When you work in the new construction and remodeling business for as long as we have, you come across quite a few “problem homes.” We’ve encountered cheap materials; poor construction; huge energy wastes due to leaky windows, lack of insulation, etc.; oddly configured spaces; poor lighting…the list goes on.
When you purchase a new home, there’s a lot to consider. You have to get your finances in order, research neighborhoods, negotiate with the seller, etc. In this post, we’ll focus on the home itself. Here are five tips for selecting the right home for you:
Not digging the orange paint? That’s an easy fix! Focus on the bigger picture. [Kitchen by JP&CO]
1. Understand what can be easily changed, and what cannot.
When considering the features of a home, realize that paint and wallpaper are easily replaceable, but your flooring, cabinets, HVAC system, and foundation are not. If you think it will be easy to add an addition to the back or rip up the linoleum flooring and replace it with hardwood, think again. These are major changes that will require plenty of time, money, and patience. Better to buy a house with lime green walls and a configuration you like, than a house with a designer paint job and a closed kitchen plan that you can’t stand.
2. Know your “decade range.”
1980s remodeled home [designed by JP&CO]
Homes built in a particular decade will typically have features that are true to that era, unless they’ve been completely updated. Homes built in the 1930s, for instance, will likely have nice woodwork details and built-in furnishings. Or homes built in the ’50s might have soffits in the kitchen. If you favor features from certain decades over others, that will help with your detective work while you’re hunting for the perfect home. We wrote a couple blog posts about homes throughout the decades–one on homes from the 1900s to the 1970s
, and one on homes from the 1980s to the present day
3. Always get a home inspection.
While this might seem like an obvious step, it’s a crucial one. The seller might assure you that the home is structurally sound, but it’s always better to be sure than to take a gamble. Find a home inspector that is trustworthy and who will go over the details of their inspection with you. And don’t be afraid to say NO after the inspection. If something is seriously wrong with the foundation or structure of the home, either tell the seller you’re not interested, or ask for a major discount in the price.
4. Ask for a copy of the utility bills.
Utility bills are like road maps that allow you to gauge the energy efficiency of a home. Fluctuations in bills from season to season will let you know if the home is losing heat in the winter or if it requires constant A.C. in the summer. Be wary of bills that are generally high year-round. That likely means the home is not well-sealed or lacks quality insulation.
Leaky windows can drain energy and money
5. Check to see if there are any open permits associated with the home.
When a homeowner remodels or makes a major change to a house, they are issued a permit by the city. It is up to the homeowner and an inspector to close the permit (upon final inspection) when the project is complete. For a number of reasons, a permit may never be closed. This can add seriously delay or confusion when you’re closing on a home, not to mention, as the new owner, you will be liable for any open permits associated with your home. Here’s an interesting article by the Washington Post
on open permits.
6. Think long-term.
Do you picture yourself living in the same house for five years? ten? thirty? Are you concerned with the resale value. Consider the neighborhood, the property itself, and the quality of the home. Is it built in a classic style that will stand the test of time? Or does it conform to the current fads? Are there good schools nearby? Parks? Other amenities?
Remodeled farmhouse-style home by JP&CO
7. Consider your checklist.
Make a checklist of all the essentials you (and your family) are looking for in a home. If a home doesn’t have everything on your list, ask yourself, “What would it cost to remodel to meet our needs?” If the answer exceeds your budget, then move on to the next house. Easier said than done, we realize! Home-buying can be an emotional process, but keep in mind that you want to be happy long-term, and that means sticking to your budget and finding something that suits all your needs.
Buying a home is a big decision and we hope that you’ll take your time and find exactly what you’ve been looking for. Good luck out there!
Samantha Grose is both Associate AIA and Allied ASID. She is the lead designer for Optima Homes and JP&CO. She takes a unique approach to design creating spaces that are casually sophisticated and timeless in design, where you and your family can live comfortably. She has worked extensively throughout the TWIN CITIES area having completed many new homes and large scale whole house remodels.
Samantha received her BS from the University of Minnesota majoring in both ARCHITECTURE and ART. She is deeply committed to a creative approach giving you highly functional spaces with an aesthetic appeal for everyday living.