House hunting. You’ve seen the television show, and now you’re ready to do it on your own. But there’s just one problem: you don’t know what to look for to make an informed buying decision. I feel your pain. That’s why I created this handy house hunting guide to help you zero in on the most important things you should check. Let’s discuss.

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Here’s What to Look For When House Hunting:

Check Water Pressure


Weak water pressure is the worst. There’s a special type of misery that washes over you once you realize that the shower in your new home is sub-par.

While you can adjust water pressure, low pressure may indicate a serious and costly problem. You may be dealing with something as dire as a leak somewhere in the line that’s weakening pressure. On the other hand, it could be debris or a mineral deposit build up.

Whatever the case, you want to look out for it ahead of time. Simply turn on and off faucets throughout the home, in the kitchen and bathrooms. Check for flow, as well as if the water comes out immediately with no delay.

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Check for Clear Water

While you’re checking water pressure, also pay attention to the color of the water. If you have a cup handy (you can also cup your hand), fill it with water to test the clarity. It should be clear with absolutely no murky business.

Check for Hot Water

Test the hot water faucet. Within a few seconds, the water should run warm. If not, you may be dealing with a faulty water heater. Water heaters can be expensive to replace, running in the hundreds of dollars.

Since we’re on the topic, be sure to ask how old the water heater is, and what condition it’s in. It’s a big thing that you never think about until you’re faced with screaming cold showers while you wait for the plumber to replace the water tank.

Check Electrical Switches

check-electrical-switchesCheck out the electrical switches and outlets in the home. Do they look new? Do they look unsafe? You can tell a lot about a home’s electrical wiring just by eyeballing the condition of the electrical faceplates. If they look old and grimy, you may be dealing with the same thing between the walls.

If you’re looking at an older home (say one that was built in the 1930s), look out for knob and tube wiring. While this type of wiring was great for the turn of the 20th century, it doesn’t stand the test of time one hundred years later. Knob and tube increases the risk of fire and, as a result, many insurance companies require a higher premium.

Replacing knob and tube ain’t cheap. According to Angie’s List, you can pay anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000 to rewire your new home.

Be sure to check for flickering lights or lights that don’t respond immediately to a flipped switch. It could indicate faulty wiring.

Check the Floorboards


Image Courtesy of Meme Center

Mouse holes in the floorboards are only funny in Tom and Jerry cartoons. In real life, you probably won’t find anything hilarious about rodent hijinks in your new home. Be on the lookout for any holes in the floorboard as they could be an easy entry point for all types of undesired guests.

Measure Kitchen Spaces for Appliances

Bring along your measuring tape and notebook. If the kitchen doesn’t come with appliances (many don’t), you should measure the space allotted for appliances such as the refrigerator, dishwasher, and stove. Your current appliances may not fit in the new kitchen and, if you buy the home, it will be an added expense to purchase new ones.

Check the Condition of the Floor

Whether it’s carpet, wood, or tile, you should inspect the floor to see if it’s in good shape. Are there any dips or bows in the flooring? Is the carpet stained, matted, or smelly? Does the wood floor need to be resurfaced or replaced? Is the tile chipped?

Remember, everything can be replaced, but it can be costly to replace the entire flooring in a home.

Watch Out for Fresh Paint

Fresh paint is not a bad thing. In fact, I recommend that any home seller paint their home before selling. However, if you see that one wall or, worse, one spot on a wall is freshly painted, it could be a cover up.

I hate to say it, but some people choose to cover up mold or water stains with paint instead of remedy the underlying problem.

Come with your eyes wide open for any potential cover ups.

Check the Windows

Do the windows open and close easily? If not, it could indicate a structural problem with the home. Are the windows screened into minimize bugs and other creepy crawlies from entering the home? What condition is the wood frame around the window? If you can peel at it easily with your fingers, the wood is rotten and needs to be replaced.

Windows make an impact on your home’s insulation. Poor windows can raise your cooling and heating bills by allowing air to leak out.

Check Doors

Along with checking the windows, pay attention to the doors too. Do they open easily? Crooked doors may point to structural problems. What condition is the door in? Is the paint chipped? Will you need to replace any or all of the doors in the home?

Check for Water Damage

Water damage is a big deal. It could indicate a past problem that has been corrected by the seller, or it could point to a potential headache lurking beneath the surface.

Fortunately, water damage can be easy to spot, if you know where to look. Look under the sinks in the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, and basement for any telltale signs of water damage. Look at the ceiling (especially under a second-floor bathroom) for any discolored rings. Also, check the walls for any stains that may be due to water damage.

Check the Ceilings

While you’re checking for water damage on the ceilings, also check for droopy or balloony ceilings. It’s usually the result of water damage, but it could also indicate a structural problem. It’s not a good sign.

Watch out for Insect Carcasses

When you come into a home, are there dead insects scattered on the floor? One or two ants may not be a problem to you unless they’re termites or carpenter ants. These type of ants can eat you out of house and home (literally). If you see termites, even the dead ones, you have a problem. Run, don’t walk, and don’t let them follow you home.

The same goes for powderpost beetles.

While you can get rid of termites, if they’re lying dead in the home that you’re touring, it may indicate that someone used a temporary solution to hide the truth (i.e. a bug spray).

Watch out for Mold

Mold can be detrimental to your health. Be very cautious if you spot mold. It could be an easy fix or it could be an expensive remediation.

The best places to catch mold are in the basement or the attic. You can also look at any wet-zone (under the kitchen sink or anywhere in the bathroom).

Turn off Music

Have you ever been to view a house and you can barely hear anything above the “ambiance” music playing in the background? There may be a reason for that. Ask if you can turn the music off so you can experience the home as you would in a more authentic setting.

Can you hear the neighborhood sounds from inside the home? Is the traffic from the road loud enough for you to hear in the back of the home? Will this noise bother you?

You may have a lower tolerance for noise. Be honest with your expectations of what is and isn’t exceptable.

Check the Roof


The roof is the last thing you want to replace. A roof should last around 20 years. If the home is older than 10 years, ask when (or if) the roof was last replaced. Also, do a visual inspection for any cracked or curled up roof tiles. You don’t want to see any sagging ridges or bowing in the roof.

Problems with your roof could lead to leaks, mold, and increased heating and cooling costs.

Check the Gutters

Are plants growing in the gutters? This could point to a lot of problems with the home because it means that the owner isn’t committed to maintenance.

Check the HVAC System

What’s the status of the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system? Does it need to be replaced?

Check the Neighborhood

Everyone wants to live in a great neighborhood. So,if you see a ton of “for sale” signs around the neighborhood, it may indicate a problem with the area. There may be an increase in crime or an environmental concern that has folks running for the hills. You don’t want to buy someone else’s problem.

If you have the opportunity, survey neighbors about the condition of the neighborhood.

Look for Pooling Water in the Yard

You always wanted a waterfront home, but this isn’t what you were looking for: pools of water in the front or back yards. Stagnant water could point to drainage issues inside of the home.

Here’s What to Ignore When House Hunting:

Paint Colors

Paint is one of the easiest problems to solve. It’s a $30 fix. Instead of hating on the paint color, look beyond it to the structure of the walls. Check for cracks, holes, or other problem indicators.

Popcorn Ceilings

Don’t let popcorn ceilings come between you and your dream home. Popcorn ceilings can be scraped off in one afternoon DIY, if you’re so inclined.


So, you always wanted hardwood? Don’t let carpet prevent you from buying a home. There may be a beautiful hardwood floor underneath it.

Outdated Fixtures

Brass hardware not your thing? Don’t worry– a quick trip to your local big box store can remedy ugly fixtures such as hardware, knobs, lights, faucets, and more.


Older homes can be elegant and amazing. Just because a home is old, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Don’t automatically rule out older homes, just keep your eyes peeled for any potential problem lurking behind the scenes.

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Final Thoughts

Buying a home can be a bit of an intimidating process, and it’s easy to feel like there’s way too much to look at. Use this list to pay attention to the important stuff and forget the rest, and you’re well on your way to finding your dream home!