What Should You Look For in a Home?
May 17, 2016
Those buying a house in Toronto don’t often have the luxury of time when making a decision – the Toronto Real Estate market moves way too quickly!
Buyers often ask “What should I be looking for when looking at a home?” My answer is simple – first and foremost, you should be looking at the space; the room sizes, the style and the feel of the home.
I realize that this isn’t what buyers really mean when they ask me this question, but it is the most important part. Finding the imperfections, the flaws and the items to be concerned about are secondary and it’s my responsibility to point out to a certain degree. (Disclaimer!) My findings are just kind of intuitive, so to be sure there are no surprises when buying a home you should always hire a home inspector to walk you through the house you choose to buy. Realtors are not home inspectors, so there is only so much on the technical side of things we are able to point out… but over the years, after attending innumerable home inspections, I’ve learned a few things about what to look out for:
Use all your senses when you visit a home!
For me, this is my thought process when viewing a home…
• From the moment I put the key in the lock, I’m judging how the key turns, how the door fits in its casing and open easily it opens/closes
• I check for the seal on the door to judge if there might be concern for heat loss. I also check for this when looking at windows
• When I walk in, I always look up at the ceiling and down at the floor and you’ll find me doing that throughout the house viewing. If I’m looking down it’s to see the corners, how the floor meets the walls is everything at right angles or is there sagging or bowing? Do the floors move, creak or crack when we walk on them? Do the floors feel wonky, are the doorways at right angles, does the house feel like it’s settled? Does it feel sound and solid? If I’m looking up, it’s to see if the ceiling is sagging, if there are water stains or cracking or peeling paint, can I see imperfections that indicate past repairs from perhaps a leaky bathroom upstairs?
• I look at windows; are they old? How do they fit? Have they been replaced? If so, are they cheap replacements or was a quality window used? Are the windows vinyl or wood? How do the windows open? How secure are the windows and how are the exposed windows on street level for security and comfort? Is there staining on the casing or on the ledge and flooring around it?
• When entering a room, I look at the size. Where will the bed fit? How many outlets are there? Iis there a bulkhead that dominates the space?
• In bathrooms, I smell for mold. I look for water staining on the floor, I look at the grouting in the shower/tub surround, I check to see that there is a fan and if it’s ever been cleaned out (that’s one of my pet peeves)
• In the kitchen I check for signs of insects, I look at overall cleanliness, I open the cupboards, the fridge, the stove, I look for storage options and if storage is limited, I look for ways to add more.
• In the basement I look for water penetration on the walls, staining, scaling and efflorescence. I try to find an opening in the ceiling to be able to look at the joists, so I can find out about the wiring or the condition of the joists. I look at the furnace to try to judge its age and if it’s been well maintained. I look for the electrical box to see if it’s been recently upgraded. I look for overall cleanliness of the basement; has it been neglected and forgotten, are there cobwebs everywhere? Obviously cobwebs aren’t a mechanical/structural concern but they do make a comment on the overall maintenance and care given by the current home owner… how well maintained is the home?
• On the exterior, I’m looking at the type of siding on the house. Is it wood, vinyl or metal siding, brick veneer or solid brick? If there’s brick I look at the condition of the mortar, is it cracking? Are the bricks pitted and old? I look for signs of rot, wear and tear, insects, how well the exterior has been maintained, are there vines going up the side of the house (that’s a no-no)? What’s the ground cover like? How’s the grading away from the house to ensure there’s no water issues? From street level, it’s often easy to get an indication of the condition of the eaves, the downspouts and the roof. Is water pooling in certain areas around the house and can I see indications of that in the basement?
Don’t be fooled by fluff!
I use my sight, sound , touch and sense of smell when going through a house and I make sure I’m looking beyond the swanky staging. A good stager knows how to sway your eye away from the imperfections and create an atmosphere that draws you in. Allow yourself to feel yourself in the room but then step back and imagine the room with no furniture. If there was nothing in the room to distract you, then what do you think you’d find? Look behind the curtains, open up the blinds. Lift up the carpets and check the condition of the floor. If sunlight is important to you then don’t be afraid to turn off all the lights to see how truly bright the home is.
An educated Realtor makes it fun and saves you money!
Make a game out of the process of “home education”. Visiting a home as a potential home buyer should be a lot of fun as well as a serious mission for your next pad. Make sure you ask lots of questions of your realtor and if they aren’t pointing things out to you and educating you through the viewing process, then ask them to. Demand it or find another realtor who can help you; like me! It’s key to really understanding the mechanics of a home and gauging whether the imperfections you see are really long-term concerns or just aesthetic imperfections. Sometimes things look worse than they are and sometimes flaws that don’t look so bad are actually big warning signals for future costly repairs… you should be working with someone who can point out the difference!!