Shopping For A New Home

By Don Lambert & Iris Cortes • Elkhart Housing Partnership

Before you begin shopping for a new home, you need to assess the current and future needs of you and your family. Experts suggest that the average buyer looks at 15 houses before they decide on the right one. Having a priority checklist available can help you remember important details about each home so that you can narrow the field.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s Keys to Homeownership is an excellent resource for homebuyers that suggests you consider the following items when searching for a home:

Location ­ What is the neighborhood like? Do neighbors tend to take care of their property? Are there signs of private and public investment in the community? What about the school district and quality of education? What is the current and proposed zoning for this property? Is the property convenient to employment, shopping, transportation, churches and schools? How many homes are for sale in the area?

Physical Details ­ From outside the home, assess the size, age, structural condition and outside maintenance of the exterior. Also, look at the size of the lot and the landscaping. What is the size and number of bedrooms and bathrooms on each floor? Does the home have adequate storage space? Is there a finished basement and can it be converted into living space? Does the basement flood, or the roof leak? How functional is the kitchen?

Do you have the time and resources needed to make the necessary improvements?

Construction Details ­ Consider the age and condition of the home as well as the quality of construction. In homes built prior to 1978, look for signs of cracked and peeling paint on wall, door and window surfaces. This may pose a health risk from lead paint. How well insulated is the house? How energy efficient are the windows? What is the age and condition of the roof? Are the shingles old or damaged? Do the rain gutters appear to be in good working order? Are there visible signs of water damage on the interior or exterior of the home?

Major Systems ­ Are the plumbing, heating and cooling, and electrical systems all in good working order? What fuel is used to heat for heating and cooling, hot water and cooking? How energy efficient are the systems/appliances? What are the monthly utility costs? Your Realtor should be able to provide this information from the MLS listing.

Financing ­ The MLS listing often shows the seller’s asking price and mortgage balance, the seller’s monthly payment and whether the mortgage is assumable. Is the seller willing to provide downpayment and closing cost assistance to the buyer through a tax-free donation such as Ameridream and the Neamiah Foundation?

Remember to look critically at every house. Don’t be afraid to ask your realtor and the owner lots of questions. The more you know about the property and neighborhood, the greater your chances of writing a successful purchase offer. Better to discover a problem now than days or weeks after the move in.

Elkhart Housing Partnership offers assistance to homebuyers in Elkhart County. Call Iris Cortes at (574) 524-7030 for more information.