August 24, 2015
So you think you’ve found your dream home – it has every feature on your wish list, and you’re ready to make an offer. Before you do, take a breather. Why? When buyers “fall in love” with a house and decide it’s the right one, it can sometimes blind them to some very real and practical shortcomings. Commit to an offer only after answering the following seven questions.
Make sure that the place you’ve chosen is enough house for your family – but, likewise, that it’s not “too much house.” There’s an old saying in the residential real estate business that you should “buy as much house as you need, but not more.” Does that accurately describe the property on which you’re about to make an offer?
Have you visited the house at different times of day, in the evening and on the weekend to get familiar with light, noise and area traffic patterns? Have you inquired about any history of problematic neighbors? Crime? Are there children your kids’ ages close by? Remember, you’re not just buying a house, you’re buying into a neighborhood. (Online community websites and blogs can be a great source of inside info.)
Falling head over heels for a house in the country can make many an otherwise intelligent buyer decide that the long commute to the city every day is “no big deal.” Commuting long distances every day to work can be fine for some people – or it can be brutal and exhausting. Before you bid on a house do a “practice commute” by car, bus or train to know exactly what you’re getting into.
Homeowners’ associations are flourishing these days, and they are great ways to manage everything from neighborhood aesthetics to landscaping and maintenance. If the home you have your eye on is part of an association, ask to meet a board member. Find out if it’s a harmonious, well-run group, or whether you’re buying into an association with problems – personal, fiscal or other.
If you have school-age children, don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because the house is in a “good area” that the schools are fine. A phone call to the local PTA or even some online research on the school district’s website will give you an idea of the quality and rating of the school system, as well as some inside information on whether any rezoning or school closings are planned or pending.
When you find a great house, it’s easy to forget how important a nearby grocery store, casual restaurant, municipal park or shoe-repair shop can be. No one wants to drive 20 miles to a dog groomer or dry cleaner. Before you submit that offer, get a real sense of what the area has to offer in terms of retail services and civic offerings.
Getting a great first impression of a house is fine, but before putting in an offer, you’ve got to go through the property with a fine-tooth comb – a casual walk-through isn’t enough. Peek behind furniture and doors, go up into the attic and through the garage and check the basement carefully for signs of wetness – with a flashlight if necessary. If you find surprises that are easy fixes, great, at least they’ll be surprises before closing -- not after.
Bottom line: If a house seems like it’s “the one,” great. But don’t submit an offer based on snap judgments about a property. Think it through, and use these questions as a guide.