Kicking the Tires on That New Home You Want

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Stainless steel appliances: check. Granite countertops: check. Hardwood floors: check. These items are among the many you’ll see as you shop for a new home. Chances are that not all the items on your checklist are available in any home you visit, but one or two may come close.

And while it’s difficult to assess some of the unseen, but potentially costly, guts of the house, there are some simple methods that allow you to check on things like water pressure or basic structural issues.

Meaghan Agnew at came up with a list of eight simple ways to kick the tires on a home you like and may want to make an offer on. These tricks don’t substitute for a full inspection, but they will give you an idea of what you are really getting.

Here are the eight tricks you can use to check some of the less obvious features of a house.

  1. Check out the neighbors. Drive through the neighborhood a few times during different times of the day. Is there a lot of traffic and noise? If you commute to work by car, take a test drive during commuting hours.
  2. Walk around the neighborhood. What do the neighbors’ yards and homes look like? Well-kept is better than neglected. How far do you have to walk to get to the nearest shopping district?
  3. Test the plumbing. Check the water pressure and the time it takes for the hot water to flow in several of the sinks and showers. Low water pressure could indicate an undiscovered leak, and you should mention this to any inspector who checks out the house.
  4. Open the windows. Not just see if they work, but to get an idea of the noise level of the neighborhood. Do the open windows allow for cross ventilation? When the windows are closed can you feel a draft around the frames?
  5. Check the natural light. Is there enough natural light? Could a new, lighter paint job make a difference? Close the drapes or curtains to see if they block out enough light.
  6. Listen for unwanted noise. This is especially important in a condo, where a neighbor’s lifestyle might be noisier than you want to endure. Turn on the clothes dryer to find out how much racket it makes and if you can live with it.
  7. Check storage space. Some home sellers try to make everything look bigger by de-cluttering; others leave closets and storage areas pretty much alone. A tape measure will help you decide if your stuff will fit, no matter how much of the current owners’ stuff is — or is not — there.
  8. Bring your marbles. An easy way to check for level hardwood floors is to put a nice, round marble down and watch to see if it rolls away. Depending on the slope of the floor, the marble may roll in one direction or another. If the slope is especially steep, there may be a structural problem with the foundation that you definitely want to be checked out by an inspector.

See for more detail and tips.