Notice the light and assess the windows– Have they been updated? If not, that’s an investment ahead.
Try to ignore the staging and/or personal belongings– You’re potentially buying the house, and not these distracting things. They can, and in the case of staging, are meant to elicit emotional reactions in you. Stay focused on the house.
Ask about the heat source– Different heating/cooling methods can drastically change your experience of the home in both functionality and in cost to you. For instance, if the source is “Electric”, that can be more expensive if it refers to baseboard, and much less expensive if it is a mini-split system. Oil heat has its own challenges, and gas furnaces may or may not be up to the task of heating a home today, especially if its been remodeled and additional SF has been added.
Pay attention to how SF is presented– If a home is 2000SF, and 1000 of that is unfinished basement space, you may want to assess ahead of time if that is a home you want to view.
Lot size & amenitites– You have general ideas of either wanting lots of space and/or privacy, or wanting to be in a friendly “neighborhood” environment with smaller lots closer together. Each home will be different.
Do you have pets? If so, check out fencing and whether it’s adequate. If not, that can be fixed, but its an investment.
Some large lots will be set back and have minimal yard space to enjoy with most of the area in the entrance, say, or perhaps a good percentage of the lot’s SF is on a hill.
Some homes will be high maintenance, ie, if a home has that “falling in love” factor, and it is because of the beautiful gardens surrounding it on all sides….remember that those gardens need care- Are you a gardener? Are you OK with paying someone to maintain those grounds? Just good questions to ask yourself.
Some smaller lots may be set closer to the street with ample backyard space.
You’ll want to note whether the home has covered areas outside which can add more living space for you in the rainy months.
Is the flooring to your liking? – If not that can be fixed, but its an investment. On the other hand, if a home has everything you want, the price is right, and you hate carpet, flooring can likely be changed for much less than you imagine, and often for much less than it will cost you to keep looking and pay for a different home that is priced higher than the actual cost of flooring because it is called “updated” or “remodeled” in the Listing. It’s fairly common to have a flooring contractor lined up to do the flooring work the day after Closing so that your move-in timeline is only slightly affected.
Hate the kitchen counters? See my advice on flooring above.
Keep things in perspective- While many homes will just not fit the bill, in this market, it pays to really assess what is important and what can be changed to your liking with a little investment on your part after Closing. For years now Buyers have not been in the mood to make any changes and have generally been looking for “move-in-ready”. Right now, we are at historic lows in inventory and have been for many months. If you find a home that meets most of your needs and/but could use a tweak here & there, my advice is: Go for it! Consider it an opportunity to make it your own.