10 Important Things to Look for When Buying a Home

There are so many things to process when buying a new home. Before you know it, you can be mesmerized by the gorgeous rose garden without taking note of the aged/damaged roof.

To keep yourself focused on the important things, we recommend keeping these “Quick But Important Things” ready when touring potential homes with your real estate agent. While you should absolutely take time to smell the roses, remember to investigate the things that really matter before getting too attached.

Knowing what to look for will steer you away from “no-go” homes and might even help your real estate agent to negotiate a better sales price.

1. Work with a local real estate agent

We understand the desire to view homes on your own before bringing a real estate agent on board. However, that is the reverse order of real estate operations.

Homebuyers should always work with an experienced, local real estate agent they can trust before touring homes. First and foremost, we’ll help you avoid potential pitfalls and will customize the list of homes you tour based on a list of top needs and wants.

Secondly, experienced agents may have more knowledge of what is coming on and off the market to help you be in a better position for negotiating. We may even know of homes that sellers don’t want to publicly market but we have the ability to sell.

2. Pay close attention to structural elements

Things like painting and landscaping are easy to rectify once the sale is final. However, homebuyers are often so impressed by a home’s “curb appeal” or staging that they don’t notice more serious structural issues.

Pay close attention to a home’s structural elements, which are more expensive to replace or repair. These include things like:

  • Roofs
  • Windows
  • HVAC systems
  • Foundation
  • Mold/mildew infiltration (which may indicate unaddressed leaks or flooding)

Ideally, all of these items would be sound when you buy a home. If they aren’t, but the home is ideal in other ways, your real estate agent has more room to negotiate the sales price in your favor.

3. Age of the home

Unless you are keen to renovate and committed to frequent home maintenance, the age of a home is important. Older homes are charming and highly sought after, but your real estate agent should obtain all of the pertinent details they can regarding the home’s renovation and maintenance history before making an offer.

Keep in mind that a builder’s warranty for “major structural defects” typically covers the first 10 years, after which any major repairs or replacements are the homeowner’s responsibility (read more about new construction warranties on the FTC’s website). Any home should have a complete building inspection by a licensed, reputable inspector, once your offer is accepted.  Your real estate agent will have multiple referrals for you to choose from.

4. Kitchen and bathroom layouts

Many homebuyers consider a turnkey home the ideal but assume they are probably going to have to do some kitchen or bathroom renovations to customize their home after move-in.

If that is the case for you, pay close attention to the kitchen and bathroom layouts. Remodels become more expensive when plumbing, electrical work, and/or new fixtures have to be added to accommodate changing layouts. Finding a home with kitchen and bathroom layouts you are happy with can save thousands on future remodeling costs.

5. Number of bathrooms

Bedrooms can be easier to add on, depending on the size of the lot. Bathrooms, however, are a bigger endeavor when it comes to paying for permits, adding plumbing work and fixtures, and paying the contractor(s). Having the number of bathrooms you want from the get-go will also help you save on any future bathroom remodels you desire in the future.

6. Age of the appliances

Are the appliances outdated? If so, this can help when it comes time to make an offer. Depending on the market and the seller’s intention to sell (see next), an appliance credit can be added to the contract to lower the price and allow you to install your preferred appliances.

7. Evidence of moisture damage, water leaks, etc.

We mentioned this briefly in #2, but we want to highlight this particular issue. Florida is known for its hotter more humid climate and storm seasons. As a result, older homes are more likely than newer homes to have had issues in the past or current issues.  We have seen newer homes have issues as well though, so keeping your eyes open and having a good inspector is important regardless of the age of the home.

Any evidence of latent leaks or mildew damage should be duly noted and checked.

Keep an eye (and nose) out for:

  • A persistent musty/damp smell
  • Discolorations in walls or ceilings, particular around exterior wall/roof junctures and/or around windows
  • Soft/damp drywall or plaster
  • Warped or damaged paint
  • Obvious water staining

Any of these are worth discussing with your real estate agent so they can learn more about it.

8. Seller’s intentions to sell

If you are a “people person” with a well-honed intuition, see how much you can learn about the sellers. Otherwise, your real estate agent is just the person you need to sleuth these details out. Some sellers are more motivated than others and that directly correlates to the speed at which they accept offers, and the total sales prices they are willing to consider.

For example, homeowners relocating for a job transfer and who can’t afford to carry two mortgages are more ready to accept an offer than retirees who raised a family in their home and are “thinking about downsizing.” Your real estate agent’s intuition, experience, and investigative skills can prevent you from wasting your time or help you expedite an offer the eager sellers can’t refuse.

9. Local market climate

Similar to the seller’s intentions, the market climate matters if you have a specific budget. In some areas of the country, sellers have the luxury of accepting cash-only deals or homeowners that have larger down payments to offer. Other regions or economic conditions lead to sellers who’ve waited so long to move their home that they’ll take offers that are far lower than they originally hoped for.

10. Lot size

While the house can be changed, modified, and added on to, the lot size cannot. Make sure you are happy with the amount of front-, back-, and sideyard space. While the landscape can be designed to your dreams, the lot is never going to get any bigger.

Southern Exclusive Realty is dedicated to serving clients like you to work through all the quick (and not-so-quick) important considerations when buying a home. Contact us to see if we’re a good fit for you and your real estate goals.