Dressing a house for success is the in-thing these days. And that is good, because it reduces the personal distractions so the buyer can, presumably do his job – look at the house. So please don’t be distracted by the sizzle: how lovely the house is, or the colors, the lighting and music, etc. Stop and listen to the house, feel it, see it.
Way too often buyers rely on the home inspector to find the problems in the house when they could have seen for themselves the flags waving that signaled this house might not be a good fit for them. Particularly if they are not handy around the house.
Buyers tend to spend too little time in a house before writing an offer. Go back for a second or third look. Then do a little investigating of your own. First thing, when you walk into the house, stop and feel it. Does it feel solid to you? Air tight? No wiggle or sloping of the floors? Do the walls at the ceiling show signs of parting and if so, why? Do the doors stay put or do they close on their own? Perhaps that signals a settlement issue, or maybe not. If there are a number of these little signals, though, be careful.
Look under the sinks for dampness where there might be water leaks, the ceilings where there might be issues such as water stains. Any leaks around faucets, toilets? Check the water pressure, taste the water, smell it, how long does it take for the hot water to reach the shower. These are not disqualifying things, but they are part of knowing the house. There are often settlement cracks which are not unusual. But are there more than usual? How about that big one? If it’s an older house, perhaps it is a “permanent” one that is a cosmetic challenge but not a structural issue. Adjust the thermostat to see how quickly the house is heated, or in summer how quickly the temperature falls….but don’t switch back and forth from heat to air conditioning, you could damage the machinery.
Why do this? Because a home that has been consistently maintained is a healthier building, one that will have fewer issues farther down the line. You can change the colors and the other cosmetic issues rather easily, but to fix old problems is not only aggravating but costly.
Finally, does it sing to you? Do you feel its vibes? If so, it may be the house of your dreams. So then you turn the home inspector loose on the house so he can a) teach you how the house works, where the cutoff switches are, how to run this or that piece of equipment. b) Find the structural and mechanical problems you can’t. He should crawl under the house and look around for issues the owner probably isn’t even aware of. A good inspector knows what to look for and, if you share with him your concerns from your own close inspection that will insure an even better home inspection and more peace of mind for you.
The bottom line is you are probably committing to spend a big chunk of your hard-earned income on this purchase, bigger than anything else you’ve ever purchased, so learn as much about it as you can before and during the purchasing process to avoid bad surprises later.
Life is good and getting better!