How to Figure out What to Look For When Buying a Home

Do you know what to look for when shopping for a home? Beyond the house is “cute,” the seller could have put lipstick on a pig. Let’s try to get you to be an educated buyer.

You need to be ready to buy quickly in this housing market, but that might mean waiving contingencies such as home inspections, which can feel scary. So I thought I would share with you a few essential tips so that you are ready to purchase when the time is right. 


Let’s start in the basement. Yes, I get it, it’s not exactly the most excellent part of the house, but it does tell an important story. 

The basement should have a staircase next to the structural beam and lally columns. This is the house’s main structure, and you should see this beam supported strongly in the lally columns with no rot or damage to the lally columns. Make sure this structural beam is not cut in any way. Verify no insect damage or rot on the floor joist or wood connection between the foundation wall and floor system. 

Water is lazy and will always go to the lowest point of the basement. So make sure that the basement doesn’t get wet. You’ll see signs on the wall or floor, or there will be a sump pump, so make sure that it is in good working condition. 

Plumbing – Take note of plumbing and ensure that all pipes are PVC. If they are iron, you need to change that out. Also, notice where the waste pipe leaves the house – typically in front, whether on public sewer or back, if on septic. Finally, it’s good to note that the plumbing looks to be in good working order with no mysterious leaks. 

Electrical – Also, take note of the electrical panel. Take a look inside, and ideally, there would be a 200 amp service with circuit breakers. 

Heating System – You’ll also want to look at the heating system. Make sure it has been serviced yearly and read the notes of those inspections (usually hanging off the unit itself). You can also call the company that services it to see if they will disclose any information on the system.

Water Heater – Make sure there are no leaks around the water heater and that it looks to be in good working order.

Lastly, (and this is super important) make sure that you can access all the foundation spaces and that it connects properly to the original foundation. For example, sometimes people will make additions but not put in proper foundation and insulation. A human body should access all spaces (think, plumber) and receive passive heat from the basement. If not, walk away from the house (quickly) or be prepared to rebuild this addition. 


I realize that the roof is also not a super exciting topic of conversation but as crucial as the basement is the roof. You want to make sure that the top is solid and has years left on acceptable. You also want to make sure that it is not leaking. You can see this by going up to the attic or looking at the ceilings on the 2nd floor. Typically, ceiling stains are not a good thing. 

The roof should be either in a ridge vent, soffit vent, or gable vent. Make sure there is one of those options. 


Take a nice slow walk around the house. Ensure that there is a drip edge or gravel within the distance of the roof overhang plus 6” and that no greenery is touching the house. Also, make sure that there are no holes in the foundation or siding for little critters to get in. Finally, evaluate the condition of the siding and make sure that it’s satisfactory for you.


Open a few critical windows like the kitchen and bedroom windows and ensure they are in good working order. Windows are crazy expensive (and are currently difficult to get), and new windows will not increase the value of your home; they just make it more enjoyable.


It might seem odd, but you should turn off all faucets and showers to ensure they are in good working order with solid pressure.


Check to see if you can find the date on the appliances. Most appliances have a sticker that gives the identification number right inside the door.  You can take a picture of it and then google for the specification information and product review. 

Long and short, no house is perfect. Most likely, you will need to do some sort of work to the house, but you want to be able to budget and be an informed buyer. And good luck!


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