Unexpected Things to Look for When You're Touring a House

You’re going to spend a whole lot of money on a home—but before you move in, you’re probably not going to spend very much time in it. Sure, you’ll take a tour of a home you’re interested in, but those usually only last a few minutes. If you live in the same town you’re buying in, you may get to see the house a couple more times before you close, such as during an inspection. But if you’re moving somewhere out of state, you might only have one shot to view it before you move forward with an offer. 

How on earth do you know if you’ll be able to live in a home for 30 years without spending so much as 30 minutes inside of it?

You know to look for the obvious things, like a dilapidated roof or crumbling interiors, but if a property is in good or new condition, you might overlook important aspects that impact a home’s long-term livability. Of course, many of the items on the list below can be fixed, so they’re not total deal-breakers. But checking out these unexpected aspects can help you make the most of a quick tour and boost your confidence that it’s the right home for you. 

See if It Has Cell Phone Service

If you’re seeking an off-the-grid property way out in the woods, it probably won’t bother you (or surprise you) that you might have spotty service. But some homes in populated areas—even cities—simply don’t allow for clear calls. Sometimes, the whole house might have great service except for one room. Maybe it’s the room you set aside for the home office. Maybe I’m speaking from personal experience (I am.) Ask for a few minutes during a tour to make a call—ideally one you’ve pre-planned so an accommodating pal knows to pick up and help you test things out. Walk through every room in the house and see if cell service changes and how so. Whether we like it or not, cell phones are a big part of modern life, and a home with poor service can make for a frustrating daily experience.

Why it’s not a Total Deal-Breaker:

If you love a house with spotty service, you may be able to make it work for your needs. Products like weBoost help improve call quality, reduce dropped calls, and speed up download times in homes with slow or patchy service.

Check Out the Water Pressure

You’re probably going to be living in your house for a long time. Let’s say you stay for 30 years, the length of a traditional mortgage. Let’s say you take a shower once a day. That’s 10,950 times you could feel incredibly relaxed with a hot, steady stream of water washing away the day—or 10,950 times you could be complaining about lackluster water pressure. Turn on the showers and sinks to gauge the pressure, testing things out with the back of your hand or the inside of your lower arm. If the house hasn’t been lived in and the water isn’t turned on, keep reading to see why even if water pressure is low, it isn’t necessarily permanent.

Why it’s not a Total Deal-Breaker:

Often, low water pressure is caused by clogged pipes. A plumber can help boost pressure, as can a whole-house water pressure booster, which costs about $1,000. What’s more, your city’s local water department may have the ability to help by checking area pressure and determining if it’s too low. This article offers a comprehensive glimpse at how to adjust your water pressure.

Sit on All the Toilet Seats

This isn’t toilet humor—it’s toilet practicality! Toilets come in different heights, and it’s definitely a place you’ll want to feel comfortable. For older homebuyers with arthritis or other conditions, a low toilet height can be a challenge. For younger buyers planning to be in the house for years to come, it’s worth considering too. Small bathrooms can also present a challenge for tall buyers. Often, smaller or lower toilets are found in older homes or a new construction that uses builder grade options. 

Why it’s not a Total Deal-Breaker:

In some homes, only the guest bathrooms or children’s bathrooms have lower toilets or very small bathrooms, but the main bathrooms are fine. Moreover, you can always plan for a bathroom renovation. 

Make sure to check the condition of the swimming pool

Have a Plan for Other Items Not Covered in an Inspection

A home inspector probably isn’t going to check out cell phone service or sit on all the toilet seats for you. But there are other things he or she won’t do either. That’s why it’s important to know what’s covered during inspection and what’s not. A home inspection typically happens after you make an offer but before that offer is binding, a period known as “in escrow” or “due diligence.” The following items aren’t included in a general home inspection. If any of them are deal-breakers for you or your family, consider scheduling additional, dedicated inspections for professional insight:

  • Swimming pools: The condition of a swimming pool might not be obvious based on sight alone. If a potential property has a pool that you’re planning on keeping and enjoying, a professional inspection is prudent.
  • Mold: Not all mold is visible—it can lurk inside walls and cause health problems for occupants. In particular, people with severe allergies may want to plan to have a dedicated mold inspection.
  • Lead paint: If a house is built after 1978, you won’t need to worry about lead paint. But for older homes, buyers are federally required to remove any lead paint. Checking for it in advance will allow for you to plan and budget to remedy any lead paint while also creating a safer environment.
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