10 Questions You MUST Ask Before You Buy a Home!

Stop Thinking You Have an Ugly House!

Let’s take a step back from decorating and thrift stores for a second….and let’s talk HOME BUYING.

When you buy a house without asking yourself the right questions, you sometimes end up making costly mistakes. And isn’t the whole point of Thrift Diving to save money?? Definitely!

It’s been 4 years since we moved into this 4-BR single family house, and if I could have done it all over again, these items below are the questions I wish someone would have told me to ask before jumping in with 2 feet. Here, I’m sharing these tips with you in hopes of helping other people make better decisions about home buying!

So, for any of you that are home-shopping, or know someone that is buying a home, make sure you ask these 10 questions before you buy a home:

 

Keep Reading Below For More Explanation About Each of These Questions!

10 Questions You MUST Ask BEFORE Buying a House - Buying a house without asking the right questions can end up a costly problem. Download all 30 questions in a FREE checklist

 

1. Will the windows need to be replaced? 

Did you know that new windows can set you back upwards of $10,000…..$15,000, or more? I know: GASP! How often do you walk into a house and inspect the windows? Windows are boring. If anything, we swoon over the shape of them, the position of them, the scenery outside of them, but rarely do we consider the condition of the windows. But, have you ever had to deal with poor windows? Windows that don’t stay shut? Windows that are so drafty you’ve got to apply ugly plastic over them to keep the cold out? Old windows that have peeling, chipped paint (which may even have lead in them if the house was built before 1973)? Windows are costly and they’re one of the most costly home repairs and upgrades that you’ll ever pay for.

When we moved into this house, the last thing I was paying attention to was the windows. I was thinking about how pretty the house would look with my favorite colors of paint…and how much space we’d have. The last thing I needed to know was if the windows were drafty. We soon found out. And they all needed to be replaced. All 22 of them. Yes, 22. This is not the kind of expense you want to pay when you move into a house. Spend $14,000 on something worth while, like–a car–perhaps?? lol. Get a house with solid windows that will keep keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

 

2. What’s the position and quality of the trees around this house?

In a bad storm, can those trees fall on your new house? Do any of them look rotted? Do any of them need to be cut down? Do those trees block the sunrise? What about the sunset? When we bought this house, it was winter of 2010. There were no leaves on the trees. Who even notices bare trees in the winter? We sure didn’t. But let me tell you–when those leaves came….they sucked out all the sunlight, making our home feel like a cave.

 

UPDATE July 2015:

We had one of these trees removed at a cost of $1,250! This is what looked like BEFORE. Notice how dark it was, even on the sunniest day?

BEFORE

Tree removal in the backyard - Thrift Diving Blog

 

AFTER

With one tree gone, we now have sunlight! I’m slowly learning to not be so unhappy about our home :).

Tree removal - AFTER

 

TIP: Be cognizant of where trees are in relation to the house you want to buy. Consider the fact that if you want to remove a tree, the cost is usually anywhere from $400 – $1,500 or more to have the stump removed!

 

 

3. Do you see any signs of pests?

Could you imagine buying a house and finding–ICK!–roaches?? Thank God we didn’t have this problem! But you need to be vigilant about pests when you’re looking for a place. Look for mouse turds. Ask the sellers for more information about it. Look inside cabinets, and moist places where pests like to hide. Heck–pull the refrigerator or stove out, and make sure there’s nothing there! Thankfully, we didn’t see roaches, but we did find centipedes after moving in. And OH MY GOSH, we were slammed with an infestation of ANTS. Yikes! We had them in nearly every room of the house, and I was having nightmares about them! Thankfully, as the season went on, I was able to get rid of them. But the following year, I had to spring for a pest control plan. We pay about $40 a month now and haven’t had any major problem with ants. But it was still an expense we hadn’t planned on.

 

4.  Are there sidewalks in the neighborhood?

Maybe you were too excited about the awesome house, but somehow, you didn’t even realize that there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood. Oh–yeah, this happened to US! Because of this, our kids can’t just go outside and ride bikes or scooters; they might get hit by a car! If you’ve got kids, or nieces and nephews that come to visit, get a house with some sidewalks. Even if you have no children, for your own safety when walking or jogging, buy a home in a neighborhood where there are sidewalks. I find that older homes and neighborhoods tend to have no sidewalks.

Here’s a sample shot from another blog post to show you what our street looks like. No sidewalks mean danger for little ones, and even yourself!

How-to-Build-and-Paint-a-Custom-DIY-Mailbox2-768x1024

 

5. Is the house too out-dated?

No house is going to be perfectly upgraded, especially if it’s a steal in price. But maybe you’re mesmerized by the beauty of the bay window, or the lovely wood floors, or how nice the house could be after you’ve gotten your DIY hands on it. Sometimes a home’s potential is its selling feature, along with the price and the promise of its beauty. But you must take a hard look at how outdated the house really is. How much will it cost to upgrade your new home? How much time will be involved if you attempt some DIY projects yourself? Are you being realistic regarding what you can accomplish, in time and budget? If you have kids, consider if you’ll have enough time away from the kids to get these projects done. Otherwise, you may end up years later with rooms still donning the hideous wallpaper because there just isn’t enough time to get the house “done.”

It took a while for me to turn this old house around, but slowly I’ve been tackling each room as part of my 30-Day Room Makeover Challenge that I do as part of this blog every quarter. Here are some of the outdated rooms I have been able to complete, but there is still so much more to work on: Our outdated laundry room, with old wallpaper and peel-and-stick vinyl flooring:

My Laundry – BEFORE

Even cleaned up, it is still not the best!

It took 30 days, but I was able to turn it around! (Read more about my laundry room makeover).

AFTER!

1-thrift-diving-laundry-room-makeover   The same was true of my kids’ bathroom. It took nearly 4 years to finally get around to transforming this room, too! Removing wallpaper was the worse part, along with the totally outdated green toilet. I did the whole room myself!

My Kids’ Bathroom – BEFORE

budget-bathroom-makeovers-for-kids-BEFORE

AFTER!

Kids-Bathroom-Makeover-On-A-Budget

 

Completing makeovers like these, though, take time, especially if the whole house is outdated. Just remember this rule of thumb: each room will take about 30 days to transform if you focus on one room at a time. How many months will it take for you to totally transform your new home, in that case? Factor in more time depending on budget, children, etc. How much time are you willing to do it?

6. Does the house have any weird odors?

What do you smell when you walk into the house? If you smell funk, RUN! Run far away. Because, seriously, if the house is funky, it’s either a) mold/mildew (read: water problems), b) dirty people, or c) cooking smells that may take a long time to go away. Don’t just think that you can “air a home out” after settlement.  When you walk into a house you’d like to buy, it should smell….well….like NOTHING. There shouldn’t be any odors that try to make the house smell “good.” You should smell very little. Homes that leave an odor means that you will be dealing with the odor when you move in, or it may be covering up other smells you don’t even realize are there until you move in. Sometimes this can be a costly problem to clear up, depending on its cause. This is from experience! When we came to look at our house, it had a rank odor. It was horrible. I thought we would just air the home out. And although the smell dissipated after moving in, our house still has a slightly “old” smell, probably emanating from the basement. It’s slightly stronger in the spring and summer.

7. Does the ground slope AWAY from the house?

Does the house sit at the top or bottom of a hill? Where does the water flow around the house? Grading is probably one of the few things people check when they go house-hunting. Don’t make this mistake! Grading that is poor and allows rain and water to sit at the home’s foundation is a recipe for flooding and water damage. Grading isn’t cheap to fix. Expect to pay upwards of $2,500 to have a professional landscaper or grading professional to regrade the entire perimeter of your home. We regraded our entire perimeter because of water seeping into the basement, and yep–that’s what we paid–$2,290.  OUCH. But we couldn’t take the threat of flooding anymore, and it needed to be fixed immediately!

8. What do the cars in the neighborhood look like?

Okay, we’re boarding on something probably unethical, but it’s true. Take a look around you. If you see broken-down cars, expect to find a broken-down neighborhood.The cars don’t have to be BMWs and Audis. But look for late model cars that look well-cared for. The quality of the cars, more so than the brand, that people drive in the neighborhood, really can tell you about the quality of a neighborhood.

9. What are the neighbors like?

Imagine the horror of moving into a house and you end up hating your neighbors. YIKES! Go up and knock on the doors of the nearby neighbors and tell them you’re planning to make an offer on the house next door or across the street. See what they say. Are they nice? Are they gossiping about the other neighbors that are moving out? Do they seem SANE?? What does their yard look like? Be sure to talk to all the neighbors. Do they have something negative to say about certain neighbors? Choose your neighbors wisely!  

10. How much are the utilities for that house?

Granted, your usage will be different, depending on your family size and usage. But calling ahead to the utility companies (and even identifying WHICH utilities you will need to pay–gas or electric? both?) will give you a great starting point to use when creating your budget, to make sure you can afford the property and all the things that go into moving into a new or larger home. There are tons of expenses you don’t even realize up front that you’ll need to pay when you move into a new house, but if you can nail down the utilities, you’re one step closer to making a wise decision. NOTE: Some of these things your inspector will look for and note, but that’s AFTER you’ve already put an offer on a house. Why get to that point? Why not note these things beforehand so you’re not wasting money on an inspection for a house that you may end up not buying anyhow? Be wise. Look for the right things, from the beginning :).    

Click here to read PART 2 of this series. 

Next time you’re going to check out a house, take along this FREE download that has all 30 questions!

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10 questions to ask yourself

 

 

 

So do you have any other questions that you think are most important to ask before buying a home? Please leave a comment to let everyone know what else they need to know before buying a house! 🙂

 

 

 

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Hey there, I'm Serena, a 38-year-old working mom of 3 young boys who can't get enough DIY! If you actually made it to the bottom of this post to read this, it means you're really enjoy my blog. That means SO much. If I can inspire just one person through my passion and energy for DIY, then I'm fulfilling my life's purpose. Thanks for joining me, and I hope you'll subscribe so we can keep in touch! ~Serena

Comments (53)

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  1. Thomas says:

    Great informative post Serena. I would add that home buyers should look into what the average property taxes are in the area they are thinking about buying in. Property taxes can make up a large portion of the overall mortgage payment when escrowed. In some locations in the US neighboring counties property tax rates are much lower. In that case maybe it’s a good idea to consider looking for a home there as an option at least.

  2. Asking what they neighbors are like is a good idea. I wouldn’t want to move into a neighborhood where no one is friendly. I would like to live in one where I can make friends and have a good time. There is more to buying a home than the actual home itself, so make sure you choose a good location!

  3. Bob Lowe says:

    Thanks for the post. I appreciate that you talked about if the ground slopes away from the house. I agree that people often overlook the grading. My neighbor across the street has a house that pretty much sits in a hole. We had a really bad rain storm one year and the basement flooded. They ended up spending quite a bit of money getting it fixed.

    • Hey there, Bob! Yep, it’s not something that people look for when buying a house, but it matters! We paid a crapload of money to have our house re-graded. People need to know what they’re buying before they buy. Thanks for commenting!

  4. I work for a pest control company, and I can tell you that people always forget to hire a professional to make sure your prospective new home has termite infestations. It can often be hard to tell, due to their small nature. We recommend finding a free consulting meeting as this could save money in your wallet if you catch the problem early.

    Great read, just thought I would spill some wisdom on all of the potential home buyers reading this blog.

    Thanks, Flick

    • Great point, Flick! It’s definitely not something that we did (I would definitely do that next time). I think there’s a lot of value knowing what you’re getting into before you jump in with both feet, you know? Thanks for the tip!!

  5. Janice Farnsworth says:

    Run a check for sexual predators and offenders on your state’s database website. We found one house we were interested in but a predator lived 2 houses down.

    • Janice, what a GREAT TIP!!! So great that I will add that to the original post as a “bonus” tip so that people know that! Thanks for sharing! And I”m soooo glad you didn’t buy that house!!!

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