The Home-Buyer Cheat Sheet: Buyer Beware

After a long slump in sales and prices, homeowners are on the move again. Are you one of them?

Some homes are easy to dismiss, others not so much—maybe all it needs is a new window treatment or a paint job. But what about the things you can’t change about a home? Like, for instance, where it sits? Or its history?

We turned to local experts Joan Craig, architect, and Gemma Parker, interior designer, both of Lichten Craig, and Thomas Kearin, COO of Heidbreder Building Group, for their thoughts on what to look for when shopping for the perfect home.

Here are the things you can’t change that should give you serious pause before buying:

  • The site and size of the home: Pay attention to where the house sits on the lot, both inside and out. Do you like the views from inside? Is the house too close to the neighbors? If you love a house but think it could use some extra space, best to check with the city and make sure the home is not at maximum square footage.
  • The home’s history: Kearin urges buyers to confirm that the proper building permits were pulled for any past renovations to a home so you don’t get stuck paying to repair sub-standard work the previous owners tried to sneak past. Have your insurance agent check the history of the home to see if there is a pattern of claims that could increase your cost. Don’t be afraid to ask about water and energy bills.
  • Obvious signs of danger: Here’s where a trained eye comes in handy (so consider bringing a trusted builder along on your house search). Look for positive drainage around the home. Does the land pitch back towards the house? Has landscaping been added with extra dirt around the house, raising the soil level to the point where it could overflow the foundation? Are adjoining properties higher and how does their runoff affect the house?
  • Window operation: Many times structural problems will manifest in the operation of windows and exterior doors, so checking their function is a quick test of potential problems.
  • The neighborhood: Drive by the house at different times of the day. A quiet street might actually be the pass-through street out of the neighborhood or to the local school. Get a sense for how the community lives. Are kids playing outside? Are people walking their dogs and waving to their neighbors?

Take a hard look at yourself

Self-analyze a bit. Is this a long-term home or stepping-stone? If you or your spouse has a job that requires frequent moves or you just get antsy, don’t buy a house that’s languished on the market, as the same thing could happen to you when you try to sell.

Should you buy a spare, modern home if you love clutter? Or choose an older, fix-it-upper if you don’t even own a hammer? If you overspend on renovations, will you have any funds left over with which to furnish your home? These are all important questions to consider.

Enlist help from a professional

Since a home is probably the biggest single purchase you’ll make, get help. Our experts are more than happy to consult with any client, as are most design and building professionals. That includes site visits and brainstorming. They can save you from making the biggest mistake or help you find that hidden jewel.


Photo: Hand holding keys by Bigstock