Looking through home listings can be exciting, and while you might be tempted to scroll through the images and move on to the next listing, you should pay close attention to the attached descriptions.
In a world where you have access to a plethora of information for online listings, it’s important to know how to read between the lines and use all the digital tools available to you so you know which homes are worth calling your real estate agent to see.
When you come across the following language in a listing, you should take note and be sure to ask your agent to call the listing agent for clarification.
“Recently updated, new appliances and roof”
Most people want the newest home they can get for their budget. That’s why phrases like new appliances and recently updated kitchens are attractive. However, there is no regulation on these words, making it hard to gauge what recently updated means. For a part of the home like the roof, the lifespan is generally thirty years. Have your agent ask exactly when the updates were made. Most sellers are happy to provide the information.
Hyphenated adverbs like a walk-in pantry, walk-in closet, eat-in kitchen, and custom built-ins can also be ambiguous. A walk-in could mean a few steps in or a full-sized room worth of space. Be sure to get clarity on the description because if a walk-in closet is a must and the listing promises a walk-in, you don’t want to be disappointed with a smaller step-in closet during a tour.
Look for the following sections under a listing. You may need to scroll further than the description, but reviewing this information will help you narrow down if this listing is worth considering.
The square footage attached to the listing doesn’t always reflect the total possible livable area in the home. Oftentimes unfinished basements and attics are not included in the square footage, so consider the possibilities of the additional livable space if you finish those rooms. On the other hand, the square footage could include partially unfinished areas or screened-in sunrooms, so you’ll need to clarify how much square footage is fully finished and hooked into utility usage.
Not everything you see in the photos of the listing will be included if you purchase the home. Some homeowners take a few major appliances and custom pieces with them, so before you fall in love with any brand-new appliances, check the list of inclusions. Inclusions are often negotiable, but you need to alert your agent to anything you want to add to your wish list.
Tax assessed value and annual tax amount
The listing price doesn’t necessarily mean you will pay more in taxes—this depends on several factors. It’s possible to have a $100k and $200k home in different places with the same annual tax amount. Look at the tax assessed value, which is often different from the listing price, and ask your agent how the county assesses home taxes. It’s important to consider how taxes factor into your monthly budget.
Most homes require an electrical service of at least 100 amps, which is also the minimum panel amperage required by the National Electrical Code (NEC). Considering the size of the home, sometimes even 100 amps is too low if you’re running high-voltage appliances and advanced home systems. Upgrading your electricity is an extra cost to consider.
If the listing says that the home is part of an HOA, review the monthly HOA fees and determine if that added monthly or annual cost fits your budget. HOA fees rarely decrease, so you can expect to pay that amount or more while living there.
When a listing catches your eye, make sure you consult a few outside resources to give you the entire picture of the home and the area surrounding it.
Leaving your car at home to grab a coffee and go on a walk is a great luxury many buyers want to have. While online listings can say “businesses and shops just minutes away,” you should go a step further to consult the Walk score website, which shows all local businesses on a map and how long it takes to walk to them relative to the address. Additionally, you can gather more information on what is available for your errands.
Google Street View or Google Earth
Reading and hearing about a neighborhood is much different than seeing it. Save yourself time by looking on Google Street View or Google Earth to see a pov of the surrounding area. You can also see an aerial view of the property on Google Earth, helping you get to know the neighboring yards and property size from multiple angles.