How to Evaluate a House Before Making an Offer

Keep in Mind: You are Looking at a Building, Not a Home

This is by far the most difficult thing for prospective buyers.  After months or weeks of searching, buyers finally find “the one”, and instead of remaining objective, they mentally move in.  Don’t get attached too early or your heart might overrule your head and cause you to overlook major problems.  The house is simply a building that needs inspecting.  If you do find faults, it doesn’t mean you should put off buying.  Rather try and use what you’ve discovered to negotiate the price or request a repair.  Once you buy it, it belongs to you. Problems and all.


Take Your Time

I know I just told you to move out, but, do BRIEFLY allow yourself to move in and think about things like:

  • Are the rooms big enough? Sometimes sellers remove furniture to make rooms appear larger.
  • Does the house meet your lifestyle? Do you need a big backyard for kids? A nice deck for entertaining? Or a lot of storage for holiday decorations? Do you require a large kitchen and dining room for family functions?
  • Which way does the house face? Will you be able to grow the garden of your dreams? Or will your house keep your garden in the shade?
  • Is the yard extensively landscaped and you don’t have a green thumb to maintain it? Do you have enough room in your budget to hire someone to take care of it for you?
  • Have you been fooled by staging? Mirrors, strategic lighting, cozy fires, and the smell of sugar cookies are often tools to make the home more appealing. Don’t get fooled.
  • Drive by or schedule multiple showings at different times of the day. It may seem like a quiet street at 10am, but at rush hour it might be a completely different story.
  • Investigate the neighborhood. Take a walk or a drive. What is the condition of other properties down the street? Where is the closest grocery store? Are there any parking issues? Are you underneath a flight path?
  • Does the house need expensive updating? Or are updates mostly cosmetic that can wait for a while?
  • Is there an overbearing HOA? What are the dues?

What are your deal breakers?

Now it is time to move back out until closing. It is important to know before you make an offer if the house is sold “as is”.  If the sellers won’t pony up for repairs, how much can you afford to do? Look at your budget and make determinations about what you can afford and if offering on this property is feasible.

What should you be looking for?

  • Check water and light fixtures. Is the water pressure good in the shower or in the kitchen? Does the water have a noticeable odor or taste funny? Do all of the light switches operate something?
  • Recognize a roof in need of repair. Can you see signs of wear or missing shingles?
  • Plumbing: Look under the cabinets. Can you smell a damp odor? See any stains on the bottom of the cabinets that indicate a prior leak?
  • Big cracks or bowing of walls? Hairline cracks are often found with settling. Big cracks in the foundation or elsewhere are a bigger concern. You may need a structural engineer. Don’t skip on this investment, if required. You should know how much money you may be on the hook for one day if someone asks you to repair it.
  • Windows- look for chipped paint or signs of moisture damage
  • Mature trees are beautiful, but that may be expensive to come down. Are there any leaning towards the house that might cause a problem in an ice storm?
  • Does your cell phone work? Don’t laugh. Landlines are few and far between. Studies show nearly half of 18-35 year olds rank cell phone signal as a key consideration when buying a new property. Try to check the signal or make calls throughout the house.

Listen to your gut- if you hate the house don’t buy it. But if it fits the bill and you are ready, put in an offer.  But remember, just because you are ok with buying a home that has a defect, it doesn’t mean everyone will have that same attitude. In the future, when you try to sell, someone may ask you to make substantial repairs before you can offload the property.

Have a home inspection done

You’ll want to enlist a professional because there is only so much you can do on your own. No house is perfect.  Some defects will be obvious to you, and the vast majority will be fixable, but it is best to know before you buy.  Uncovering defects can help you negotiate a lower price and it can also prepare you for any necessary repair costs that may arise.  Give us a call today to schedule your home inspection!

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