How to Buy your First House without any Nasty Surprises {Infographic}

How to Buy your First House without any Nasty Surprises {Infographic}

So you’re looking for your first home, and you want to make sure you pick a corker: a house that’s big enough, yet cozy; well-positioned, yet quiet; cheap, yet amazing. How can you make sure you get everything you want without any nasty surprises being thrown in for free?

A house is a complicated thing, and there’s lots to think about – so it’s worth being prepared before you go to check it out. There are a number of different aspects you need to consider, from the state of the house itself to the nature of the surroundings.

A good place to start is with the current owners. Have they made the effort to clean and tidy properly for your viewing? If they haven’t even bothered to clear up for this important meeting, there’s no saying what else they’ve neglected over the years. If it’s clear they treat the place with less respect than you intend to, it might be worth passing on this property.

And how about the neighbors? If there are lots of homes for sale along the same street, you might want to do a bit more research. Possibly it’s just a hot time to sell (in which case watch out for inflated prices). But possibly there’s a serious problem in the area, like a crime wave, noise pollution, or terrible neighbors!

Next you need to think about the structure of the house itself. Tilted doorways suggest there could be subsidence, which can result in further damage to the house as well as a costly bill to correct. Take a spirit level with you (you can get one as an app on your phone) and make sure everything’s lined up properly before you sign anything. Ask about the floorboards, too. Plywood floors are likely to need some work done before too long – hardwood floors can bump up the price of a house. If you’d rather not show your cards, wait until you have a moment and peek under the carpet to see how it looks.

There are other clues that your house could end up costing you more money than you thought. Don’t think just about how strongly it’s built, how nice it looks, and how conveniently it is positioned. Consider also the practicality of running the house from day to day and season to season. High ceilings are an obvious clue that heating bills might be a problem in the colder months, but think about the heating system itself. Check if the heating is on, and try to notice whether it feels the same temperature in every room. If not, it might mean the furnace is failing to distribute the heat evenly. In hot weather, try the same with the central air conditioning. Either system can cost thousands to replace, so if you think you might have a faulty one on your hands – figure the price into the total value of the house.

A decent house, like a decent human being, can last a pretty long time so long as the roof is solid and the pipes are kept in good condition. So before you leave the viewing or consider making an offer, take a look at the house’s water life: the rot, mold, leaks, and puddles that can accumulate when the moisture in a house is not ending up where it should. Start in the basement, where puddles at the base of the walls can indicate they are leaking moisture. Return with an engineer if you’re keen on the house – they’ll be able to give you a better idea what the cost will be to make any repairs.

It sounds yucky, but you need to think about the toilet, too. If there are any signs that it has been leaking (if the floor around it is soft or it moves when you shake it) you could have problems to deal with down the line. This is because it can eventually rot the subfloor, and get between the subfloor and the finished floor. If the previous owner has tried to cover this up or fix it themselves, there is no guarantee that the problem won’t re-emerge: again, if you’re serious about the house, return with an expert (in this case, a plumber) and get a professional appraisal.

Finally, moisture. Soft wood on the window sills suggests that they are not dealing with water properly. The sills can rot in time, which compromises the structure of the windows themselves, causing all kinds of problems. This one’s easy to look out for – just take a moisture meter along with you and take a reading.

This new infographic from flags up a baker’s dozen of issues you need to look out for when hunting for your first house. It’s better to make sure you figure this stuff out before you go hunting, then learn it the hard way months after you’ve signed a contract.

Editorial Team
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