Buyer Be Aware: Things to Look for Before You Buy That House You Want

By Kerry Knight

Photo Credit: cmcsheriff.net
As we all know, the purchase of a home is probably the largest investment most people will make in their lifetime.  Stories abound of hapless homeowners who made a purchase too quickly before they checked out the details.  Let's take a look at some important areas where investigative research is vital.

Is the house in a quiet neighborhood?  Check out the area around the house you’re considering.  Is it near a busy street or intersection? Is it along a train route? Some train routes allow for as many as 10 trains in a single day.  That means traffic is snarled and the train horn will blare over and over again.  What about traffic flow?  I was once very much in love with a property that was walking distance to the beach.  The problem my wife and I discovered was that a major traffic intersection was only one block away from the house.  You could actually see the primary traffic light from the deck out back.  Car horns would blow, tires would screech, and it destroyed the tranquil perception of the property that I had initially envisioned.  There were also restaurants and bars all along the highway, which also added to the traffic problems.  

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Another major consideration, “Is my house in the flight path of an airport?”  When planes fly over your house in a low descent as they approach a runway, or a high-pitched, full-throttle ascent when taking off, the high decibels can shake your house and rattle the dishes, not to mention your nerves.  In Jacksonville, Florida where Tub King is located, there is the Naval Air Station Jacksonville across the river from our office. Even though it’s 15 miles away, sometimes its jets and big propeller planes fly overhead and they can be quite loud.  Do some checking before you buy.  Is the house really located in a quiet community that it appears to be on the surface?

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Is there adequate drainage around the property?  Years ago, my wife and I decided to rent an oceanfront condo for a couple of years.  We were soon hooked with living on the seashore.  Coming home from work each day and being able to walk out on the balcony to a breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean was addicting.  Our regular morning walk on the beach while drinking our cup of java was something I’ll never forget.  We thought seriously about making an offer to purchase the property.  However, there were two huge problems with it:  First, the streets along the ocean drive had poor drainage.  During a rain storm ― and there are many in Florida, especially during the summer and early fall ― the streets would all flood.  I'm talking about a foot or more of water.  During hurricane season, there was no question about it: evacuation time.  The other issue was the dampness.  You might expect any property located next to the ocean to have some element of dampness.  However, this was problematic.  The bedroom overlooking the ocean had developed mold in the closets and along the baseboards.  The water inside the house and the neighborhood ruined the view and experience of the water outside.

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Is there adequate storage? Does the house you're looking at have an attic?  There should be stairs leading to an attic space, either in the garage or a hallway inside.  It’s normally a pull-down ladder to make the best use of space.  Check and make sure plywood has been placed over the ceiling joists.   If properly supported, you should be able to walk on it and find significant floor space to store household things.  Of course, another option would be a basement.  Make sure the basement stays dry year round before storing boxes and valuables that can be damaged by moisture.  If the property has a garage, there might be additional storage area there. Older homes had minimal closet space and hardly any walk-in closets. If that’s the case with the home you’re considering purchasing, make sure you can live with its limited storage space.

How old is the roof? By today's standards, roofing shingles should last you 15 to 20 years.  If you’re looking at a much older home, have it inspected.  If it’s a flat roof or with only a slight pitch, examine the material that covers it.  There are membranes today that are much better than the asphalt and gravel solutions of yesterday as these would typically leave ridges and spikes that could cause leaks.

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Make sure the previous owners didn’t try to do a “cover up” and stage things before you viewed the house. When you walk through the house the first time, look for cleverly placed mirrors, strategically situated lighting, enticing smells, cozy fireplaces and especially the obvious odor of fresh paint.  Check to see if the window frames have paint that’s cracking. The external window frame is a great indicator of the state of the house.  If you can easily push your finger into a wooden window frame, it’s usually rotten.  If there is condensation between double-glazed window-panels, it means they’re faulty.


Does the house have modern bathroom designs? Older homes were notorious for having small bathrooms.  Some actually bordered on ridiculous.  Building a bathroom that is 5' x 4' is more like today's powder room.  You must ask yourself, “Can I live with a bathroom that small?” Of course, there’s always the option of remodeling and expanding its size, but when you do, you have just added a sizable amount to the overall price of the home.

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Another common feature in many homes is the ubiquitous fiberglass shower/tub combo. You can give your bathroom an entirely new look and feel by replacing that tub with a standalone cast iron/porcelain Clawfoot or Pedestal Tub.  Or, consider choosing a handsome model from our new line of Solid Surface tubs.  If you’re looking to enhance the safety of your bathroom there is the option of our Walk-in tubs. These have a low threshold, so it’s easy to get into and out of the tub. Similarly, we now carry Safety Suite Showers, with both  low threshold and zero threshold designs.

Are the bathroom fixtures and plumbing in poor condition? If the pipes are made of lead, they’ll have to be replaced.  If the bathtub or sink is made of metal, the drain may be rusting.  The faucets may be leaking due to worn seals.  They also may be severely tarnished.  Is the tub’s or shower’s porcelain chipping or discoloring?  You might want to consider taking that old, ugly tub out and replacing with something modern, like a beautiful cast iron/porcelain Clawfoot tub. Even a small bathroom can accommodate certain models. 

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There is another option if you’re on a very tight budget.  Consider having the current tub or sink refinished. There are refinishing companies in almost every city, in many cases, a dozen or more.  They’ll come to your home and refinish your old tub to render it into a like-new appearance, and this way, you won’t have to replace the old tub. Everything is done in place, and it can normally be completed in less than a day. 

Do the counter tops need replacing? Many of today’s counter top materials are attractive and highly durable.  Another thing about giving the bathrooms a look-over.  Check to see if there is enough water pressure.  Again, some of the older homes may not be up to today's standards, but this, too, can be corrected.

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If you really like the property, it would behoove you to have a professional inspection done before you decide to move forward with purchasing it.  Once it passes professional muster, then it’s time to arrange a second viewing for a different time of day, and scout out the local area a little more to make sure it’s the kind of neighborhood you can live in.  When checking out the property a second time, ask yourself, “Can I make this house my home?”

In this article, I discussed several key points to consider and investigate when shopping for a new house. For example, I discussed the importance of location; the roof; drainage issues; the state of the current bathroom, bathtub, shower and sink; and other key factors that are important in your home buying decision process.

If you found this article useful, please share it with your family, friends and co-workers. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the Comment section of this blog. Thanks again for visiting with us.

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Have a question? Feel free to contact me at the number or email listed at the end of this article and my brother, Alan, who heads up Tub King, will personally get back to you. It’s been my pleasure sharing this information with you.

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Kerry Knight, now retired, is the former co-owner of Tub King, Inc. and   SeniorBathtub.com  in Jacksonville, Florida. He and his brother, Alan Knight, have many years of experience in the antique and senior bathtub industries. Their companies not only provide superior products, they are also award winners, receiving the “Best of Jacksonville Chamber Award” four years running. To contact Tub King directly, call (800)843-4231 or email alan@tubking.com.