My eyes are fantastic. They are especially great when I'm wearing my glasses! Truth is, I can't read a thing without them. Long gone are the days of wandering around town and stopping into a restaurant for a bite to eat without having my glasses with me. Unless I can order from memory, that menu may as well be written in Greek. Of course, my standard go-to (a burger and a beer) is usually a pretty safe bet.
When buying a new home, taking the time to "see" everything is critical to your success as a future homeowner. Today I'd like to highlight a few areas that often go unnoticed during the showing. Let's grab our glasses and dig in!
I'm assuming I got this from my mom, but I have a pretty good nose for errant smells. I've lived in (or walked-through) enough homes that have pet smells, mold, lingering smoke odors or a myriad of other stinky-ness to know what to sniff for. My sister-in-law, however, makes me seem like I'm "hard of smelling" (to quote Jerry Seinfeld). She has a gift (or curse, depending on how you look at it) and can pick up a hint of mold from the driveway.
When you walk into your prospective new property, it is important to just take it all in and, most importantly, don't ignore anything that makes your nostrils twitch.
One of the more recent homes I lived in had a hint of "funkiness" in the basement, but we assumed that we could (were already planning to) rip up the floors and start fresh. Turns out some critters had crawled into the ceiling of the basement and fell between the walls. You can imagine their fate. A few hours of cutting sheetrock and cleaning the area seemed to get most of the issue, but still not a pleasant task.
For me, besides potential water damage coming back (more on that below), smells (and their root cause) are a huge red flag with a new-to-me home. Be sure you know the exact source of the smell and have a plan for remediation. They never simply go away on their own.
When evaluating a prospective new home, don't ever be afraid to ask questions. As a seller, you are very inclined to brag about any updates and renovations that have been done to the home, but if you are in the buyer's shoes, the renovations should be verified. Ask for permits and receipts for any work that has been talked about or that you notice with your own two eyes. There is no shortage of DIYers these days, and not everyone is qualified to carry a hammer, let alone do plumbing or electrical. This is an example of one of those tough questions that need to be asked and I encourage you to ask away. As Thomas Jefferson noted in 1817, "Knowledge is power."
While you are in the inquisitive mood, it is important to ask about the age and/or condition of the key (expensive) items around the home.
"I encourage our buyers to ask about the age of the HVAC system, windows, appliances, roof and anything that appears to have been updated," said Badger Realty owner Dick Badger. "The answers provided may not be 'deal-breakers' but the more knowledge a buyer has about the home they are viewing, the better."
The next item to be on the lookout for is water damage. A coat of primer and paint can cover most visible signs of damage, but savvy buyers will be on the lookout for less obvious signs. In the basement, you can look for water marks on the walls, and be sure to ask about how often the basement gets wet and for how long. This is not uncommon in New England homes and is not necessarily a huge issue, but one that you want to be aware of. Throughout the rest of the home, I just keep an eye out for sagging ceilings or uneven walls (typically toward the top). Again, this is a great area for you to ask questions. Even if the issue has been repaired, it will be good for you to know when it happened and exactly what was done to fix it.
One thing I have always found amusing about sellers is they are never short on ideas for renovations for the future owners. The question you can and should ask about these renovations (and any that you think of yourself) is, have they already been explored? I wanted to add a deck to my property over in Lincoln, but it turns out the setbacks were such that it would have been at some funky angle and not very useful. Although you may have grand visions of bumping out a roof or expanding the kitchen, you may be surprised to learn that there are limitations you were not aware of. Don't be shy about asking what the current owners have already looked into and what roadblocks they ran into.
The overall lesson here is to stay objective and ask the tough questions. You need to get over the notion that you are "visiting someone's home" and focus on the fact that you are reviewing an investment for your family. You are not swinging by for a friendly visit (even though it feels that way when the sellers are home). You are impartially viewing a piece of property and you need to evaluate every nook and cranny to ensure you are making a good move. Get out there and start looking! The market is starting to simmer.