It’s been a while since we bought our current house (actually about 20 years ago now), but I noticed that many folks are talking about what to look for in a home when you are out buying a house. I want to pass on a few of the things that I (or friends of mine) learned while looking for the “house of their dreams,” or maybe just the “house of their reality.” Please don’t end up House Poor either.
Being On the Level is Important
Mrs. C8j and I were looking at a lovely house one time, and the visit was going well until I walked into one of the bedrooms. I had had a few late nights, so I suddenly felt off-kilter, like I was about to fall over, so I sat down on the bed. Mrs. C8j wandered in and had this odd look on her face and said, “What is with the floor?”.
I stood up and realized that the floor sloped into one of the corners and that “off-kilter” sensation I had, was the floor itself not being level.
Bring a level with you to a house viewing and start checking if walls are vertical, and if the floors are level, you may be surprised what you find.
Look for a Flush of Success
Plumbing is essential in your house (anyone who says otherwise hasn’t had to snake out a backed-up toilet), so the old trick of flushing toilets and seeing if the water pressure drops is a great tip, but I find if you wander around the house constantly turning on and off taps and flushing toilets you will annoy the vendors to no end (or at least their sales rep). Also, look for water stains behind toilets and if you are in the basement, see if you can see under bathroom floors to see if there have been any “floods” in the house.
Model Home Sounds Nice Doesn’t It?
Never buy the Model Home, I have written about this before, but seriously, this house was slapped up quickly and may not even be to code.
Bluffing Works in Poker and House Buying As Well
More than once, I have made off-handed comments to my wife while looking at a house, which I thought were innocuous, but which has caused an outpouring of information from the vendor. This won’t work with real professionals who know how to sell, but if you are dealing with folks who are “doing it themselves,” sometimes an innocent-sounding comment can give you a lot of information.
An example might be a comment like “What is that smell?” when you walk into the basement if the vendor replies quickly with, “What smell, I don’t smell anything, there are no smells here, not an odor to be smelled!”, and get very nervous, you pursue this a lot more. If the vendor sniffs with you and shrugs their shoulders, then maybe there isn’t anything to worry about, but who knows?
Notice What is On the Walls
My wife and I looked at a house once, and in the master bedroom was a large framed photo of a voluptuous woman, topless in the middle of a tropical lagoon setting, smiling at the camera. She didn’t notice, but let me tell you, I didn’t miss it. I smiled knowingly, and as we were finishing our viewing, the homeowners came home, and I was surprised to see that the buxom model in the picture was, in fact, one of the homeowners.
As we left, my wife asked me why I had that goofy grin on my face, so I explained what I had seen. To this day, she claims I am making this story up. Yes, this story has nothing to do with buying a house, just a funny story I like to tell, but we also didn’t buy that house.
I don’t remember details much (even less as I grow older), but if you can convince the vendor, bring a video camera and tape your visit so that you can go back over the house later. We still have the video from when we had the house inspection done on the Big Cajun Estate and noticed lots of things that were different, nothing big, so no point in calling the lawyers. However, good to know in case something more significant has happened. You may not convince your vendor to allow you to videotape, but the vendor may also have a video they will give you of the house. Either way, good to have a video of a possible future home.
Which House Did I Buy?
If you buy a house, or a townhouse, make sure you bought the place you want (and not another house accidentally). A dear friend bought his first townhome after seeing three different homes in the same housing complex, but it was only on the day he moved in that he realized that he hadn’t bought the house he thought he had. Saying on move-in day, “I don’t think this is the house I bought,” is a little late to notice your error. Before you sign anything, make sure you buy the house you want.
Who do You Work For?
I always have an issue if you use the same agent as the vendor for your purchase. Who is your agent working for? I am sure most agents would “poo-poo” my concerns, but I am a naturally untrusting person. This just seems wrong to me.
Hopefully, your purchase will go smoothly, but remember to be thorough in your due diligence before buying.