May 30 2011

Our house-hunting toolkits

I have a little tote bag filled with some tools to help with our house-hunting:

  • Notebook solely for house info. I jot down notes on houses we’ve toured, sketch quick floor plans to remind me of what I’ve seen, store lists of our must-haves and would-likes, list pros & cons of what we’ve seen, etc. It’s helpful to have all of this info in one place, because details can easily be forgotten when you’ve seen a few houses.
  • A flashlight. Some houses are empty and the lighting might not be powerful enough to see aspects of the room. Also, I use it to get more detail on what’s going on under sinks (don’t want to see evidence of leaks or mildew!). I’ve used my light to get a closer look at what info is listed on the furnace for me to write down and look up later if I wanted. Lastly, I’ve pointed my flashlight into a house’s crawl space to peek at the situation down there. My shoes and clothing choices that day didn’t make it a good idea for me to actually get in the space, but I could see a fair amount just by peeking and shining my light.
  • A tape measure. Listed room dimensions on the sale sheet do not necessarily equal reality. We toured a house that had the kitchen, dining area and family room flow in one big space. The dimensions on the list sheet were much more than the dimensions we measured ourselves. It’s also handy to measure things like available countertop space. For example, some people see a kitchen with a large floor space and assume it’s a “big” kitchen. But if it’s poorly laid out and doesn’t actually have much counter space, that’s something to consider.
  • A camera. It’s helpful to take pictures if the online listing doesn’t show a particular detail or room. Plus, I can fire my flash in a dimly-lit room and the image can show a lot of detail that I might not see otherwise.

I have an online toolkit of sorts too, to help me evaluate listings:

  • I’ve been using our realtor’s MLS page to help search for a house meeting our criteria
  • GreatSchools helps me evaluate areas based on school system. Even if you don’t have school-aged children or will insist on private school or home school for them, it is important to consider the public school system for future resale considerations.
  • Crime info listed on the IndyGov site and the Marion County homicide map on the Indy Star site
  • A map of where registered offenders live
  • Info on City-Data to show general census data of areas, but also the message boards are helpful to get perspective on neighborhoods and towns.
  • Neighborhood Scout for general info on neighborhoods
  • And Google Maps to view a house’s proximity to other things and also the street view feature to get a better look at the house and neighbhorhood.

What else can I add to my online or physical toolkits?



6 Responses to “Our house-hunting toolkits”

  1. Just wanted to mention that when it comes to finding where the registered sex offenders you are much better off going through your states website for accurate listings.

    For Indiana you would go here… http://www.icrimewatch.net/indiana.php To find a list in another state you can just google “your state name sex registry” and you should be able to find it that way.

    Sometimes the information on those general websites is dated and no longer accurate. On one of those websites was listing an offender in a neighborhood near us…but when we looked at the listed offense…it wasn’t even an offense statute that is still used in our state and additionally the listed offender had passed away several years ago. So I would recommend relying on your individual state websites over those general search sites for accurate information.

  2. Thanks, Tammy!

  3. I am house hunting too. Actually just put an offer in. A notepad and camera were my absolute musts. For the house I put an offer on, I went to the neighborhood many times throughout the week (day and evening) and weekends. Gave me a better idea of the area, people, noise, etc. We also went by during a rainstorm to see if there were any water problems. Hopefully it all works out. Good luck in your search!

  4. How about your hands and eyes? Use your hands to feel the walls and carpet, especially in the basement. You don’t want dampness. Use your eyes to walk around the outside of the property and assess the situation there. Look at how the ground slopes – either away from or towards the house. Look for natural low points in and around the property. Does it look like there might be a natural runoff when you get heavy rains? Where does that runoff go?

    It sounds like you are doing everything right though, just some thoughts based on my current experience with our house and analyzing the situation around it. Good luck!

  5. We’ve had a bit of rain here lately so it has been handy when seeing houses to see what happens — pooling water, what the gutters are doing, etc. I guess I could add “umbrella” to my list to keep me dry while I am checking out the property!

  6. You can try to pry up a corner of carpets to get a look at underlying floors. It can reveal mold or hardwood or other things you might not want to be surprised about later.

    I also wanted to give you a quick reminder about sex offender lists–there are a great deal of ways to get on it, everything from hiring a prostitute to having sex with a 15-year-old when the offender is 18. Only a very small number of people on the list are pedophiles or even violent. (I’m assuming you’re keeping tabs out of concern for your children.) You’re an intelligent woman, so I’m sure you’re aware of things like this. It’s just one of those things I personally like to remind people of since we live in a culture where the media really likes to make us afraid of everything instead of looking at it with a critical eye.

    Best of luck to you!

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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