House Hunting? Things I Never Thought to Look For

It seems like a lot of people I know are looking to purchase their first home, which I think is one of the most exciting milestones in life.  A place to call and make your own!  And anyone who knows me, knows that if you ask my opinion about something you’d better be prepared to take a seat for the answer.  So when I was talking to a new-homeowner friend of mine the other day and she asked, “When you moved in, did you notice all these things you hadn’t noticed before?” I was like, girl, pull up a chair.  Boy did we notice things!  And as she and I sat there talking, I realized this isn’t the first time I’ve had this conversation, and I’m sure won’t be the last. So I invite you to pull up a chair and hear what I have to say about little things to look for when you buy a house. And I promise not to talk about paint color, entertaining, or closet space and where his clothes are going to fit because I want to punch everyone on House Hunters that talks about that stuff–so I’ll spare ya’!

I think we get SO excited that we finally get to purchase a home that some of us tend to be a little cursory when it comes to looking into the minor details.  Now, let me say, I’m not talking any Holmes Inspection problems here–that show makes me sick to my stomach for those poor people, and these things probably wouldn’t even have necessarily been deal-breakers for us.  BUT…knowing about many of them pre-move in would have given us a good idea of challenges we would face, things we were going to have to live with, and just how much we were going to need to budget for changes.

1.  Open The Windows:
As much as I’d love to say that the problems with our windows were due to the age of a charming old house, we didn’t buy a charming old house because anything in our price range would need A LOT of work that we didn’t have the money for now, so we bought a five-year-old house (now 10 years old) in a, I have to admit, sort of cookie cutter neighborhood and that means: builder’s grade, builder’s grade, builder’s grade everything!  Builder’s grade translates to cheapest s**t available for those of you who don’t know. So, builder’s grade in mind, a few weeks after we moved in, I went to open the windows in my family room to let some air circulate through the house.  The windows don’t open!  Not like, they’re painted or stuck shut like a charming old house, that I could have rectified, like they’re one pane of glass that was never meant to open.  So, I moved onto the bay windows in my kitchen, which are also on the back of the house.  They don’t open either!   So of all of these windows you see below, the sliding door (which eventually I’d like to switch out to french doors) is the only thing that opens. In all of the times we looked at the house before we bought it, I never noticed that they didn’t open.

Please note that these are older pictures.  My house no longer looks like 100 gallons of mint chocolate chip ice cream exploded on the walls.  And my couch is almost done!!

This wouldn’t have been a deal-breaker, but windows that open would be nice in a house that heats to 80 degrees in the dead of winter from the sun shining through those windows, and just on breezy spring days.  Changing out a few of the windows may have been something I would have liked to factor into an “upgrades” budget had I know about this little issue before I moved in.

2.  Remember I said Builder’s Grade?
EVERYTHING is not an overstatement.  The people who lived here before us didn’t opt for any upgrades. Not on cabinets, countertops, floors, knobs, fixtures–nothing.  Okay, they did do one–having the trim and doors painted white, and a big thank you to them for that, because we spent our first three days in the house doing this…

…(my arms and neck have never been so sore) apparently the ceilings were a separate upgrade.  Maybe it was on purpose, but I’m a white ceiling person, I just am.  You won’t find me doing same as the wall color or crazy colored ceilings.  But back to the builder’s grade, again, not a deal breaker and easily changeable, but when you’re looking at updating all of that, it can get expensive and it’s something I would liked to have budgeted up front or at least some of it.

To date, five years after we’ve moved in, we’ve replaced two, count ‘em two, of these roughly 20+ boob light fixtures…

Again, please ignore the decor choices, I’m cringing as I go through these pictures!  But I’m also crying a little over this couch I got rid of–two what was I thinking moments!

…none of the roughly 15 ugly silver door knobs and none of the faucets (which are now in a pretty sad state) or ugly vanity bar lights.

3.  Water Heater Capacity
So this is a weird one, but I can’t imagine I’m the only one with this problem.  I’m a bath person, like every night so when we saw that the house had a huge soaking tub it was a BIG selling point.  Another selling point was that the master shower had two shower heads, a major plus when I like my showers just below boiling and the Mr. likes his just a touch above freezing.  So…first night I get in my tub, it filled up about 1/3 of the way and the hot water was gone.  I was pretty annoyed, but figured it’s a big tub and would take a big  water heater.  My annoyance heightened the next day when both shower heads, running at the same time, yielded about a five minute shower.  To this day, we’ve never used both shower heads at the same time again and won’t until we’re able to purchase a bigger water heater.  Major bummer.

So those are three sort of odd and random things that we found when we moved in.  Did you find any weird surprises when you bought your house?  I’d love to hear!


  1. says

    Also, it’s often that a lot of people forget to check the roof. It is important to ensure the roof’s structural integrity as it might be a little outdated, especially if you are eyeing to buy an older house. Don’t forget to ask the seller how old the roof is and its maintenance record. There are roofs that might require a little repair or a complete replacement, depending on its condition, during your first inspection.

  2. says

    Sometimes Jenn, it could be fruitful if you look at the past cosmetic imperfections and recognize the potential of the property. Of course, you may want to avoid properties that are in need of major repair, but who knows? It might be the one you’ve been looking for all along. No house is already perfect. It’s up to you to make it perfect. It’ll be tough, and maybe expensive, but once you’ve finished, you’ll realize that it was all worth it.

  3. Anonymous says

    I would look into an instant hot water heater. I put one in when I upgraded my master bath because I put in multiple heads and had the same issue, 2 minute shower. Not cool. However when we put in the instant we kept the tank. So it configures as such: main line into house, hot water tank, instant hot water heater, line to the rest of the house. This lets the tank maintain a lower temp all the time, lets me have all the hot water I want when I shower and a much shorter lag time in heating the water. It was well worth the extra investment!

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