There are several important steps that make up a home search and mortgage application process, and one of them that's often among the most exciting for buyers is touring homes for sale. At the same time, it's important -- especially for first-time buyers who haven't been through this process before -- to know what to look for during these tours.
At Integrity First Lending, we're proud to help clients move through this process comprehensively, from FHA loans that are ideal for first-time buyers through numerous other loan programs for our Utah clients -- plus several areas of expertise and assistance as you navigate the homebuying roadmap. When touring homes, what are some of the visual areas you should be keeping the closest eye on to give yourself the best possible information to work with? Here are several to consider.
One of the first areas an experienced realtor will advise you to look at when touring a prospective home for sale is the baseboards. If there's one thing you should learn about home sales, it's that paint is usually cheap -- and often used to cover up areas in need of repair.
A carpet or carpet pad may even be hiding termite damage under an area rug; if the seller has already invested in new flooring, they might not want to go to the expense of replacing it. It's also true that many buyers are drawn to homes with baseboards, so sellers may have already removed them -- or might be intending to.
So, don't just glance at baseboard areas when you're touring a home for sale -- take your time and really inspect these spaces. If paint is peeling off, for example -- or if you see water damage in one or more areas -- know that there may be a larger issue than the seller has disclosed. A home inspector can go into more detail on these and other potential problems later.
It's also advisable to pay close attention to the kitchen and bathrooms, as well as to the exterior and interior of homes for sale you're touring. These areas often include appliances and fixtures that either come with the house or were replaced within the last few years -- so if they look new and shiny, it very well may not mean anything other than that they were recently purchased.
However, if you're seeing signs of wear in these spaces, or if updates are needed -- that's a sure sign that the seller is willing to invest in their purchase. If possible (and if allowed), take the time to turn appliances on or open the cabinets to look inside. Even if there are no visible signs of wear, it's worthwhile to ask about appliance warranties -- sometimes sellers will have new appliances covered by certain warranty periods, but not disclose this information.
While most home sellers are savvy enough to clean the outsides of their cabinets, fewer remember to do the same for insides. So, it's a good idea to open and close these as you tour the house -- if any of them catch on your clothing or snag your skin, that's also a sign that there may be an issue with the hinges.
And if you can see visible signs of damage on the outside of cabinets, take a look at the wall behind them to see if there's any discoloration or swelling -- this might be an indication of water damage. Deeper vertical cracks may also signal potential foundation issues, which should be raised specifically with the home inspector if you decide to move forward with offering on the home.
While this isn't necessarily just a "visual" area, as it's one where you may have to actually turn on certain water fixtures to observe, it's an important one. The water pressure should be strong enough to take a shower without low-pressure issues -- and even if the seller has already replaced plumbing fixtures or repaired these areas, you'll still want to avoid buying a home that will need further work done within as little as six months of moving in.
If you suspect there is low water pressure, try turning on the kitchen and bathroom sinks as well; if low pressure is present at both, there's a problem that can likely be repaired by a plumber. Low water pressure in only one area may not necessarily mean anything -- however, it's best to have this checked out before making an offer on any home for sale.
Another vital area to inspect when you're walking through a home is the electrical panel -- especially if you see small amounts of rust or flaking around the panels. The issue here isn't necessarily the condition of the fuse box itself, but how it could impact your daily life.
If there are tripped breakers, for example, it's worth asking what may have caused them to trip in the first place -- and whether or not this is a problem that's been addressed. A seller may try to cover over tripped breakers with paint, but if the issue isn't yet resolved, there's no guarantee this won't happen again.
In addition, you should be checking to confirm that the seller has properly labeled each breaker -- and that they've turned off all of the breakers before you tour the home, so that no one gets injured when touring.
Finally, while you obviously won't be climbing up on the seller's roof to look at it, whatever visual inspection you can manage from the ground is worth it. Take a look at the roof from inside of the home, and see how clear or cloudy your view of the sky is -- that will give you an idea of what might be on top of the roof.
For more on the important areas to keep an eye on if you're touring homes for sale, or to learn about any of our mortgage rates or other important services to homebuyers in Utah, speak to the staff at Integrity First Lending today.