If you’re thinking about buying a Stowe or Waterbury home, here’s our top 25 things to do, consider and/or look for in a property. This mental checklist will help you get your search off to the right start:
1. Location: You can live with almost any imperfection in a home if you love the neighborhood and your neighbors. Visit the Stowe house at various times of the day to evaluate noise, light, traffic and other factors that might make the location a dud. Talk to your potential neighbors; find out if the area is mostly people who are renting, retirees or families. Is this house close to attractions that are important to you?
2. House Site: Is it on a hill? Or next to a river? Can your neighbors see directly into your bedroom from their kitchen? More than location, the house site considers the entire scope of the property, including safety, accessibility and use.
3. Neighborhood: You should own the smallest home in the nicest neighborhood that you can afford.
4. Curb Appeal: Your home should reflect your lifestyle.
5. Size and Floor Plan: Think about how the new home space will be used and whether it will fit your lifestyle now and in the future. You can always update rooms; it gets a lot harder to move them. Don’t judge a room by its paint job (focus on the structure and layout of the rooms and how you might place your furniture or entertain).
6. Bedrooms and Bathrooms: How many do you need for your day-to-day life? An extra bedroom is always a plus because it can be turned into a home office or den. Do you need a master bathroom? Or a bathroom on every floor? Remember that the average bathroom remodel can cost $10,000. Check for leaks and cracks in the fixtures and around the pipes.
7. Kitchen: The kitchen is the heart of your home, don’t settle for a home with a kitchen that just won’t work; and some remodeling projects can prove very costly. Consider the following: cabinets, counters, flooring and appliances.
8. Storage: Think about how much recreational gear, clothing, crafts or decorations you have, which will need to be stored when not in season.
9. Windows and Lighting: Look at a home with light and sunshine in mind. For windows, make sure that they are easy to open; consider whether they are double-pane or single-pane and how that will impact energy-efficiency and heating/cooling costs.
10. Roof: Roofs can last 20 to 25 years. Visually check the condition of the roof from the ground by looking for cracked, curling or missing shingles.
11. Basement: Be sure to check carefully for water marks and other signs of a leaky basement.
12. Insulation: A well-insulated house can help keep you warm in the cooler months and cooler in the warmer months.
13. Plumbing: What lies beneath? Leaks, mold and other water damage is unsightly and unhealthy. Get a good look.
14. Driveway and Sidewalks: Cracks and sunken areas in your “hardscaping” can be costly in the future. Consider if the driveway is easy to navigate with your car and how much space you might need for your vehicles. If the driveway is long and steep that could be a problem with plowing and access in the winter.
15. Smell the “Roses” – or the…: Sewage? Cigarettes? Pets? Let your nose do the considering – or negotiating – for a bit!
16. Finishing Touches: Sometimes the simplest home looks spectacular because of its finishing touches, moldings, hardware or a fireplace, which also leads to the suggestion to touch everything too; turn on the faucets and lights, open the windows and doors, taste the water, flush the toilets and more.
17. Association: Vermont neighborhoods with associations build a sense of community, which makes you feel like people are looking out for your house and your family.
18. Ask the Sellers: Find out what problems the property has had in the past and how they were fixed; it will avoid you accidentally leveling landscaping that had been preventing basement flooding.
19. Get an Inspection: What are the defects of this Northern Vermont home for sale? Some may be fixable and some may be costly, discouragingly so. A home inspection will help you negotiate a fair (or lower) price and/or prepare you for future expenses.
20. Past Improvements: Make sure that if the homeowners say they put on a new roof two years ago that they didn’t skimp on materials.
21. Consider the Future: What would your view look like if the houses next door were torn down and rebuilt, closer, larger or more brightly colored?!
22. Utilities: Winter heating and summer cooling costs could make a home unaffordable down the line. Consider the type of systems and when they were last updated. Replacing a furnace can easily cost $5,000. Central air is less expensive to operate but costly to repair, whereas window units are less costly to replace but are more expensive to use.
23. Taxes: Go a few years back. There’s a big difference between $3,000 that stays there consistently and a home that was $1,000, then $2,000 and now is $3,000, because what will next year bring?
24. Zoning: Look at the property’s (and the neighborhood’s) zoning restrictions.
25. Big Ticket Items: Rethink the long-term affordability to maintain the houses non-essential features, such as a 4-car garage, apple orchard or regulation-size swimming pool.
DEALBREAKERS: Regardless of the house you are looking at, it’s important to figure out what you MUST HAVE and what you CANNOT have in your home. You may need to have a spacious backyard for your summer entertaining but don’t have to have built-in bookshelves in the living room, although they might be nice. Think down the line too. Will that 2-bedroom really be big enough if you want two kids in the next couple of years?