When it comes to looking at a home for the first time there are a lot of things to consider. Sometimes you need to think about what is missing as much as what is there. This is not the same as the things you should look for when you are buying a house, these things to look for when viewing a home are what you should be considering before you take a deeper look and decide if it’s worth adding to your shortlist and ultimately buying.
The whole purpose of the viewing a home for the first time is deciding whether or not it’s for you. If you find any deal breakers on the first walk through just walk away. When you look at a home you are looking for reasons to say “No”. If you are using a good real estate agent make sure they know that this is your approach.
By doing this you eliminate a lot of houses, and find that you the ones that you do like are truly worth pursuing. Here is what to look for when viewing a house:
1) Room Shape and Size
First and foremost of what to look for when viewing a house is the size and shape of the rooms. This is something that may be labeled on the listing, but it’s important for you to check the dimensions for accuracy.
Walk into every room and think about how certain furniture might fit or be laid out in a room. Remember that times have changed and what may fit in a room when it was built may no longer be the case. So exercise caution.
Bring a tape measure with you and have your furniture dimensions on your phone so you know if things will fit (remember a bedroom just needs to fit a single mattress, not a queen or king). If you need some rough dimensions of furniture here are some of the main furniture sizes. See a full list of rooms in a house here.
Average Furniture Sizes
- Couch – 7’x3’
- Love seat – 5’x3’
- Recliner – 3’x3’
- End Table – 2’x2′
- Twin bed: 39” x 75”
- Full (double) bed: 54”x 75”
- Queen bed: 60” x 80”
- King bed: 76” x 80”
- Average 6 drawer dresser: 60”w x 20”d x 30”h
- Average armoire: 60”w x 17”d x 60”h
- Night stand: 20”w x 20”d
One of the next things to check when viewing a house is the laundry area. Laundry is a commonly overlooked aspect of a home. With all the other important things to look at, don’t forget to check if there’s a laundry hookup in the home and where its located.
If there is a washer and dryer in the home, you might want to consider trying to have them included in your offer if you don’t have your own. If you do plan on including them in your offer, do a quick inspection when you view the house.
This is another thing to check when viewing a house that may or my not be on your initial search criteria. Even if it is, it’s a good idea to confirm. Two car parking can be open to interpretation and very dependent on the size of cars.
Just like the rooms where you’re looking to fit your furniture, make sure your cars will be able to fit in the parking area, and be able to get out of the car easily, we’ve seen some garages where it’s so tight you have to breathe in before getting in and out of the car.
Sometimes what to look for when viewing a house isn’t so much what’s there but what is missing. Lighting is one of these things.
Keep an eye out for this one as a big issue in what to look for in a house. Pay attention to what time of day you’re viewing a home. Sometimes you view a home midday in the sunlight and don’t realize that certain rooms may have little to no light fixtures!
It was common 30 years ago for custom homes to be built without a light fixture in the center of a room and only have plugs for lamps. Sometimes the plugs would be connected to a switch on the wall so you could turn the lamps on and off when you enter or leave a room.
5) Staging Tricks (Watch out for these tricks)
Staging can take a cramped house and make it look like the Taj Mahal. Things like changing out furniture to make rooms look bigger, not having a TV in the living room, so that furniture doesn’t have to be centered around it, and generally taking out many of the things you might have in a house, are just a few of the tricks.
We saw one house that was missing so many things when it was staged, it was barely livable. The kitchen table they put in barely fit 2 people. Which made the small kitchen look big.
Smaller beds made the rooms look more spacious. Remember, it’s pretty common to remove the bulk of the furniture, so the home looks like it’s biggest and best.
The key thing to remember is to look at each room and think about the things that YOU would likely have in them and make sure it will suit your needs.
Ask yourself in each room, “Ok where would my TV/Sofa/Bed/Table go?” Go through the motions of what your day would look like, when you take a shower is there a place close by to grab a towel? When you get up is the sun hitting your face because they have removed all the curtains?
There are a million little tricks that can be used to make the house more appealing. Take your time going through each room and make sure that you get a good idea of what it would be like to live in it. You’ll be happy you do.
By the time of the second viewing (you should never buy a house on the first viewing), you will be looking for more granular items and become much more comfortable on whether you should make an offer or not.
6) Make a List of Anything That May Need Upgrading in the Next 5 Years
This list is meant to be used on the initial viewing of a home and may weed out some properties before putting in an offer and getting a home inspection. Often, people only look at what needs to be fixed immediately, instead of looking down the road a bit.
The first couple years in a home are always expensive and money is often tight during this time. It’s important to be aware of any upcoming costs, so you can either prepare for them, or take them into consideration when making your offer.
7) Window Sizes
Most people take notice of the windows when viewing a home. However, depending on what time of day you’re viewing a home you may not be able to tell how much natural light you’re getting (i.e. viewing at night.)
If a home is meeting all your criteria and you’re interested in purchasing it, try to view it once in the later evening and once during the day.
The other thing to pay attention to with windows is to make sure all the bedrooms have large enough openings to escape in case of fire. This is a requirement of any bedroom by law and most homes are built this way, but sometimes renovations are done to add an extra bedroom in a home and the windows aren’t to code.
8) Check Out the Neighborhood
If you’re already going to view the property in the late evening after dark, take this time to look around the neighborhood. Many places are very different in the daylight, we’ve all seen these neighborhoods. It’s better to find out now if this is somewhere you don’t want to be after the street lights go on.
9) Check out the new renovations
It’s common for a home owner to fix up a place before selling it. They want to make sure they get good value for their property and leading up to the sale of the house they will do different types of upgrades and renovations.
What you should be on the look for is upgrades that may be covering up issues. If there is a basement and there is fresh drywall on the outer walls it could mean that they are covering up foundation cracks. This could be one of the biggest things to look for when viewing a house.
10) Watch out for moisture
It’s a good idea to see if there are moisture issues in the home. One place we saw our glasses fogged up immediately when walking in. That meant there was a ton of moisture in the house and it wasn’t being ventilated. We then went through and saw a lot of mold and mildew in places and promptly left.
Another good place to check for moisture and signs of water damage is in the joists. When water leaks down it leaves a stain and it is very obvious when you look at it. Inspect the ceiling for any moisture damage as you enter each room and notice the pipes to see what shape they are in. We tend to not look up so it’s a good idea to look around for this type of thing.
First Time Millennial Homeowner Story
When we bought our first place, we were awaken by a firetruck in the middle of the night. Turns out we were a block away from the firehall. We were also closer to a few schools and had the buzzer bells going off through the day. It wasn’t a big deal for us, but if I worked an evening shift, those sirens would definitely have kept me up.
Even though I had lived in the area my whole life, I had completely overlooked what types of noises, people and places were around our new home.
Eventually, we got used to the sound and slept right through, but the first six months were rough!
11) Trust your gut
This one could really be number 1. If you have a gut feeling about the house when you walk in, especially a bad one you will want to make sure you are paying attention.
There have been many houses we’ve seen over the years where we look at each other and both know we can leave right away. Sometimes it’s a feeling other times it’s something the buyer has on the wall or the look of a room.
Whatever the reason for the feeling it’s a good idea to honor it and trust your gut.
You’ve Seen the 10 Things to Look for When Viewing a House… Now What?
At this point, if you have gone through the house and seen everything and you still like it, a second viewing will be needed. Go home and think about the house and what it would be like if you bought it.
Visualize yourself living in it. I like to go through my day in the current place I’m living and think “Where would this be in the new place?” Then I make notes on what to look for when I go back and do a more thorough inspection.
When you have done that you are ready for the things to look for when buying a house. It’s more thorough but you will be happy you did this.
Once you have done that for a day or two, go back and see the place with fresh eyes. Happy house hunting!