Tips for Hunting Houses

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Over the past couple decades, many homebuyers made financial decisions that, in retrospect, were not very sound. However, hindsight is 20/20, and what seemed like a good time in the booming ‘90s and ‘00s wasn’t really questioned; American prosperity and the continuing upward climb of the housing market were simply accepted as truisms of the time.

Yet some buyers were so eager to own their own home, that they often overlooked basic problems with their homes that, later on down the line, have cost them considerably more time and money than they are worth. Today, it still makes financial sense to own your own home, but you are understandably more cautious about what you buy. You want as much bang for your buck as possible, after all! To that end, there are certain things you should be on the lookout for when hunting for a home.

Don’t be a Housing Glutton 

First, you have to make sure that you aren’t buying too much home. The tendency in the past has been to buy as large a house as you can afford, because who doesn’t like having extra space? Yet the truth is that as much as that extra space is costing you, there are many hidden costs that you may be unaware of. For example, what about when winter rolls around? You’re going to have to heat your home, and that means heating your entire home in order to get it to the point of comfort. The more home there is to heat, the more expensive it is. This can really drive your energy bills sky high!

The same is true during the summer as well. Air conditioning costs a pretty penny, and you’ll be forced to cool your entire home, even if you aren’t using all of it. Thus, in the end, a bigger home means bigger costs throughout the year. Furthermore, how much of that extra space are you actually using? In all likelihood, not much of it at all.

Avoid Hidden Costs and Serious Problems 

Buying within your means and needs is common sense advice that applies to just about every major purchase you will ever make. There are certain issues that are specific to housing, however; for example, you want to make certain that your prospective home has a good structure. Any problems with your home’s structure will only end up costing you quite a bit down the line, anyway.

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Make sure that the house does not have a problem with its foundation. Any large cracks or caving in the foundation, on the inside or in the basement, is a sign that the foundation is not sound. This will end up costing you quite a bit to repair; you’re better off not even using this as a bargaining chip in the price negotiation, and just forgetting the house entirely if its foundation is suspect.

Similarly, if termites, carpenter ants, or other, similar pests are doing damage to the home’s structure, it may not be worth dealing with. Paying to remove the infestation is bad enough; if they have been festering for long enough, the damage may well be too much to ignore or repair cheaply, in which case you’ll be looking at long-term repairs and a similarly long bill. Mold and water damage are similarly expensive to remove and even more expensive to repair. Numerous foundational and roof problems may result from mold and water damage, and that is another bill for you to foot that isn’t in the initial cost of the house.

Finally, stay away from homes that have electrical and plumbing problems. A home is largely worth living in because of its power and plumbing; without these, it becomes unlivable. Replacements for these systems are also quite expensive; after all, if it costs so much to have an electrician or plumber in to do minor repairs, what do you think it costs to do a total installation?

Be Smart About Your Home

U.S. Housing Affordability Trends

by Column Five Media.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

There are other things to look for: a good school district, if you intend to have children; an underpriced location if you are intent on getting a deal; internal aesthetics that are easy to change or improve; and more. What it comes down to is, get a home that lacks as many hidden costs as possible, one that will last you for some time to come and which you can easily build up equity with. Do all of this, and if the housing market crashes yet again, you’ll be sitting pretty.

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