Five Tips For Buying a Home

There is probably no better way to become aware of the condition of a home than to have your home inspected by a licensed inspector. However, there are several considerations on which only you, as the purchaser, can decide. And, as I’ve said in other articles, it’s my belief there are some things you must do yourself: Manage your money.  Raise your children.  And, also… purchase your home!

1.    Location, location, location…

Probably the most important factor is that your new neighborhood is a good fit.  Take some time to drive around the area and make sure you like it. Check out the traffic at rush hour – if the home you like is on a main street, make sure the traffic noise won’t be a problem for you. roofing contractors phoenix

Additional location considerations might include: Where are the closest schools?  Having schools nearby can be great if you have young children yourself.  It can be rather annoying with noise or traffic, if you don’t!  Does the lot back to a wash? If you have cats or a small dog, they might be at risk to urban coyotes and other wildlife. Is there an alley? Alleys have both positive and negative features. They provide a buffer between you and the back neighbor, but they also give opportunities for clandestine behavior since they are relatively private.

You might want to check the crime statistics for the area, something you can find by googling “neighborhood crime data” along with the community of your choice.  You may also go to the county sex offender registry and make sure you are comfortable with your neighbors. In the Phoenix area, this information is on the Sheriff’s web site

Check into nearby vacant lots. You never know when the lot your kids play on will be developed into something you might not want to have as a neighbor. You can find out who owns lot

You can find your assessor using Google or your favorite search engine. Usually there is a way to search by map, and you might enter the address of the property you are interested in purchasing, then use the map to see what zoning and who the owners are of vacant lots. Generally your Realtor will do these things for you, if you ask.

You can even ask your Realtor to speak with your potential new neighbors.  Find out if there is any unreported crime; ask if there is a rock band that practices all afternoon. Find out if there is a problem neighbor at whose address the police have a reserved parking spot. Ask the immediate neighbors if they plan any major remodeling or additions. This could lead to a year of construction vehicles and noise from sunrise to sunset. A few minutes of due diligence can prevent an unhappy ownership situation.

Make sure the lot has good features; i.e. not located in a flood area, and not the lowest lot in the area (sure to be 3 inches deep in water every time it rains). Generally this is not a big issue because most municipalities will not give a building permit for such areas.
2.    What do I really need…?

The home you pick should meet whatever needs you or your family have. Think about the future. Having kids? Already have kids? Kids leaving? Getting married? How big a home do you need, how many bedrooms and bathrooms? For later resale, the most popular single family home is a 3 bedroom 2 bath home. Homes with only 1 bathroom or only 2 bedrooms are more difficult to sell than the more standard 3/2.

Take the family and spend a little time in the home. Spend a couple hours, especially during the morning or afternoon rush hour. Make sure the noise and activity levels are acceptable, and make sure the home has all the conveniences you like.

When I purchased my latest home, I replaced all the built-in appliances; they were more than 10 years old. I also like a gas stove, and our property has no gas, so I had a gas stove installed with a small propane tank outside. A 3 gallon tank lasts a year. This total expense was around $5,000 including having the line and tank professionally installed for the propane. The convenience of new appliances and a gas stove makes a huge difference in the utility and resale value of the home, at a modest cost.

Is a pool important? Somewhere to relax on those hot summer weekends? Be sure to inspect the pool closely, using a professional inspector. Pool maintenance can be quite expensive and time consuming. I personally do not have a pool service, instead I have an automatic chlorinator and an automatic pool sweeper. These items are a significant up front expense, but can yield years of virtually maintenance free pool enjoyment. Insist that all pool equipment be in excellent working condition.

3.    Last year’s remodel… this year’s nightmare?

Many older homes may have been converted from a one bath to a two-bath home. You can usually tell.  Make a careful inspection and see if this was done.

Sometimes a master bath has been divided and made into two bathrooms. If the remodel was done well and permitted (a permit was obtained from the municipality), this is a better situation than a poorly done, unpermitted change. You can often find permit information at the city planning office.

Sometimes additional square footage has been added to a home, either by converting the garage into a bedroom or office, or by enclosing the patio. Telltale signs of this might be: No garage, or a garage door that is still there but has no purpose; a slanting floor (garage floors and patios often slant to provide drainage); unusually low ceilings in one room; no air conditioning vents in the room; an outdoor carriage light on the wall of the room; a room with one cinderblock wall and 3 wood frame walls.

Some homes built with a carport have had the carport enclosed. This is an inexpensive and useful remodel, provided it was done correctly and with the proper permits. Things to check for: A window from the house into the garage; garage door is not self closing and/or is not  a solid core door; one garage wall is block, the other walls frame; no power outlets on the garage walls except on the back wall.

Look at the flooring in the home. Flooring is an upgrade many homeowners attempt on their own, but without sufficient skills. Often before selling, owners will rip out old carpeting and install laminate wood flooring. Look for the seams in the laminate; one of the more difficult things for the unskilled installer is to plan the job appropriately so that the seams in the flooring come out right, with no gaps. Further, many installations run right up to the baseboard – sometimes there are two baseboards, the old original and then the new baseboard to cover the gaps from the flooring!

The proper installation is generally to remove the old baseboards so that the flooring is seamless from wall to wall and only a single baseboard is installed. New baseboards should be installed – this minor step costs little and makes a big difference. You can often see a discoloration at the bottom of the old baseboard where the carpet used to be. And, most do-it-yourselfers are not good at mitering the corners and fitting the baseboards perfectly. Just look at the joints and the corners – you will be able to tell, easily, whether the installation was done well.

Tile is another homeowner do-it-yourself favorite, and again, without the proper skills, the job can look terrible close up. Uneven levels in the tiles, grout lines that are not straight, and poorly done corners are just a few examples. Just look at the work, you will be able to tell whether it was done professionally or not.

 

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