We’re two weeks into house hunting, and we’re only now realizing how important a specific wish list is. We both have a little knowledge going for us, which has proven crutial! Figure out specifically what you want before you start!
Here are the items you should be looking for, and talking about before you start your hunt:
Neighborhoods: When we started house hunting in Tennessee, we had one neighborhood we wanted, but there’s been nothing available and we lost the one house we bid on (and we overbid!) So we’re looking outside of our perfect ‘hood, and we’ve done this by finding listings and driving to them.
See who’s walking the streets – is it young mums with strollers or scary looking guys smoking on their stoops? We drove into one nice-looking community and literally got chased out by someone’s vicious dog. No thank you!
We’ve now found four communities we’d be okay with living in, instead of just one. That opens up our house options a lot more!
Floorplans: Also called layouts, this is how the house is designed. I did marketing for a home builder for years, and have also done my fair share of award judging for the national new home builders association, so I know a good floorplan when I see it. Things I knew I wanted were:
- A two storey house
- A master bedroom on the second floor
- A two car garage
- An open concept floorplan
- A kitchen that had more than one entrance (for flow)
- Three bedrooms
- An ensuite
- A half bath that was separate from living (some houses have them in the kitchen, gross)
Once we started walking through, we realized things we didn’t like, including:
- Big bonus rooms (a big empty room you have to heat)
- Jumbo vaulted ceiling living rooms (who wants to paint that?)
- Master bedroom in the front (some are next to the front door, which I find odd and not very private)
- Upstairs bedrooms with 45 degree angled doors (they create some strangely shaped rooms)
Finishes: I’m a DIY-kinda gal, so I’m okay to do a bit of reworking and painting. My husband just wants to move in. So finishes became important as we started walking through houses. Here are the tough questions we had to discuss once we saw a house with a great layout and bad finishes:
- Do we want to paint the whole house, or just some specific rooms?
- Are we okay with carpet and lino, or do we want hardwood and tile? If so, how are we going to pay for that?
- Are we fine with maple finish cabinets with old hardware, or can we paint them?
- The siding is looking rough, do we want to clean it?
- If the exterior or landscaping needs work, will we do that ourselves?
- If there isn’t a fence, are we okay to put one in?
- The doorknobs and hardware is outdated, are we going to replace those, paint them, or live with them?
- Are light fixtures important to us, or how much will that cost to replace?
- The tub and major bathroom elements are old, but working. Are we okay to live with that?
Big ticket items: Things like hot water heaters and roofs aren’t cheap. So knowing what you’re okay to live with and what you’re okay to fix is major. We don’t want to replace a roof (that’s upwards of $6,000) but if we have to replace a hot water heater in a few years, we’re fine with that. Talk about how much you have to spend, and be on the same page.
Lots of listings tell you in the description when stuff was replaced. If you love a house and want to make an offer, a disclosure document is provided from the owner (unless it’s a foreclosure, then it’s a guessing game). That’ll tell you what they’ve replaced and when, or if they’ve done any fixes. We found out about some leaks in the ceiling and plumbing issues on a house we put an offer on. While it didn’t deter us, it was good to know.
Bonus: You can buy a homeowner warranty for about $500 a year that’ll cover those big ticket items. Worth the investment, and sometimes sellers will pay for it! It’s a “peace of mind” warranty that I’m all for.
Whatever your wish list is, make sure you know the basics ahead of time. It’ll save a lot of looking around and a lot of unnecessary “discussion” (opinions + big purchase = arguments!)