Top 5 Things Home Buyers Overlook

By March 4, 2012 BUY
A two-storey house in Westmount, Edmonton

 

There are all sorts of things to think of when buying a home, from where you will live, to what type of home you want to what you can afford to buy. With so many tough decisions to make, it’s no wonder that some key factors are overlooked. Here I’ll cover some of the top things many buyers never think about – until it’s too late.

Electrical Service

It can be difficult to insure a property with anything less than 100 amp service

In Edmonton, all houses must have electricity running to them to meet code, but the amperage, or level of service, can vary depending on where and when a house was built. What buyers need to know is that it can be difficult to insure a property with anything less than 100 amp service. Houses built from the late 1930s to the early 1960s could have 60 amp electrical service. Insurance companies have decided that this type of wiring may be a risk. The problem is, without home insurance, you can’t ensure a mortgage on the property.

Regardless of when the home you are looking at was built, it’s a good idea to check out the electrical panel. Check to see whether it has enough spots for adding breakers in the future, and whether the main breaker is 100 amps or higher. These are things that would surely be looked at in a home inspection, but you can easily check them yourself when you’re shopping for a house to avoid last-minute surprises.

• Deal Breaker?: Not usually. Sixty amp service can be a pain, but you don’t have to walk away from a home you love because of it. It’s possible to get permission to have a service upgrade done before you move.

• Bottom Line: This issue is fixable.

• Cost: About $2,000 to upgrade the panel and run the service line to the house.

Grading

All homes must be properly graded to direct rainwater and runoff from snow away from the house. Without proper grading, water may run back toward the house and leak into the basement, causing water damage. Other problems caused by negative grading can include sunken patios, cracked sidewalks and crooked steps. The difficulty of fixing grading issues varies; it depends on the problem. Your home inspector should be able to tell you what level of involvement regrading will require.

• Big Deal?: If no damage has been done, not really.

• Bottom Line: The issue is fixable.

• Cost: Anywhere from renting a bobcat and peeling back the lawn and re-sodding to just shoveling some dirt up against the foundation. If you have to bring in a lot of soil to deal with settling, it can be expensive. And if you have too much soil to remove, you may need to pay to dump it somewhere.

Access

A lot of people overlook a home’s access, or how difficult it is to get to it from a main road. This is one factor that can sneak up on you after you’ve moved in, and it can really affect your enjoyment of your home.

While many neighbourhoods in Edmonton are made to reduce noise from nearby roadways, these same neighbourhoods can be poorly designed for accessibility. While fewer entry points and meandering crescents cut down on noisy traffic, this neighborhood design can also mean frustrating travel times within neighbourhoods and difficulty going out and coming back. Some communities have routes that are more than a mile long from a main road to the driveway.

I know that one of the things I love most about where I live is that I can get in and out in an instant. I can turn right whether I want to travel north or south and I can be on the freeway in two minutes. That makes a big difference when I have appointments that could be anywhere in the city. Sure, the neighbourhood is a simple grid – no quiet cul-de-sacs or crescents – but in place of that, I have an amazingly convenient time getting out and coming back home.

Be sure to think about how access can affect your day-to-day life when house shopping. Count the number of access points in your neighbourhood and imagine what traffic will be like at peak hours. With everyone on their way to or from work, is there going to be a lot of waiting for turning arrows or lights to change? If you think access is no big deal, remember that if you commute to work, this is an issue that may annoy you twice a day every day for as long as you own that home.

• Big Deal?: Sure! Time is money, right?

• Bottom Line: Not fixable

• Cost: Move to a different location.

Exposure

If you have a north-facing back yard in Edmonton, you may not be able to have much of a garden

Property listings sometimes mention a home’s “exposure.” That’s because this is a factor that can greatly affect your enjoyment of a home.

Exposure is the direction the front of a house faces. It’s not as cut and dried as saying one way is better than another, but it’s worth noting which direction things like the back yard, the deck, large windows and balconies face. This is because the sun is only going to provide light for a short time in certain areas. If you have a north-facing back yard in Edmonton, you may not be able to have much of a garden (we have few enough frost-free days as it is). Exposure can also affect how much light and heat your windows produce, where you can keep indoor plants, what kinds of flowers and plants you can grow in your yard, and at what time of day you can enjoy your deck or balcony.

Before you shop for a home, think about what features are important to you. Do you crave a sunny kitchen or a vegetable garden in the back yard? Find out what kind of exposure this requires and be sure to check the orientation of the important areas of your prospective home to maximize the sun’s rays.

• Big Deal?: It can be, depending on what you want to do.

• Bottom Line: This issue is not fixable.

• Cost: Move to a different home.

Parking

Edmonton is almost impossible to navigate by public transit alone – especially in outlying neighbourhoods

Edmonton is almost impossible to navigate by public transit alone – especially in outlying neighbourhoods. So if you’re like most Edmontonians and use a car to get around, parking must be a consideration for every home you buy. Parking isn’t just an issue with central areas; many areas in Edmonton have limited frontage, bus routes in the way or other issues that affect parking for residents. And there are many houses out there that don’t have a garage, so street parking is often the only option.

Be sure to consider the implications of moving somewhere that doesn’t have a lot of parking available. Check what parking is like in the evenings when everyone is home from work and school. Consider guest parking, too. Some neighbourhoods have almost no street parking at all, while some condo complexes have very little (if any) guest parking. Real estate is a precious commodity even when it comes to finding space to park your car.

• Big Deal?: Absolutely!

• Bottom Line: Not fixable, unless you can use some of your lot for parking.

• Cost: Pave over part of your lot, or move.

It’s almost impossible to get a perfect home, but you can get just a little bit closer by remembering to consider some of the factors that many people only notice once it’s too late. Think about how you plan to use your home and what’s most important to you. Then you’ll be ready to get out there and find a house that will allow you to live the life you want.


by +Alan F Macdonald REALTOR® | Copyright © – gimme-shelter.com

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Alan F Macdonald

Author Alan F Macdonald

Alan F Macdonald is a real estate agent with Maxwell Challenge Realty in Edmonton, Alberta.

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