HOW TO SPOT A GOOD BUY (PART 1)
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, particularly when it comes to buying a home. Features that attract one home-buyer may repel another.
However, the one feature of interest to every home-buyer is the price. Getting the most home for your money is paramount. The real problem is figuring out whether that fixer-upper on one street is a better buy than the home in next-to-new condition two blocks away. That’s why knowing what to look for before you buy can save you time, energy and money down the line.
The first step is figuring out what kind of house you need. A good buy is only a good buy if it meets your current and future living requirements. Before shopping for a home, decide how much space you and your family require. How many bedrooms, bathrooms? Is a family room necessary? Do you need a layout that will accommodate a lot of entertaining? Do you prefer a spacious or compact workspace in the kitchen? If you have small children, can the house easily be childproofed?
Evaluate the front and back yards. Is there enough space to accommodate your children? Do you want a park-like or garden setting? Do you enjoy yard work and gardening, or do you want a low-maintenance yard? Take into consideration the cost of extensive landscaping and upkeep.
Next, determine how much work is required to make the house you are considering livable. Make an honest assessment of your fix-it abilities. How much work are you willing to do or pay someone else to do? Do you have basic decorating, carpentry and plumbing skills? If you plan to learn as you go, make sure you have accurately determined what you are getting into. Ask an experienced friend, family member or your real estate agent for their opinion, and be sure to consider how much remodeling inconvenience the rest of the family can handle.
Unless you are ready and able to tackle a major remodel, look for a house or condominium that needs only cosmetic improvements. These include painting, wallpapering and replacing items like flooring, window treatments, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, light fixtures, cabinet and interior door hardware, and appliances. Remember that even these simple changes can be costly if you have to make many of them.
Beware of improvements that seem easy enough at first glance but may turn into major headaches and require a lot of money once you’ve moved in. Remodeled kitchens and bathrooms, changes to the floor plan, room additions and redesigned landscaping are examples of seemingly minor changes that can easily eat away the money you thought you saved by selecting a so-called “bargain priced” home. Of course, you may be perfectly willing to spend whatever money is needed to customize the house to match your tastes and needs.
Make sure major systems in the house are in good working condition. The furnace, air-conditioning, and plumbing should be up to date since repairs can be costly. Your agent can arrange to have a professional inspector determine whether the electrical wiring and any room additions are to code. Local utilities often offer free or low-cost inspections to tell you if the house is energy-efficient.