Things to Look For When You Buy a House

We closed on our home in early August. Since then, we’ve had to spend thousands to fix and/or replace things that in a regular market would have been the responsibility of the seller. When you buy in a time where there are six-seven offers on one home and homes for sale are at their lowest, you have to settle because if you don’t, someone else will.

In our case, we were out all the windows latches/locks/fixtures, every.single.doorknob and lock, several window screens, two windows that wouldn’t even close completely, major sprinkler leaks and six non-working outlets. Oh, and a doorbell that didn’t work and a garage door that wouldn’t open. We did get new paint (which turns out to be a non-washable kind, so we’re going to have to repaint) and new carpet, which is so barely beige as to be a nightmare when you have kids and pets.

We knew some of the things were a problem when we made the purchase, but things like one of the windows not closing, all of the door locks not working, the broken dishwasher and microwave, and the garage door, snuck through. Ka-ching. (The refrigerator turned out to be missing almost all of the shelves, and those that remained didn’t slide and were ALL cracked. The microwave circuit panel went out. Lowe’s loves us, $3000 later, but at least I have all new stainless steel appliances…good perspective, right?)

On a good note, we got a solid house in a good neighborhood with a layout we love and a lot of space.

On a bad note, it has taken a couple of months to get caught up on all those extra expenses..and every single appliance except the washing machine has either died or is next to unusable, like our dryer that takes about 7 cycles to dry the clothes. (The washer and dryer were part of a deal in order to make up for the seller’s refusal to even fix a shorting wall of outlets or anything at all on the list.)

In all this, we learned a lot and I’m going to share with you some of that in the hopes you have a better idea of things to look for when you buy a house in an attempt to save yourself a lot of time and money!

1) Make sure your home inspector is licensed and/or certified. If he’s unbelievably cheap in comparison to the rest, find out why.

2) Attend your home inspection. It may be weird to the seller (as we were on the receiving end of that in March of this year when we sold) and you can hope the seller isn’t there to watch you, but you can then ask questions along the way. You’re paying for the inspection, and as long as you’re fair in regards to his time and realistic in your expectations, it may prevent something from being overlooked.

3) Open every single window and door and test the latches.

4) Take a cellphone charger and see if the outlets actually hold the prongs of the plug. We had to replace a good many of ours. That’s something an inspector should have noticed.

5) Inquire about the history of ownership. If it’s sold frequently, look into why — if you can, as this could be a tough one. If it’s the same owner for many years, inquire about maintenance. In some cases, like ours, a single woman may not have put the time/money into repairs.

6) Lift up throw rugs — they just might be hiding an indelible stain.

7) Turn all the faucets on/off. See how far they twist to see if they’ve been tightened beyond a normal range in order to prevent a leak.

8) Open/close all the garage doors, and test the garage door openers. Inquire before you close about the remotes. (Yes, they are only about $30 each, but trust me, there will be other expenses you will get stuck with. The seller ought to leave them, so it’s okay to ask.)

9) Make a list of things you can ask for, and things you know you’ll need but can’t ask for, like a handle on the inside of a shower door so you aren’t stuck with a fun surprise that first shower when you’re exhausted and it’s dark and you can’t see. You’ll at least be able to prepare for that monster shopping trip to Lowe’s.

10) Open and close drawers. No, you’re not being nosey — you are buying those drawers and the rollers, or lack thereof, that should be in there. It will prevent you from going to load your utensils in one and finding that the back half of the bottom of the drawer has been worn off from no proper equipment keeping it in place. (Again, it may seem minor, but even small things add up and can cause delays in unpacking.)

11) Touch it all. The railings. Spindles. Light fixtures. Switchplates. Fireplace doors. Look for loose or dangling things. Look closely at fixtures for gas and plumbing and window/closet door rails; sometimes someone will paint over them all, making it near impossible to use until you strip it and clean it all up.

12) Look under the sinks. Your inspector should be doing this — and much of the above — but as we’ve seen, they often miss things. Ours missed that the entire front piece of the cabinet by our kitchen sink, in front of our dishwasher, is not even attached to the cabinet; there appears to have been a massive leak at some point that was fixed, but the wood was left unrepaired. Ka-ching. (And to make matters worse, when we went to replace the dishwasher that tanked on us the week after closing..the one with the racks missing rollers, again, missed during the inspection..we found that the flooring had been built around the dishwasher so the dishwasher had to be DISassembled to even get it out of the cabinet, rendering it not even sellable to a used appliance place.)

There are a lot more things, but this is just a basic list of reminders to look closely. Buying a home is a major transaction. If you have a seller who starts changing things up after you sign the papers and your agent has to go to bat for you, repeatedly, to get docs signed and stop her from taking things she was supposed to leave or she keeps pushing back the closing date, you may wonder what else she is not telling you or will be difficult about. It’s not a personal transaction, so don’t get caught up in ‘Well, at least she’s nice.” She is getting your money. That makes it business, and don’t be swayed.

In the end, almost everything is fixable and you can get it worked out, but you have to protect yourself and advocate for yourself. You can’t count on people who are getting money out of it to have the same personal investment in it that you do. (And I had an awesome agent and agency behind us, but there’s only so much you can see and control! You hope that your seller is trustworthy but you just never know.)

If you’re shopping for a home, I wish you well and advise you to have patience. It will come together!


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    1. Ann, thanks! I could write so much on the process after having done it 6x in the last four years. I’m not moving again for a very long time! ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. You offered some wonderful tips and suggestions! You never know what your gonna get, I think that is the most scary part of buying a home. I mean, an entire house- that’s a big thing!

    1. Thanks! I feel like I missed a ton of things, may have to do another post at a later time. I wish I’d paid more attention or that we’d been pushier. I really think there were a few things she knew were broken — and at least two things weren’t that way at inspection, but if you don’t have someone pushing for you, it doesn’t work. Live and learn!

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