House hunting? Look not just for what’s there, but for what is missing!

Steps need handrailIf you see a driveway, you may notice that it has cracks.  If you see an air conditioner condenser unit, you may spot some rust and register it as older. There are many items you come across when house hunting in Silicon Valley that you may find to be in good or poor condition.

A little tougher is to notice what’s not there at all.

A good Realtor who’s got plenty of experience will help you find the “hidden costs” in what’s missing in a property.  Many such items may appear in a property inspection report, but wouldn’t it be nice to learn about them while viewing the property, and not while slogging through hundreds of pages?

Backing up, then, ideally you’ll get up to speed by learning, or having your real estate agent, point out to you the un-obvious.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • If there are 3 steps or more, there should be a handrail
  • A water heater in a garage should be on a raised platform
  • If a bathroom or kitchen is remodeled, there should be outlets which are GFCI protected every few feet (telltale sign of remodeling without permits is the lack of outlets)
  • A chimney stack should have a spark arrestor and a rain cap
  • A pool should be fenced (the whole yard can be fenced)
  • Many homes staged to sell have had all window coverings removed.  This makes the living areas sunnier and more appealing, but it also means the new owner will spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to get curtains, blinds, shades, or other window coverings up for needed privacy.
  • If it is a very cold, frosty morning, the roof ought to also have frost! If that is missing, the heat from the home is escaping and warming up the roof to melt it – and insulation needs to be added or improved.

When you begin to house hunt, you will find that every home has some flaws and any home purchase will involve compromises.  Do work with a real estate sales person who can and will educate you every step of the way – there are nuances at every turn.  Some agents will not want to muddy the water by pointing out relatively small items that aren’t quite right.  But learning what they are upfront will help protect you from hidden costs later – so ask to be taught.