Let’s have a discussion about house hunting today! I was one of the first of my friends to buy a house, and lots more are either new home owners or are looking to be in the next few years. Because I’ve been in my house for a bit, and I’m clearly into houses, I get asked often about things to look for when you’re house hunting.
Here’s my (unofficial, personal experience based) 2 cents of things to think about when you’re looking at houses/house listings:
- You might have no idea at all how much money a bank will be willing to loan you. The basic rule of thumb (if you have good credit), is that the bank will lend you 4x the amount of your yearly income. You then need to decide what that would mean monthly for you and if you can take that on… just because they’ll give you a certain amount of money doesn’t mean you should take it all. My bank said they’d give us somewhere around $175000, but my comfort level was $150000ish. THIS INFOGRAPHIC is super handy in learning the basics.
- Does the listing have pictures of each room? Especially the kitchen and bathroom(s). If not, those are probably rooms that need upgrades. You may not want to bother even looking at houses that don’t have posted pictures of the living room and bathroom(s). And when you do go to it anyway because you’re just in love with the pictures you can see you have to make a choice: continue the tour as a learning experience, or get out and move on to the next one!
- How old is the roof? How about the windows? Those are big money investments if you need to update them yourself within the first few years of home ownership, and you should take that into consideration.
- Bring a notepad and a camera (not a camera phone!) with you to each house. If you’re viewing several houses in one day, your first picture of each should be of the outside so when you upload them later you know where one house starts and another begins. You might think you’ll remember, but trust me, you won’t. Use THIS CHECKLIST to keep you on track while you look around.
- Trust your gut, and find a realtor you can trust too. You are trusting this person with over $100,000 of your money…15-30 years of your financial life. That’s a big deal. Don’t go for a realtor who’s shoving you from house to house and speaking like a commercial- go for the one that will show you a house knowing you’ll never ever buy it just so you can learn for yourself that she knows what she’s doing. (Thanks RaeDeane!)
- You’re going to be excited about lots of houses, it’s all new and you’re ready to go- but you will get a feeling when you walk into your house. The first house we put an offer on was actually the first house we ever viewed… it was clean, organized, and didn’t need lots of repairs and so I thought “this will do” and we made an offer. The second house was just enough of a fixer upper to make me happy and the layout was ok, so I thought “this will do” and we made an offer. My actual house, offer #3… I walked in the door and wanted it. It was always going to be my house.
- When we finally got to the inspection on our house I followed the inspector around and wrote down pretty much everything he said. Your inspector will give you a report… but it’ll be in “inspector” language. Your notes should have what room you were in when he said what, and what the answer to your clarifying question was. Ask so many questions! When my inspection was over and I was 100% overwhelmed my last question was the most important: If I was your daughter, would you tell me to buy this house?
- Read the inspection report even though you may not understand it- research the things you don’t understand. Learn what is going on in your house and make a prioritized list of how you would fix it and how much it might cost- then, and only then, should you sign anything. I also sent the report to my dad and Matt’s dad and got their 2 cents as well… that way I had read it, Matt had read it, and 2 house owning dads had read it. Between the four of us, no stone was left unturned.
What’s your experience? Any tips? Questions? Let’s talk!
PS- Already in your new home? Check out my 31 day series on tips for new homeowners!