2 - What to Look for in a Home


Before you look at your first home for sale, it is important to know as closely as possible what attributes are best for you. Ask your agent as many questions as possible. The questions to the left are a good place to start.


· Which communities would you like to consider?

· Do you have any preference for school system?

· Would you like a home in a rural, wooded environment or defined neighborhood?

· What do you think you might like in home in terms of size and style?

· What features -- garage, deck, family room, etc -- might you like in a home?

· Finally, do you want a home ready-to-go with little work required or would you like more of a fixer-upper which you can get at a discount?

What to look for in buying a home...

Searching for just the right home can be very exciting. The home you ultimately choose to call home will play a major role in your life. A home can be an excellent investment, of course; but more importantly, it should fit the way you really live with spaces and features that appeal to everyone in the household. You may plan ahead for the number of bedrooms and bathrooms that you want. Or imagine preparing for dinner parties in a sun-filled kitchen. Although these things are important, there is more to a good home purchase than the rooms it contains.

      Bring your own notebook and pen for note-taking (use the “Comparison Chart” at the end of this section) and a flashlight for seeing enclosed areas. Be prepared to “snoop around” for a little. After all, you want to know as much as possible about the home you buy. Sellers understand that because their home is on the market, it will be looked over pretty thoroughly.

Following are just a few suggestions to consider. Note that some of the questions may not be fully answered until you have the home you want to buy inspected by a licensed inspector but it doesn’t hurt to take a close look at some of the physical aspects of a building when you are on your first viewing. Take some time to make a list and determine which additional priorities are important to you.

When visiting homes, what should you look for?


Survey the neighborhood during many different times of the day and days of the week. Are you comfortable with the noise, activity levels, traffic volume, etc.?

      If you have, or plan to have children, check with the local school board about the neighborhood schools. What is the student/teacher ratio? How are the test scores? How involved are the parents? What programs are available for students? What credentials and how much experience do teachers bring to the task?


· Is there enough room for you now and in the near future?

· Is the home’s floor plan right for you?

· Is there enough storage space?

· Will you have to replace the systems or appliances?

· Is the yard the size that you need?

· Are there enough bathrooms?

· Will your present furniture work in this home?

· Is the foundation of the home you are looking at sound? Is it well built?

· Are the existing appliances sound or will they need to be replaced?

· Are the home's major systems such as electricity, plumbing, heating/air, and roofing in good condition?

· Is the home energy efficient?

· How much major and/or cosmetic work will be required?

· What permits have been issued for new projects and/or construction in your new neighborhood?

· What will your back and forth to work time look like? If possible, do a trial run when most cars will be on the road

· Is there any known crime?

· Does the neighborhood provide sufficient recreational opportunities?

· Will you be moving into a home or joining a community?

· Will you be expected to pay homeowner association fees? Are you comfortable with any covenants set forth?

· Are the local food and dry-goods stores clean and well-stocked?

And, of course, enlist the help of a good real estate agent like myself, a reputable home inspector and a competent attorney.


Keys to Finding the Right Home

 Feel comfortable in working with me: Professional expertise is important – I began helping people find homes in the Amherst area in 1965; I have written several nationally-published books on the purchase and financing of real estate. I am always there to communicate with you. As my customers tell me, I am always straight with them.

 Clarify your expectations: Feel free to discuss what you expect me to do including any special requests you might have, such as providing information on all properties that may meet your needs immediately as they come on the market. Further, providing market information on comparable properties that have sold, or attending the home inspection if you are unable to be present, are also some of the many services I can do for you.

 Be open and as specific as you wish: As we visit homes, talk frankly about what you like and don't like. Comment freely on room size, floor plan and the overall condition of the house – that’s information can really use to help you find the right house. The more I know about your needs, the better I will be able to show you homes that meet those needs. As your agent I am obligated to keep our conversations confidential.

 Ignore the seller’s furnishings: Don't get distracted by bad décor or clutter. Just imagine the house with your furniture, think how you would live there.

 Don’t be afraid to say NO: In the end you can only choose one house in which to live. So you’ve got to say “no” to a lot of other houses until you find the right one that excites you. Therefore, saying no is not negative, it’s eliminating the also-rans to find the winner!

 Take advantage of my services: Ask me to let you know about properties that may meet your needs as soon as they come on the market. Even those that are about to be listed. And be prepared to drive by or visit on short notice.

 Stay connected: Waiting for the right house can take time, but what it does we need to make immediate contact. Let’s know how to contact each other. So let’s exchange as many numbers and addresses as we can. On my card is my office, fax, cell, and home telephone numbers as well as my e-mail address, the latter being an important way to send listing information and confirm appointment in the new millennium. Your address, home and business, telephone numbers and e-mail address will allow me to get information to you quickly.

More Thoughts

Preparing to buy

Make sure you know where your down payment funds will come from. If you need to sell stocks, or get the money from a relative, do it now. You'll be relieved not to have to worry about it when you need it.

      Write down a list of everything you could possibly want in your dream home. Then go back through your list and circle the things that you absolutely MUST have. These are the items that are most important to you. Keep this list with you when you are looking at homes, and use it as a guide to narrow down your search.


Setting a limit to what you should purchase

Before deciding on the price range of the home you’re going to buy, think about how much you want to pay out each month in mortgage payments. Try to save as large a down payment as possible. The mortgage payment will be composed of the mortgage payment, the property taxes (in most cases), and the mortgage insurance. The lender will set a maximum on how much you can borrow. Use the maximum as a starting point to deciding how much you’ll borrow. A “pre-qualification” or “pre-approval” by a lender will help you estimate your maximum mortgage amount).

      Lenders will be happy to "pre-qualify" you—give you a preliminary limit on the amount they would be willing to lend you. This pre-qualification is not a commitment on the lender’s part, but the maximum they provide you with is helpful to the buyer for planning purposes. Once you’ve set a price range for your new home, give it to the real estate agent during your first visits. Don’t be afraid to look at homes that are 15% to 20% over your price range. You will be able to negotiate the price down in many cases.

      You will want to save as much of the down payment as possible. The reasons for this are two-fold: first, lenders will not require you to pay for private mortgage insurance if you can come up with a 20% down payment; second, the sooner you pay off your mortgage, the better off you are financially.


How many homes should I plan to view and how should I make the final decision?

While exploring your needs and wants fully is a good idea for focusing your search and saving time, viewing a number of homes will help you become familiar with what you can expect to get for your money. When you find a home you really like, it's a good idea to go back and look at it at a different time of day. This will give you greater insight into what it will be like living in the home full time.


How many homes should I look at before I make an offer?
There is no set number of homes you should look at before deciding to make an offer. That’s why providing me as your agent with as many details as possible up front is so important. The perfect home may be waiting for you on your first visit. Even if it isn’t, the house hunting process will help you get a feeling for the homes in the community and narrow your choices to a few homes that are worth a second look.


Tell me what you liked as well as didn’t like
Tell me what you liked and didn’t like about each home you see. It’s very, very important to really get a feel for what you’re looking for in a home. Don’t be shy about talking about a home’s shortcomings. Was the home perfect except for the carpeting? Let me know that too! And, remember, everything you say to me is confidential, forever!


Sellers must disclose known defects
It is the ultimately the seller's obligation to disclose any known defects or other pertinent information about the property to an agent or a potential buyer. As your agent, I have an obligation to pass along any information I have regarding defects in the property, as well as other facts that may affect the value or salability of a home.


What is a “Seller’s Disclosure” statement?

What is a “Seller’s Disclosure” statement?

A seller’s disclosure statement is a four-page form in which the property seller completes and provides to the buyer, disclosing known defects and his or her experience with the property.

Prior to closing you will add your signature to this document, and in doing so, if it is found out later after the closing that anything is amiss, i.e. defects like the basement flooding, you may have a claim for redress.

Buyers – Home Search Comparison Chart

Make notes about the homes you visit on your home buying search. It will help you keep your observations and thoughts organized so you don’t get confused when you need to make a decision.









# Bedrooms

# Baths

Square Feet

# Garages

Family Room

Air Conditioning

Formal Dining Room


Lot Size



Floor Plan

Storage Space


Extras (specify)

Curb Appeal

Commute Time

Neighborhood Features





Quality of Schools










Cultural Activities

Overall Opinion