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What to Look for When Touring a House

Published August 29, 2018

By Jordan Ottaway 

You’re in the market for a new home, you’ve looked at what seems like countless online listings and now have a list of properties that you want to go see. The photos look amazing and the kitchen is a place you see yourself holding next year’s Thanksgiving dinner. 

While a photo can say a thousand words, seeing the home with your own eyes can say millions. Just like when you test drove your new car, walking through a house is where you can “kick the tires” and see if this is place you want to live and invest in. 

It’s instinct to walk through the door and immediately go to the kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms. (I’ll admit that I’m the same way.) However, while that is important, it’s crucial to take a closer look at some other features of this potential home.

*Opens front door*

Shall we?

Location, location, location

You might love the house, but you need to make sure it’s in a location you want to call home. Yes, many of you already know this, but there are some things people tend to overlook when it comes to deciding on a home.

Walk around the neighborhood and check the traffic speeds, the condition of the neighboring houses (this can either hurt or help you when/if you decide to resell), check if it’s near a busy highway that might cause unwanted noise, and see if it’s accessible to different things you and your family need (schools, grocery stores, parks, access roads, etc.).

Depending on your specific needs, location goes much deeper than your commute to work.

Check the privacy

As you walk around a house, look out all the windows and make note of what you see. Does your living room look directly into the neighbor’s bedroom? Is there a short chain-link fence that doesn’t give you any privacy to use your backyard?

While it’s important to keep in mind, the good news is that these issues can be easily fixed. Remember: Blinds, curtains, rain glass, and privacy fences can be your best friends.

white kitchen

Good ‘flow’

Do the rooms feel spacious and laid out in an inviting way? One feature that’s important to me, and many other families, is the kitchen. When my wife and I decided to buy our first house, I wanted to see how well the kitchen connected to the dining and the living room so I can see how we can make the most with the space we will be getting. 

Every family is different when it comes to flow, but it’s good to take note of because it’s one thing online pictures just can’t show.

See where the water heater is located 

This might seem like a small, insignificant detail, but it’s actually something you should take very seriously. When you walk around a property, make sure you take note of where the water heater is.

There are some houses that have the water heater tucked away in the attic. Trust me when I say that you do NOT want it there. If it begins to have problems and leak, you’re not just looking at a new water heater. That means having to fix water stains, or worst case a hole, in your ceiling. Then you have to deal with draining it with a hose and then getting the new one up in your attic. 

It’s in your best interest to get a house that has the water heater on the ground level. Bonus points if it’s in the garage.

Smells, stains, and other eyesores 

Keep an eye, and nose, out for any stains, funny smells, or anything else that doesn’t seem right to you. Look at the carpet for stains that show neglect and check the floors for soft spots that might indicate water damage. You can also check the baseboards to see if they have been warped or damaged in any way. 

Take note of any unusual smells you find in the house. If there is an earthly (or musty) smell, check for damp spots on the interior walls and window frames. This could have been caused by leaky pipes, ceiling leaks, or foundation issues.

Take photos 

While my wife and I were touring different houses, I found myself asking her “which house did we see the bathroom we liked?” It’s hard to remember everything about the houses you tour, so I recommend bringing a camera and taking as many photos, outside and inside, as you can. That is assuming you have the seller’s and agent’s permission. 

This will help you better compare what you like and don’t like about the houses are considering.

Ask questions

Your real estate agent tours homes every day, so don’t forget to ask them questions as you walk through a house. Ask about flaws you see or any unique features you might not know much about. Here are some common questions you can ask: 

  • How old is the roof?
  • How long has the home been on the market?
  • Are there homeowner’s association fees?
  • How long have the owners lived in this house?
  • What do you like about this house?
  • How old are the windows?
  • Do you know of any repairs that need to be done?
  • How old is the plumbing and electrical?
  • How old are the appliances? 

Home buying can be stressful, but being prepared with the right questions and knowing what to look for helps you better judge if a house is the right fit for you.

Headshot of Jordan Ottaway
Jordan Ottaway contributed to the Neighborhood Credit Union blog from 2016 - 2019.

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