Touring homes and properties can be incredibly fun and exciting. I mean, who wouldn’t want to mentally furnish and design a new space? This is especially true when touring larger properties and acreages, as there is just so much to look at!
But, as much fun as you have with your daydream designing on property tours, it’s important to remember that there is a lot going on behind the scenes that you need to pay attention to. With the modern real estate market, homes and properties are often gone in the blink of an eye. Meaning that you may only get once chance to tour your potential dream home. That being the case, you should approach every home tour with a dedicated plan of attack, ensuring you not only evaluate the livability of your home, but any major challenges or issues as well.
Cosmetic concerns, while difficult to ignore, are often the easiest to change. Instead, you should focus most of your home tour on the items that just cannot change, our would require significant time and money to change. You can always paint that outdated brick on the fireplace; but you cannot get rid of the powerlines outside your back patio…
When I tour potential acreages with my clients, I am sure to keep a running checklist of these very important details and considerations. Curious to know what I’m looking for after decades of experience? Here’s a list of 13 things you should be sure to check the next time you tour a potential home:
It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: location is everything. While an acreage property might give you peace and quiet from your neighbours, it’s still important to consider the location of your potential new home. How are the condition of the roads traveling there? Are you close enough to vitals such as schools and hospitals? Have you driven the route to and from town at different times of day to get a gauge on any traffic or other issues?
The more you know about the property’s location, the more confident you can be that this will be a place to call home for years to come.
Time of Year
While not an actual “thing” to inspect, it is important to take note of the time of year you’re visiting a property, as different seasons bring about different challenges for homes – especially those on acreages!
If possible, I am a big fan of visiting in the fall/winter, as that is when you’re likely to see any flooding reach its peak. Granted, you shouldn’t immediately be scared off by standing water on a property. As long as it is flowing away from the home, there is a lot you can do here. My favourite? Finding a way to incorporate areas where water collects into a landscape feature. Not only does it solve a problem, but it looks great too!
Floor Plan & Room Layout
While you can of course always remodel, ideally you’ll want to find a home that fits within your current lifestyle, so as to avoid costly changes right out of the gate. Are there enough bedrooms and bathrooms to suit your family? Do the living room and dining room provide enough space for gatherings? Even if the look of the rooms may not suit your tastes, if the layout is good, you could have your perfect home for the cost of a few gallons of paint!
Age and Condition of Appliances
One of the costliest home updates is appliances. From furnaces and air conditioning units, to kitchen stoves and refrigerators, broken appliances can add up to thousands – or even tens of thousands – fast.
When touring a home, be sure to take a close look at all the appliances. Do they function well? Is there any sign of rust or wear? Does anything look out of the ordinary or show signs of a DIY repair? How old are they? The more you know about the appliances, the better estimate you can make as to how much life they have left!
Age and Condition of Wells and Septic Systems
Wells and septic systems are a natural part of country living. However, if not maintained properly, they can be a costly one as well.
Ask homeowners about their current systems, including age, repairs, and maintenance. Get contact info from service companies used and be sure to call and ask about the work done, and the state of the systems when last serviced.
What’s Underneath the Carpet?
If the home you’re touring has wall-to-wall carpet, it’s in your best interest to take a peek at what’s underneath. Someday the carpet will need replacing, and if you’re a hardwood fan, it can be incredibly expensive to put in a new floor – that is, unless there is one hiding underneath.
To catch a glimpse of what’s below, see if you can find a floor vent in the carpeted room. Remove the vent cover, and you should be able to peel back the carpet and padding ever so slightly, giving you a look at either a hidden hardwood floor, or subfloor/concrete.
Tilted Door and Window Frames
In addition to visible cracks, one of the easiest ways to spot signs of foundational issues is to bring a level, and to check door and window frames for unevenness. If one is off, it may just be a bad installation (which is another issue all its own). But if you find multiple uneven door and window frames, there’s a chance that the house is shifting more than it should, which could eventually lead to costly water damage and foundation repairs.
Signs of Water Damage
Speaking of water damage, this is absolutely something you should be looking for when you tour a property. Leverage all your senses here. Can you smell any musty odours? Can you feel any soft wood around window sills? Do you see any visible water stains?
As the saying goes, water will always find a way. But there’s a major difference between a slow drip during a torrential downpour, and constant running water flowing inside your home each time it rains. The more signs of damage, the more likely the property has serious water issues.
Roofs and Gutters
Be sure to ask about the roof and gutters for any home in which you’re interested!
While I don’t necessarily recommend climbing up on a ladder yourself, you should be able to ask potential sellers and your realtor about the age and state of the roof and gutters. A standard asphalt shingle roof will last about 20 years. If the home you’re touring is 18 years old, and still has the original roof, rest assured you may find yourself cutting a large check shortly into your ownership to get it replaced.
Whether it’s a waterway, road, or railroad track, if the property you are touring has any easements, you need to be prepared for what that can do to future development plans. The government tightly controls building around easements, meaning that even if you own the property, you may not be able to build that dream barn or upgrade your shed without approval (which can often be difficult to obtain).
Speaking of approval, it’s important to take note of the zoning regulations for any property you tour. If the home is in the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve), you will find very strict rules in place for what you can and cannot do on your property. Little things like having a farm stand or selling your homemade soaps could all be affected by particular zoning laws, so be sure to work with your realtor to understand exactly what would and would not be allowed on that particular property.
Landscaping, Greenery & Fencing
While there is always much that can be done in terms of landscaping and greenery, it can get expensive, and fast! Especially if you are looking for more mature plants.
Part of the appeal of country living is vast greenery. If the home you’re touring is pretty barren, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to plant and see trees and shrubs grow into their maturity, as this process can take many, many decades. If you’re looking for that traditional green vista on your property, be sure you start with a home that already has one!
Another outdoor element to inspect is any fencing. If there is a perimeter fence, what condition is it in? A large fence can cost many thousands to replace if rotted or worn down. And if there is no fence, but you’d like to have one someday (to say, keep out those pesky coyotes and bears), you’ll want to be sure to walk the perimeter of the property. If there is a lot of rocky terrain, uneven ground, natural easements, etc., it will be quite difficult and costly to build a fence as compared to a property with even, straight ground on the perimeter.
Hidden Oil Tanks
While those whom have never lived in the country might chuckle at this, it’s absolutely crucial that you are aware of any hidden oil tanks buried on the property before you purchase it! When these tanks have to be removed, it can cost several thousand dollars to get the job done.
While not the most impressive party trick ever, I have gotten quite good at sniffing out whether or not a property has a hidden oil tank that’ll need to be taken care of by the new owners. If you ever need help in this area, always feel free to ask!
While design and feel are very, very important, these 13 items are also vital considerations that you should be making each time you tour a home. Though much of this list gets double checked during inspection, as a potential homeowner, you owe it to yourself to be on the lookout for these issues as well. Because once that paperwork is signed, these issues become your issues.
At this point, you may be a bit overwhelmed. The good news is that you don’t have to do all this alone. Having toured countless properties over the last decade specializing in B.C. area acreages, I am an expert in knowing exactly what to look for each time I set foot in a home with potential buyers. So, if you’re in the market for a new property, let me share this knowledge and expertise with you. Give me a call today, and I’ll be more than happy to help you look for those not-so-common things the next time you’re on a tour!