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      How To Evaluate a House

      Some Questions to Consider When Your Are Touring Properties on Cape Cod

      Some people start from the outside and work their way in but most people start on the inside and save the outside for last. Do whatever works best for you! Let us know if you prefer to start outside and we will be sure to lead the way with the showing agent.

      This list seems long and might be a bit overwhelming…that is why we are here! It is important for you to notice as much as you can, but it is our job to pay close attention to everything on this list and more. We developed this list based on our extensive experience selling properties throughout Cape Cod. We know what to look for in and around a house. It is also important to keep in mind that you will have a home inspection. (You can find more information on the home inspection process under Resources on the main menu.)

      After all is said and done: you'll recognize your new Cape Cod house when you see it. Finding the right house can be like picking a family member out of a crowd. When all else fails, trust your instincts.

      INTERIOR. When you are in the house, walk through at your own pace…be sure to open closets and cabinets. Sellers know that buyers will check these areas so don’t be shy. Think about the following as you poke around inside:

      • Do you like the floor plan? Will it work for how you need to use the house? Will it work for you in the long term?

      • How do you get the groceries from the car into the house? Look at steps along the way and counters when you get to the kitchen. If the present set up isn't ideal, is there a simple solution? (Oftentimes, you will enter the house at the “formal” entrance. Make sure to check out the path from the entrance you would likely use if you lived at the house. Plus, nobody comes in the front door on Cape Cod!)

      • Are there enough closets and other kinds of storage space? If not, is there a simple solution?

      • Will your furniture fit the rooms? If you have a king bed, will it any of the bedrooms? Will each bedroom fit a bed on a wall so the windows aren’t behind the bed? (If you have any large or unusually shaped pieces, it may help if you know the measurements before touring a house.)

      • Where are the bedrooms and bathrooms? Are they located near each other? Is the bathroom on a different floor from the bedrooms? Do you need a tub in at least one bathroom?

      • In which direction does the house face? Where is the sun throughout the day?

      MECHANICALS AND STRUCTURE. Inquiring minds want to know about the mechanical systems and structure -- but don’t bother asking a lot of questions now. The home inspection will reveal any issues with the mechanicals and structure and it is our job to ask questions and do research. Do, however, give them a visual inspection for anything obvious for follow up later. Most of the mechanicals and even structure can be found in the basement. It isn’t glamorous, but it is essential to spend time there. As you walk around, consider the following:

      • Does the house seem structurally sound? Do the floors creak when you walk on them? Are the railings loose on the stairs? Any stains on the ceiling (especially around a chimney)? How do the walls look? Are there any scary looking cracks? Do the floors seem tilted?

      • Look inside closets to check for signs of mold or water stains.  Note: surface mold can develop in closets in houses that have been closed up for a long time or just over the winter. Don’t despair as the issue can usually be rectified with a good cleaning and living in the house! If you are concerned or the mold appears more significant, we will have an environmental expert inspect it for you.

      • How do the windows look? Are they new or original? Does it look like any seals have broken (evidenced by cloudy look)?

      • Do the mechanical systems and appliances appear to be in working order? Are they Energy Star?

        • Note on Electric Heat: consider it just another appliance. Most buyers are unnecessarily afraid of the cost of electric heating bills and will not even look at a home with electric heat. This becomes another advantage to you because it reduces the pool of competing buyers. However, if you convert to a new, state of the art, efficient HVAC system of your own choice, you then get the use of a new system for 100% of its functional life.  When you look at electric heat this way, homes with older, less efficient gas or oil systems may make a house less desirable than an all-electric house!

      • Is there a fireplace? Notice any black soot on the bricks around the fireplace? Is there a damper in the chimney? Are there signs of leaking in the ceiling around the chimney? Lead flashing around chimneys is notorious for creating leaks if installed improperly or as the result of critter damage (squirrels like to chew on it…go figure).

      • How does the basement smell? Notice any dampness or musty odor? Do the current owners run a dehumidifier in the basement in the summer?

      • Does anything need obvious repair or replacement?

      • Where is the septic system located? Is it somewhere that would prevent me from expanding the house? (Whether the system has passed the requirements of Title V is something we will research. It is typically considered the sellers responsibility to obtain this certification and make any necessary repairs to the system.)

      EXTERIOR. Pay attention to what a property offers from the outside. A house can be newly and beautifully renovated on the inside but a hot mess on the outside. Exterior repairs and routine maintenance to a house can be expensive. So it is important to note anything that looks like it needs immediate repair or would require ongoing maintenance. Moreover, a beautifully landscaped yard with mature shrubs and specimen trees takes years to establish andalot of time and money to maintain. If there are trees that haven't been maintained well or need to be removed, you can anticipate additional landscaping expenses. Many Cape Codders have a "Cape Cod" lawn, where grass or ground cover are left as much as possible in their natural state. But even a pine needle lawn needs regular grooming. As you are walking around the outside of the house, check for the following:

      • Imagine the house in good weather and bad, and in each season. Will you be happy with it year-round? 

      • Is the yard big enough? Is it sunny/shady? Does it look hard to maintain? (Especially important if you plan on doing weekly summer rentals.)

      • How close are the neighbors? Do you hear any dogs barking? Traffic noise?

      • How does the roof look? Are there any visibly damaged shingles? Are any starting to curl up on the sides? Are there any branches overhanging the roof and shortening the life of the shingles, clogging gutters, and providing an easy pathway for squirrels and raccoons?

      • Does the house have proper gutters? Gutters are more than just a way to keep water from pouring on your head when you come in the door…they are an essential element in maintaining the structural integrity of the foundation. Improper or missing gutters can cause hydrostatic pressure to build up too close to the foundation walls. The excess water can also result in leaks in the basement. A related issue is the slope of the yard around the house…it should slope away from the house so rain and melting snow are absorbed a safe distance from the foundation.

      • How does the siding look? Are shingles curling? Any missing shingles? Does the house look like it has been painted recently? Check out the window sills…do they look ok? Does it look like somebody painted over rotten wood? (It may be easier to check the sills of upper story windows from the inside.)

      • Is there a patio, deck, or porch? Do they feel sturdy? Check any railings…loose railings are a safety hazard. Are there cracks in the patio? Is it bumpy due to tree roots or settling?

      • How does the foundation look? Any major cracks?

      • Front or side loading garage: when the snow plow comes down the driveway, is the garage at a right angle to the road so the snow is piled up at the head of the driveway and not at the garage door?

      LOCATION. It is true: real estate is all about LOCATION! You can renovate a kitchen, add bathrooms, add windows, even expand the entire house, but you can’t change where it is located. You want to check out the location either before or after the showing. Drive around, look at the other houses in the neighborhood. Drive from the house to the beach. Come back to the area in the evening and sit in your car with the windows rolled down and listen. The neighborhood may have many more vehicles around than when you saw the house at midday while folks were away from home. This is also where our lifelong knowledge of Cape Cod will benefit you. You will want to research the following:

      • What is the area like in the off season? (Many Cape Cod neighborhoods really bustle in the summer time and are deserted in the winter.)

      • Does the neighborhood have adequate parking on the street and on each person's property?

      • What is the appearance/condition of nearby homes and businesses?

      • How far a drive is it to your favorite beach?

      • If you are purchasing a condo or in an area with an association, are there any covenants or restrictions (or benefits) that come with membership like access to a beach, a boat launch, limitations on the size/number/weight of pets, extra parking, trash pickup, limitations on summer rentals, etc.. (Note that the majority of Cape towns do not provide municipal trash pick up. There are quite a few private companies that will provide pick up services for a fee.)

      • If you are purchasing a year round home and have school age children, you need to check out the town's school system. If you are retiring or have elderly relatives living with you, you should also check out the town’s elder services.

      • Check with the town's police department on the crime report for the area.