Approximately 31 million people in the U.S. moved in 2019, or just less than 10% of Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a “moving boom” across the country, with many people opting to head to more rural areas instead of staying in big cities.
If you’re planning to make a move soon and join those millions of people, you’re probably already excited about going somewhere new. But, if you have a specific home in mind and you’re ready to make an offer, hit the “pause” button for a moment.
There are some things you should check before moving into your new home. Doing it now can save you a lot of time, money, and major headaches. Whether it’s your first time buying a house or you just haven’t had to move in several years, knowing what to look for and what you should be checking out will make a big difference.
Not sure where to start? Let’s cover a few of the basics so you can keep your eyes peeled for any red flags that might come up along the way.
Speaking of red flags, the first thing you should check out before moving into your new home is whether there are any potential hazards. Hiring a home inspector, talking to your realtor, or even speaking with a trusted friend who is familiar with home construction are all great ways to get professional opinions on the safety and value of a home. But, there are some things you can check out for yourself, too. When you’re moving into a new place, some of the common problems to check for include:
- Asbestos (in older homes)
- Lead-based paint
- Water quality
If the water quality in the home isn’t up to par, it could lead to problems like e.coli, hepatitis A, or norovirus. Make sure you know what the water quality is for the home and area, and either contact a plumber to upgrade your system or invest in a good filtration device.
It’s also important to note any potential risks the home could have, like water in the basement, a leaky roof, or old appliances. Checking on the foundation of the home is crucial, too, especially if it’s older construction or you live in an area that is prone to natural disasters. These are potential hazards that could not only cause you harm but a lot of money, too.
Understanding these red flags before you buy the home can make it easier to include the cost of repairs, renovations, and upgrades in the sale agreement. Even if things aren’t necessarily hazardous, old or inefficient items can cause problems in a very short period of time. The last thing you want is to sign on the dotted line only to find in a year that the house is littered with problems and dangers that need to be fixed.
The Feel of the Neighborhood
Remember that old song from Sesame Street that asked “who are the people in your neighborhood?” While the tune might be meant for children, learning about your neighborhood and the people in it is good advice for adults, too.
What you should look for in a neighborhood depends on your individual needs or wants. Do you have kids or want them in the future? Are you single and on your own for the first time? Do you have a four-legged friend who needs a place to walk and exercise? Those can all be factors that play into your neighborhood selection.
Maybe you’re looking at a new construction home in a development. Don’t be afraid to ask the developers about their plans for the community.
If you’re looking at an established home for sale in a close-knit neighborhood, consider things like:
- Crime statistics
- School districts
- Closest stores
- Nearby parks
- Your commute to work
Get to know the people in the area, too. Most people purchase a house intending to stay there for many years. It’s never a bad idea to get along with your neighbors and community. Consider joining the local HOA board or other community groups that will fully immerse you in the surrounding area. Doing so will keep you “in the know” about any happenings or changes, and will give you a voice to offer your own opinion about such things.
The median age of homes in the U.S. is 37 years. That might not seem very old but think about everything that can happen to a structure in just a few years. On top of that, many people purposely seek out older homes for their charm and character. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but you must know a home’s history before signing your name on the line.
That can mean a few different things. First, you’ll want to know what’s been repaired in the past. When was the last time the roof was replaced? How old is the plumbing or wiring? Sometimes, things might seem okay, or they won’t give off any warning signs. But, everything wears out over time, and it’s good to know those things before committing.
A good home inspector should be able to give you that information if your realtor can’t. They can also warn you of any potential dangers that can’t be seen with the naked eye.
Second, if you’re purchasing an older home or one in a unique neighborhood, you might actually be interested in its background. Start by asking your realtor about the history of the house. If they can’t give much information (how many owners it’s had or how many upgrades it’s gone through), conduct a title search, or head to the local library to see if there is any information about the property. You might be surprised at what you can find.
While moving into a new home is exciting, don’t let that excitement overshadow your responsibilities. Take the time to check things out, make sure the home and area are safe, and that it’s a place you’ll truly love living in for years to come.