Friday, July 28, 2006

Practical Things to Remember When Home Shopping

Most folks are always looking for the ever-elusive "dream home." Not too long after settling into a new dwelling, many residents begin to pick apart the house they just rented or bought.
Someone who really likes the idea of a laundry chute (great, no more walking the dirty clothes to the laundry room), rethinks that idea when they now have to climb up two flights of steps to put away the clothes.

Here are some practical things to think about when you're looking through your pool of homes that you're hoping to buy.

Measure your furniture I mentioned this recently about a couch that wouldn't fit into my basement once I finished the space. You might say the excitement about the two sleeper sofas dimmed to the degree that I was realizing I couldn't use them the way I had planned. Fortunate for me, I had hired the perfect decorator who pointed me back to the furniture manufacturer who directed me to a couple of fellas that dismantle, move and reassemble furniture. Thus -- when shopping for a home, don't forget the measurements of your large furniture: couches, big screen TVs, mattresses, pianos, etc. More than likely, they will convey with the house.

Why is that conveying? Okay, so it sounds great that the pool table (or 2 sleeper sofas) conveys. Be sure to ask yourself -- Why? Why would the owner part with this piece of furniture, extra refrigerator, etc.? Play a quick game of pool, see if the refrigerator really freezes and cools, and why would they let go of these two perfectly good sleepers? Sometimes, it may be they just won't have room in the next house for them or no longer need them. Meanwhile, they may be handing over a white elephant to the next owners.

Sounds great. What if it breaks? So the hot tub stays? Great. What if it breaks down? Again, is this really a benefit to the house or is it something that has cost the owners hundreds or thousands of dollars a year to maintain? Find out if a large piece of equipment, appliance, etc., has had any repair problems.

What about conveniences? Sure, the house is located deep into the community on a cul-de-sac, but what does that mean when you need a bag of sugar or flower? Is the shopping just a few minutes down the road or does it mean a 15-minute jaunt down Hwy. 1? If it's a newer development, how long before they will be constructing the business section of the development?

What kind of wiring? This analysis has become more important as homeowners look more toward broadband, high-speed Internet access for work and pleasure. When walking through an older home, be sure to really understand what all the coaxial connections really attach to: antenna, cable, digital cable, satellite. In addition, if you're accustom to other type connections, such as DSL or Fiber Optics, at least find out if these services are available if the house doesn't have them connected already.

Planes, trains and automobiles. If you're looking for a quiet neighborhood, don't forget to come by and check out the community during rush hour. It may be convenient to the main thoroughfares, but are those roadways so close that you can hear the traffic (or see it) before tuning to Traffic on the Nines? How about the sounds from above? I've talked with many owners who, aware that the community was near the airport, had no idea they would have to straighten up their pictures on the walls after each airplane flew over.

HOA Documents. Don't just thumb through the homeowners association documents. Be sure to really understand your limits under these binding documents. In a community near Washington, D.C., for instance, no residents can park a pickup truck on their property. Imagine the surprise to a new homeowner who just didn't happen to read about that limitation in the docs. When I've bought properties, this is one of the sections of the HOA docs I turn to immediately.

More detail is better than the big picture when it comes to selecting your next property. Research, drive by and really get to know your target property before making a final decision. Happy home shopping.

Published: May 26, 2006

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