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28 Tips for Home-Hunting

Posted on: May 3, 2013


Spring is a time to move house as well as clean house. News broadcasts LOVE to publicize the latest home starts or housing sales. So the houzz article on APARTMENT HUNTING FOR RENTERS seemed quite timely. The “customer comments,” however, resonated with me as never before — and I’ve been in my home for more than fifteen years!

SanFran

The houzz article is firmly aimed at big city apartment hunters, but the comments hone in on the worldwide dilemma of finding somewhere to live — and loving where you land. Some of houzz’s tips include

  1. Focus on a FAVORITE neighborhood or two, if possible (might depend on the size of the municipality).
  2. Beside budgetary concerns, what two other priorities must your new home have?
  3. Open House overkill? Keep a checklist (of likes and dislikes) or snap a photo or two. (One commenter suggested that snapping a photo of each front door helped immensely.)
  4. Be prepared! in some markets, housing will go fast. Be ready with pertinent information to convince the seller or landlord you’re the person for their property (references; credit history information; mortgage pre-approval; etc).
  5. Hidden costs? Are those window treatments included? how much are utilities? is parking available, or cable / internet hook-ups?
  6. Odd smells? Noises? lack of natural light? add those to your list so you’ll remember your reactions later.
  7. Be nosy! You might be living here soon: peek into closets, run the water, flush the toilet.
  8. Search online, newspapers, dedicated publications — but don’t forget word of mouth.
  9. Negotiate price. It’s worth a try.
  10. Will Grandma’s armoire fit? Bring a tape measure.
  11. Did the seller / landlord makes promises: Get it in writing. Don’t rely on memory…

My take-away from some of Comments:

  1. When talking ‘utilities’, don’t be afraid to ask how a bill is assessed; beware hidden ‘fees’ charged to tenants.
  2. Likewise, be leery of ‘application fees’ or leave-taking ‘cleaning’ fees.
  3. Check out the yard (if applicable), especially if the prior owner / tenant had pets. (think: clean-up…)
  4. Think twice about the flat near the elevator or garbage chute. Do bedroom(s) overlook an alley where the trash is kept? a busy street?
  5. Be on the look-out for signs (for rent / for sale); tell co-workers about your hunt for a home. The more, the merrier.
  6. GREAT idea: Check the neighborhood during commute times on a weekday. Cruise the neighborhood between 10pm and 3am [I personally would extend this to the likes of 7am] “to see who and what is out at night”.
  7. Pertinent to renters: is there a waiting list for a building you want to live in? Get on it!
  8. Really concerned about safety: contact the local police department and ask about the area.
  9. Moving in or doing a walk-through before closing? Take pictures and document.
  10. “Don’t be shy about asking a friend or relative to accompany you” – a second set of eyes can often help.
  11. Do baking cookies hide an odor? Does music mask street noise? Visit more than once to be sure.
  12. Looking near a school – but don’t have children? Be aware of increases in (road and foot) traffic; additional noise; parking or trespassing problems.

houston

Now to add a few thoughts of my own. I live in what could be termed a “small city”, certainly an urban area. The housing is predominantly single-family homes, a few condo units, only downtown has some “lower” high-rises. Downtown has exceptionally few amenities, so I can start my list with

  1. Is your area walkable? How’s the public transportation? Do you need a vehicle no matter what? Depending on your lifestyle, you may want to think twice about where to locate.
  2. If you like nature, are there public parks, scenic areas easily in reach?
  3. Would you prefer an area where everyone has children, or are professionals, or all retirees?
  4. Consider that the No. 1 business of businesses is to grow: that college up the hill will not be content with a student body of 2000 students in ten-years’ time; that airport will add run-ways and parking garages – or change flight patterns to entice larger jets; that highway may be two lanes now, but what if it became wider or faster?
  5. How close are your closest neighbors? Be aware of basketball hoops, barking dogs, loud cars or loud music. All have the potential to impact your enjoyment of your own home.

I’ve personally have lived through loud neighbors, barking dogs, early morning airplanes, a backyard daycare. I remember reading once about a woman whose neighbor was a chatterbox; ultimately, the writer resorted to diving into her car in the garage, just to avoid the neighbor. The spring after I purchased my home, the state ‘upgraded’ highway bridges – and now you hear traffic thumping over expansion joints; sometimes you feel them too, especially once the potholes begin to crop up again. In the end, you may have little control over what happens over time.

My city used to be tree-lined, but decades ago it lost that attribute to a two-lane / four-lane road through the center. Places change over time. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge when it’s time to cut your ties and move on.

* * *

Whether you’re new to your home, looking for updated decor ideas,
or setting up some “must haves” for a dream home,

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