for Home Sellers? 

If you are a seller, you want to obviously sell during those summer months, when the competition is fierce and the market is hot.   Multiple offers and bidding wars are your friend as a seller.  However, the downside is that when you are a seller, it usually means that you are also a buyer.   In an ideal world, sell in the spring/summer months to make the most profit on the home that you are selling. Then find a 4-6 month temporary living arrangement that would allow you to wait to buy until the winter or holiday months when seasonality and lower prices are typically on your side as a buyer.


I’m Thinking of Buying/Selling. What Are My Next Steps?

If you are working with a real estate agent, they should be able to provide you with the market metrics for different seasons in your area. By comparing different months and years, you’ll be able to identify where there are significant peaks and lows in your current market and determine when your areas ideal periods for both selling and buying. Interested in the Austin area? Contact me today 512-817-0855. I would be happy to provide you with market trends of any area in Austin and a seasonal analysis of the best time to buy or sell!