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What to Look for When Viewing a House?

Karene Garlich-Loman

Karene, a seasoned real estate professional with two decades of experience, is a true industry luminary...

Karene, a seasoned real estate professional with two decades of experience, is a true industry luminary...

Feb 28 5 minutes read

What should you look for when viewing a house?

The short answer is that, first and foremost, pay attention to the things that matter the most to you. 

There is a lot to take in when visiting a property, especially when visiting it for the first time. Buyers often ask me what they ought to pay attention to when visiting a property for sale. It is a good idea to pay attention to the things that are high-ticket items and/or that matter the most to you. Here is a list of items that we think you should be aware of when walking through a home:

1. How old is the roof? 

In other words, how long will it be until you have to replace it? If the roof is only five years old, it should be in good condition and last you a long time. However, if the roof is 30 years old, chances are you'll have to replace it soon and it'll be another expense to consider when buying the house.

2. What kind of heating/cooling system does it have? 

It's important to make sure the home has the heating and cooling system you want, especially in the northwest. We have both cold winters and hot summers, so having both A/C and heating is ideal.  It's also good to note what kind of power the system is. For example, electric is generally safer and quieter, but gas is more efficient and cheaper to operate. 

3. Are the windows newer or older? 

The age of a window can effect the efficiency of a heating/cooling system. The newer the windows, the better. On top of this, the type of window (single vs double paned) can also make an impact on this. You may even be able to find rebates to help pay for the new windows. 

4. What type of electrical panel is installed? 

The type of electrical panel can have an effect on how much electricity can be used at one time in a home (100 or 200 amps)? It's important to know this so you don't blow a breaker often from overusing the electricity. There are also several brands of panels that have recalled - like Zinsco, Federal Pacific and Challenger. A good home inspector will help make sure it's not a recalled panel.

5. Does the house have a septic system or sewer and is it on well water or public water? 

The type of system the home has for water plays a role in what you can do at one time. For instance, a septic systems need to be maintained and using multiple water sources at one time (showering, dishes, sprinkler system, etc.) can slow down pressure. Whereas a public sewer system and water is constantly running, so the pressure remains the same. If for instance a neighborhood has one system in the middle, you may be obligated t assume the cost of the sewer as the new home owner. 

6. What is the home's proximity to services (shopping, medical, schools, etc.)? 

Being in close proximity to the places you may visit a lot can save you both time and money. This may include medical services, schools, shops/stores, work, family, and so much more. Ask yourself what places are important to you and consider this when looking at a home.

Overall, buying a home is based off of your own preferences. You have the ability to choose a home that matches your wants and needs. Yet, paying attention to these questions all require you to FOCUS. This is not always easy in our day and age. Your cell phone is ringing when you are there and your boss is calling. You are visiting the house with a child who needs your attention. Perhaps it is an open house and you are distracted by conversations taking place around you. We get it. We've been there. Just do the best you can do.

And, an informed agent is a valuable asset when visiting a property. If your agent can share accurate information about the property during your visit, it's to your advantage. So always ask the agent what they know about the property.

Of course, when an experienced contractor or licensed home inspector visits a property, they are seeing the property in terms of their own training and knowledge, noting the age of systems and the quality of the build, environment, etc. These professional observations are a separate matter. We are talking here about what you ought to pay attention to when you visit a property for sale. For sure, over time in your search after visiting many properties, you may become more observant of items a contractor or inspector may one day review on your behalf. Experienced house hunters can often develop very sharp eyes!

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