When you find the home of your dreams, it's like love at first sigh! You feel a sense of urgency to claim it before someone else does. Be careful! The adrenaline rush you feel when you've found the perfect home can easily blind you to its imperfections.
The properties you tour have been staged to draw your eye to their best features. It's up to you to detect any problems. You must ignore the pressure to compete with other buyers and avoid that sense of celebration that tells you you've found the perfect home. Otherwise, you might miss a critical problem. Ask yourself these questions:
Is this the best location for my family? A good location has good schools, a short commute, shopping, and entertainment choices. Unfortunately, you must do the research to uncover the riskiest location issues.
Pollution - Are there any plants, factories, truck routes, garbage facilities or other pollution hazards nearby?
Traffic - Is it safe for your children to play outside? Will you hear cars or trains or trucks or jets all night long?
Neighbors - Are your neighbors pleasant with neat yards and clean homes?
Lead - Has the home tested positive for lead?
Does the home look worn on the outside? A seller can paint the exterior walls, clean the yard and make the property look neat and clean, but longstanding maintenance issues are difficult to hide.
Roof - Are the tiles and flashings worn or damaged? Are the gutters rusty or flaking?
Driveways - Are there visible cracks, wear, and oil stains?
Lawn and Garden - Are plants, grass, and trees dead or dying?
Paint - Are the exterior trim and paint in worn condition?
Does the home look worn on the inside? Homes are staged to look beautiful. Owners remove excess furniture, books, and knick-knacks for an open, less crowded feel. They paint walls, turn on the lights and open the curtains to fill rooms with light. As you're touring the home, use that minimalist decorating and infusion of light to study every detail.
Walls - Are there patched holes or damaged drywall under the fresh paint?
Trim - Is the wood dry-rotted, worn or damaged?
Floors - Is there damaged wood or faded carpet beneath the furniture and area rugs. Do the floors squeak when you walk? Are they even?
Bathroom - Is the grout faded or damaged? Are the tiles in good condition?
Is there a water problem? A faulty drainage system can cause water to pool in exterior locations. When water enters through a roof or foundation it can damage ceilings, concrete, insulation, and more. Unrestrained water can leave a trail of mold and mildew within the walls. Left unabated, mold and mildew can cause sensitivities and sickness.
Water damage within interior walls is difficult to detect, but you can look for the signs.
Ceilings - Do ceilings show signs of water damage?
Bathrooms and Kitchens - Could loose grout, deteriorating seals, or leaky pipes be a source of water within the bathroom or kitchen walls?
Smells - Do you smell mold or mildew anywhere in the house?
Are the climate control systems working properly? Ask the selling agent to turn on the furnace and AC unit during your tour. If one has been shut down for the season, inspect the maintenance stickers to determine the last date of service.
Are the windows and doors leaky and worn? When hot or cold air seeps into a climate controlled home, they increase heating and cooling costs. Worn door and window seals and condensation between insulated glass panes are signs of a problem that can cost you money.