Homebuyers Take a Closer Look Before Making an Offer
Look Past the Pretty Package
When a buyer looks at a beautifully staged home that fits their criteria, emotions rule. Fall in love with a particular house, and almost immediately, the heart works against our own best interest by suppressing our better judgment. You know what I mean, that little voice inside your head saying, "but what about those battered floors?"
Consider the facts first.
The more you know about a home before making an offer, the better. The condition of the house should be a significant consideration. Hopefully, unless expensive, unforeseen repairs are part of your plan, you will have a professional home inspection as a contingency in the offer. But, before you even make that offer, you can do your preliminary evaluation of the home's condition yourself.
Don't set the stage today for financial regrets later.
There is no way to say that refinishing floors, painting, or other minor repairs should be dealbreakers. But if too many items fall on the fix list, added altogether, they may prove to be a tipping point on the no-sale side or affect the dollar amount of your offer. Even when a home checks off all the needs boxes and many of the nice-to-haves, costly repairs can quickly lead to regret.
Look before you leap.
Here is a suggested list of items you can check before you take that first step by offering to purchase. A second visit to the property is preferred. Still, given the competitiveness of the housing market at the lower price brackets, this is also something you can do on the initial tour of the property.
Warning signs to look for inside the home.
- Floors – squeaks or sponginess, or worn-out carpet or wood that needs refinishing.
- Walls –water stains, cracks, bulging areas
- Ceilings – water stains, damages, or sagging
- Windows – open and close all the windows. Look for cracked panes, condition, and age of storm windows, torn or ill-fitting screens, broken locks.
- Doors – open and close all doors.
- Basement – beware foundation cracks, mold, or water stains
- Attic – water damage, no insulation
Simple functionality tests you can perform
- Turn all the faucets on to check for sufficient water pressure
- Run the water for a few minutes to be sure the drains are flowing freely
- Make sure the toilets flush properly
- Turn on all the light switches
- Turn each appliance on and off
- Take a quick peek behind the furniture for hidden damage
Use your sense of sight and smell while going through all areas. Look for insect or rodent infestation and put your sniffer to work, uncovering funky animal odors or mold.
What you should be aware of outside the home.
- The roof - sagging, missing shingles, or other damage
- Gutters – rusting, clogged with debris
- Foundation – cracks, gaps, or crumbling areas
- Retaining Walls – crumbling, sagging, shifting, cracks
- Driveways – cracks
- Sidewalks – cracks
- Exterior walls – peeling paint, missing shingles or clapboard, damage of any kind.
- Trim – rust, rot, peeling.
- Fence – rotting wood, sagging, rusted, broken, or bent
- Garage – do the doors function properly.
Again your eyes are your best tool when doing a few evaluations. Take a walk around the house and determine if the land slopes away from it. Walk around the yard to make sure it's level. Note the condition of the landscaping. Are there any large trees close to the house that may need to be taken down or interfere with the sewer or water lines?
In addition to your self-inspection, you want to know the ages of the home's mechanicals and appliances. This information should be available from the seller. Below are the expected lifespans of effective systems and how much it will cost to replace them.
Putting together what you see, facts you know, and how much you can expect to spend in keeping the home up for also know before making an offer is the age of the mechanicals. This chart provides an estimate of how soon and how much you will need to invest in the upkeep of the home you are considering. This information may be precious if you know the property's asking price is butting up against the high side of the Comparative Market Analysis your agent put together for you.
In closing, keep in mind that the data on life span and replacement cost are estimates only. Also, I am not suggesting that this should take the place of an experienced, professional home inspection. This post is intended only to help you, as a buyer, make a knowledgeable and informed decision on whether a particular home is the right one and assist you in making an offer. As in all things concerning the purchase of a home, it's only one factor to consider in conjunction with all the other moving parts.
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