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Buying A Home: Take A Second Look

Aug 18, 2007
When you're shopping for a house, it's easy to be so enthralled by a huge fireplace, a well-placed skylight or a sunny kitchen, that you are blinded to all of the house's flaws. And as any new homeowner knows, every house does have flaws.

The best way to avoid making a serious mistake is to walk through the house twice before forming a firm opinion. The first time, take a look at the layout and the general feeling the house evokes. The second time, pay more attention to the details.

Here's a list of items that are often overlooked by novice homebuyers. Take the time to note each of them on your second walk through the house. While most of these items are mundane and none of them are glamorous, they have a lot to do with your ultimate satisfaction if you buy the house.

Traffic Flow
Is the dining room next to the kitchen? Is the laundry room too far from the bedrooms and bathrooms, where most dirty laundry is generated? Are doors, halls and passages big enough, and in logical places? Do you prefer a kitchen with an exterior entrance? Do you need a mud room? Try to imagine your family flowing through the rooms during a normal day - is there enough room, or are they tripping over each other?

Are the bedrooms grouped close together? If you have young children, this may be an advantage. However, they won't always be small. For older children and teens, having bedrooms that are widely spaced is ideal.

Fire Hydrants & Fire Stations
Is there a fire hydrant nearby? Fire hydrants within 600 feet and fire stations within 3 miles usually mean lower insurance costs.

Utilities
Is the stove gas or electric? What's the capacity of the hot water heater? Is there central air conditioning? How old are the furnace and air conditioner?

What type of fuel does the heater use? Depending on the part of the country where you live, gas may be cheaper than electricity. Most sellers will tell you their average monthly utility costs. Just keep in mind that if you're addicted to air conditioning, or have a huge family, as the saying goes, "your mileage may vary."

Lot Size
Is the lot huge? This may initially seem like an advantage - after all, you want more property, right? Well, not necessarily. If you're an avid gardener, the larger lot size might be perfect for you. On the other hand, maybe you prefer to spend your weekends standing beside a trout stream, or sitting in a darkened movie theater. If you'd rather play golf than manicure your own swath of greens, skip the huge lot.
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