15 Things We Wish We’d Checked Before Buying a House

15 Things We Wish We’d Checked Before Buying a House

When you’re buying a new house, you’re considering more than just a structure; you’re creating a new lifestyle. You’re choosing the right container — the right foundation — for every moment of your home life moving forward. 

Wouldn’t it be great to test drive that foundation? After all, some questions can only be answered by spending more time in the space. Questions such as, “Does the house I’m about to buy make too much noise at night for a restful sleep?” 

Or, “Does the shower heat up quickly and have enough pressure to wake me up when my winter morning commute begins before daylight?” 

Or even, “Will I really be able to organize all my furniture in the available space with the proper feng shui?” 

You can go one step further from simply envisioning your new perfect lifestyle by simulating as much of the experience as possible. How close can you get?

1. Try Out the Neighborhood

You may want to take a walk (and drive) through the neighborhood at various times of the day. Notice if there are people out and about, if there are children playing in the street, if there’s a lot of loud music blasting. How do you experience your current neighborhood? Try walking your dog or riding your bike during the times of day you normally would. Will Fido have friends, or will your neighbors scowl when they see you picking up dog poop?

2. Test the Traffic

Test out the traffic around the house you’re thinking of buying multiple times during the day. What will your commute be like? Are there busy intersections? Multiple four-way stops where you’ll wait? Take note of any public transportation routes and, if you use public transportation, actually perform your future walk or bike to and from the bus stop. Will you have peace and quiet at the end of your workday, or will loud vehicles continuously barrel down the next street over right around dinnertime?

3. Experience a Day (and Night)

What’s your typical routine? Can you visit the home you’re thinking of buying for an entire morning? What time do you get up, and what time do you go to bed? Are there convenient sidewalks? Will you be able to walk to the local coffee shop? When the kids get hurt, is an emergency room nearby? 

Will it be easy to shovel your walk in the winter? Are the neighborhood streets well-maintained? Will you be able to access decent WiFi whenever you need it, or is your potential new home in a dark zone? Is there enough privacy that you can walk around in your skivvies, or will you have to remember to put on your pants to go out and get the mail?

4. Explore the Sounds

Wouldn’t it be nice to know if your neighbors stay up late? Whether your house buying itch is leading you into a home that never really settles, whether the appliances are continuously growling, whether the heater makes sounds that echo loudly (and wake you up) every time it starts and stops? Do your neighbors sing in the shower (or will they be able to hear you when you do)? Are there birds that congregate by the bedroom window at dawn?

While you may not be able to test drive your complete future lifestyle experience without actually buying the house, there are concrete criteria which can hold more weight than “minor property attributes.”

5. Check Home Values in the Area

If you’re buying a home in an area that’s on the rise, you’ll give yourself more opportunity in the future. Even if the living experience isn’t everything you’ve envisioned, you’ll be able to rent or resell for a profit.

6. Do the Drains Really Drain?

Can you fill up the bathtub and sinks and note the rate of emptying? Can you test-drive doing a load of laundry? You’ll want to make sure there aren’t any blockages between the house you’re thinking of buying and the sewer. You won’t truly fall in love with a home if your dirty bathwater won’t go anywhere fast.

7. Are the Windows Stuck?

A home inspector isn’t going to focus on sticky windows or floppy screens, so that’s your job. Make things easier for yourself and take having to replace pricey windows off the “purchasing a home” must-do list. Try opening and closing all of the windows. Check the tension in the screens. Is all the hardware in place and working? Do the windows lock and unlock smoothly?

8. Test for Fireplace Drafts

Do the fireplaces work, and are they safe? Is the chimney in good condition? Is there a history of any fireplace problems? Checking to make sure that fireplaces in your new home will draft correctly is the key to safety (and avoiding headaches later). Also, make sure they’re easy to light and extinguish.  

9. Check for Water Pressure and Dripping

Turn on and off all the faucets, and test out the shower pressure. Do you have to work hard to stop the dripping? Will you have a satisfying flow of water when you’re showering in the morning? Will the bathtub fill quickly, or will you be waiting for an hour when you’re ready for a hot bath? 

10. Does the Water Taste Good?

Yes, test the water. Are the pipes or the water supply adding anything funny to the water? Will you need to buy water filters for your new home, or factor in the cost of bottled water? A funny taste may not seem like a deal breaker, but it can be a sign of another red flag.

11. Is the Electrical Panel in Order?

Do you see any loose or disconnected wires? Does anything seem frayed or especially worn? Buying a house is a large and long-term investment, so you’ll want to make sure there aren’t any live wires or fire hazards before you jump in.

12. Are the Heating and Cooling Systems Working?

The only way to really know if you’ll be comfortable no matter the weather is to test the heater and the air conditioning before you decide to move in. Do the thermostats work? Are they accurate? Does the heat move through the home, or stay in one room? Do the upstairs and downstairs heat evenly? Part of the home buying process is ensuring your future comfort, and temperature will play a big role.

13. What’s Under the Carpet?

Have you looked underneath? Just as the home you choose to buy will become the container for and foundation of your lifestyle, the floors are literally the foundation of that foundation! Are the carpets laid over hardwood floors? Linoleum? Is there any mold or mildew hiding? Try to peel back the carpet in the corner of a room, or ask your realtor or the current homeowner to show you a spot in the home where the original flooring remains.

14. How Damp is the Basement?

Basement issues will usually be caught during a proper home inspection, but take a look around yourself, too. Do you see any signs of dampness or moisture? Do you notice signs of dehumidifiers or other tactics to remove moisture from the air? Many homeowners will hide any signs of them during home showings, so do your own sniffing.

15. Check Your Emotions. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the fantasy of your future home. While your gut feeling can be valid, emotional attachment can quickly override the practical facts. Once you’ve investigated the items above, you’ll have a better sense of how realistic buying this particular house may be.