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Published: Sunday, 11/18/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

What to watch for when searching for a home

BANKRATE.COM
Agent Kimi George shows a new home for sale in The Village, Okla. Potential buyers are advised to picture their belongings in a house and imagine how the spaces will work for them. Agent Kimi George shows a new home for sale in The Village, Okla. Potential buyers are advised to picture their belongings in a house and imagine how the spaces will work for them.
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What's missing from your current home? Storage space? Decent parking? Privacy? Chances are you might not have noticed these missing features when you and your home were in the honeymoon phase. But sometime in the first few months, that deficiency became glaringly obvious.

When you tour a home, it's normal to get so caught up in the granite kitchen countertops that you might not notice there's insufficient square footage to butter your morning toast. And while that master bedroom looks stylish and neat, you don't realize that it's the size of a postage stamp.

Sometimes, there's a fix. You can downsize the bedroom furniture. You can install shelving or buy bookcases to add storage. And for privacy, you can put up curtains or a fence.

And sometimes you just have to learn to live with it. Or vow that next time around, you won't make the same mistake.

There's no such thing as too much storage. No one ever walked out of an open house thinking, “Nice place, but too many closets.” On the other hand, a good staging job can disguise that a home has precious little storage.

This is where it pays to use your X-ray eyes. Visually strip away the furniture in a for-sale home and place your furniture and belongings. Or simply measure -- both the rooms and the closets -- and compare it to what you have now, says Eric Tyson, author of “Home Buying for Dummies.”

Ditto for kitchen cupboards, pantries and counter space, says Michael Corbett, author of “Before You Buy.” Those countertops may look spacious until you get out all of your kitchen toys and discover there's not enough room, he says.

Test the commute before you commit. You're only 15 miles from work. How long is that in traffic time? That daily commute factor is “a really big one that a surprising number of people don't properly research before they commit to a house,” Mr. Tyson says. He advises trying the commute a few times, driving both ways, before you buy.

Some buyers shop for homes where “commute” doesn't automatically mean “car,” says Ron Phipps, immediate past president of the National Association of Realtors and principal broker with Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I.

“We're seeing a lot more urbanization and a lot more people moving toward public transportation links,” he says.

How well will you fit in with the neighborhood? One of the best ways to find out what's going on in the neighborhood is to chat up the neighbors, Mr. Corbett says. “You must find out if there are any existing neighborhood problems.”

From the minor issues (such as one neighbor's casual mechanic “shop") to the major (a string of crimes in the area), you want to know the concerns of the people who live there. “It's really about asking questions upfront,” Mr. Corbett says. Ask the seller, and do your own research, too.

Make sure you have enough power and water. Most people flip lights and faucets on and off when they tour a home just to make sure they get the expected result.

But that's hardly the test of whether the water pipes or electric wiring will meet your needs, Mr. Corbett says. You'll need to determine if the plumbing and wiring can accommodate your lifestyle.

With water, you can run a few things at one time and see how the home handles the pressure, he says.

As for the electrical systems, you might want to talk to your home inspector, he says. Just explain that there are X number of people in the family who may use electricity simultaneously and ask if it will hold up, Mr. Corbett says.

Don't forget a home for your car. It's a great home for you, but does it fit your car? Mr. Tyson remembers one home he owned came with street parking. It was great, but simple errands such as a trip to the market required a little more planning and a few extra steps. “In retrospect, we wouldn't have done it differently,” he says. “But you have to make sure you understand the ramifications of not having a garage in the city.”

How much do you love your neighbor? Privacy is a factor that some buyers overlook until it's too late. “If you're in the bathroom, are you staring into your neighbor's shower?” says Mr. Corbett. “You really have to be smart.”



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