Most of the homes my husband and I looked at were empty, so we didn’t worry about overpaying for a well-staged home. I think the home we made our first offer on sold for too much because it showed well. Don’t let yourself overpay by falling in love with the dressings. Here are my top ten tips for evaluating a home.
Ignore the Furniture
For the most part. If the dining room has a really small table, that could be because it’s too small for you. Measure the space. At the same time, you’re not buying the table, so don’t let a table set with fine china and nice linens con you. People stage homes for a reason – buyers pay more for staged homes.
Ignore the Paint Colors
My husband and I have watched several home buying shows, and we always see people commenting that they don’t like the paint or the couch. You’re not buying the paint! Paint is the easiest thing to fix. We saw one home with no less than three different types of hideous wallpaper and bad paint. We looked past that for the structure and layout.
See What’s Next to the House
We really liked one house, but it was next to the pool for a large apartment complex and had a rickety, low fence. The first house we made an offer on also had an apartment complex behind it, but you couldn’t see it because the owners had planted tall hedges that provided privacy. We checked Google maps to see what was behind each house and make sure it didn’t backup onto a school playground or popular pool.
Ignore Minor Landscaping – Good or Bad
This is another trick. If a home is nicely dressed up with pretty flowers, it attracts buyers. Dead plants make some people drive right by. You can plant new flowers and mow the lawn once you move in, so don’t let that be a factor. However, you should check out major landscaping issues like a solid concrete backyard or a big dead tree.
Lots of pictures. Then you can send them to friends or relatives for their opinion or refresh your memory about particular features. If you like the staging, take pictures so you can buy similar items when you do find a house.
Look for Deferred Maintenance Issues
It’s common for a house to have some minor maintenance issues, like a few spots that need paint, but you need to watch for potentially expensive issues, like an old roof, extensive visible termite damage, an old HVAC unit, or old windows. All of those will need to be fixed or replaced and you should factor it into your budget when deciding on a price.
Take Your Time at Each House
Many people spend as little as 15 minutes in a home before making a decision. While you can know for sure that the house is wrong for you in 15 minutes, you can’t know that it’s right for you. Take your time walking through the home and discussing it. Completing the checklist and taking pictures helps you do both. We probably spent an hour in each of the homes we made offers on.
Imagine Where You Would Put Your Furniture
This is where the measuring tape comes in handy. Measure the bedrooms to be sure your bed will fit, especially in older homes. Try to picture your own furniture in the house. Can you imagine yourself actually living in and using the home?
Drive Around the Neighborhood
After leaving a home you’re pretty sure you want to make an offer on, drive around that neighborhood specifically. Find the local park, the nearby school, and other local amenities that are a part of the living experience. Make sure it has what you need.
Get a Second Opinion
I’ve said it before, but this was key for us. Each time we considered making an offer on a home, we sent the pictures to my parents and then called them to discuss. They wouldn’t talk us into or out of a home, but they would point out things we might not be considering.
Obviously, there will be some emotion in the purchase, but you need to use common sense to make the final decision on such a major purchase.