From Floor Plans to Windows, 5 Overlooked Things to Look For When Buying A New Home

In all my years in the housing industry, it’s been my experience that most new home buyers don’t know what to look for when purchasing their home. It’s my hope that this article can show new home buyers what to look for when buying and not fall too quickly in love with a home because of some of the “cute features.” I don’t mean that derogatory in any way, but you see, finding a good home is like finding a good spouse—you have to look. There are literally billions of attractive people, but once you look a little deeper, you might find that that attractive person just inwardly isn’t the right match for you, and some, are downright nasty.

It’s my hope to help you avoid those downright nasty ones that on the surface look nice as well as also avoiding those ones that just aren’t “quite the right fit.”

1. The Floor Plan

Alright, this is a pretty obvious one, but one that I’m surprised of again and again that a lot of “new” home buyers just don’t seem to think about too deeply. Take a look at this home: (insert attractive looking outside). This is a gorgeous home on the outside with a lot of potential on the inside. But would it help you to know that most of your time is going to be spent in both your kitchen and your bedroom? We all have good intentions to do other things, but when reality comes knocking, most people spend their time in the kitchen and the bedroom. So how is your kitchen laid out? Are you able to see your family or living room from the kitchen? Where is the oven located? Is it located where you can see the goings-on of your family and guests? Or does it constantly make you keep your back turned? Why is this important anyway? If it’s not readily apparent, imagine trying to have a conversation with your back turned the entire time.

Now think about your bedroom. Around half of couples now shower together. Is your shower suited for the two of you showering together? Does your shower border a child’s bedroom? Or even does your shower border your dining room? Talk about awkward when you have family staying over and the two of you are being “loud” in your shower while your mom’s eating breakfast. But, it’s one of those things that a lot of new home buyers don’t think about.

Having the right floor plan can be a wonderful way to fall in love—true love—with your home.

2. Plumbing

Have you ever tried listening to someone who’s tipped the bottle back way too much try and sing? They might have pipes—but those pipes aren’t nice. In the same vein, how old are your pipes? When were the toilets updated? Now, if you or your partner is handy (or better yet a plumber!), this probably isn’t going to be very important (there are a lot of plumbers after all), but the vast majority of us aren’t plumbers. Have you ever heard a toilet banshee?

Don’t make your house sound like your friendly neighborhood “Rapes ‘R Us Hotel.”

I grew up in the construction industry, and something that you pretty much need to do, but almost no one does, is clean out their drains at least once a year. Sometimes, just checking the pipes is a good indicator of how your plumbing is going to hold up.

Furthermore, checking your water valves through the home is another huge thing people overlook. Turning your valves on and off a few times a year keeps them young and spry.

Do yourself a favor next time you look at a new home. Go in the utility room, and look at the water valves. Are they easy to turn? Are they corroded?

Why is this important? At some point, you’re going to need a plumber. Simply being prepared now and knowing what you have—and how to prevent damage—can literally save you thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars later on down the road.

3. Electrical

Most people don’t look at the outlets. Why should they? I mean, you get several per room, cord length is no longer means anything like it did back in the seventies.

There are dozens of outlets in a house and chances are, they don’t hold a cord with a darn. At $1.87 a pop, it’s not an overly expensive fix if you know how to do it yourself. But here’s the truth of the matter—most people don’t know how, and even those that do, probably won’t get around to fixing all of the outlets in a home.

But here’s the thing—they’re not just annoying. When outlets get old and stop holding cords, they’re much easier to break. I’m speaking from experience here.

So not only is it like a super annoying habit that your significant other has (like drinking too much?) it can also become dangerous.

4. Insulation

This one I’m surprised at over and over again.

Nowadays with new construction, you don’t have to worry (usually!) about your home being insulated. If you have a panel system framing your home, for example, you’re golden. But what about that adorable Southern Bell country home? A lot of them weren’t insulated or insulated very well. So you’ll have super hot summers and winters that are more expensive than your monthly mortgage payment.

Everyone asks about the cost of heating.

Just about everyone lies.

And everyone’s different.

A much smarter question to ask is about your potential home’s insulation. If you know that your home needs insulating (a surprising number of homes, especially back East, aren’t insulated), you can set that up to your advantage because you’re prepared. If it’s your first home, not only could you get the first time home buyer’s tax credit, but you can also get another credit for making your home more energy efficient. Talk to your accountant.

5. Windows

A window’s not just a window. It’s a piece of art.

I remember when I was living in Germany, my bathroom had a window right in the shower that overlooked a busy street. City streets over there aren’t typically super wide. So it was either show off the goods, or wait until the window fogged up enough so I could shower with a bit of decency. Why not just a shower curtain? For several reasons, it just wasn’t an option.

Now, that type of shower window’s going to be pretty obvious, but what about your less-obvious windows? Do you have windows looking directly over into your neighbor’s house? Creepy. Do your bedroom windows allow your drive-by neighbors to look in? Creepy and annoying, because you’re not going to want the blinds or drapes drawn 24/7. These are serious considerations that on the surface, people don’t think about, but are causes of major annoyances and potential heartache with your significant other—home.

Furthermore, what about drafts by your windows. You don’t need to have triple-paned windows (although they’re awesome!), but how were your windows installed? If you can, spend a little time examining around your windows and feel for drafts. If you have drafts, which are annoying and inefficient and costly, you’ll also have more bugs, which is a great way to impress your friends.

If you can, see even about looking behind the trim.  If you don’t know how to without damaging things, don’t bother, but if you can, take a look and see how the window was framed in. You might be pleasantly surprised. And it just might save you from having to make a call to your local bug hitman.