Finding the Right Home

Buyers Handbook: Finding the Right Home

House Hunting Begins at Home
The search for your dream home begins in your present home. By asking yourself key questions about what you like in your present home, you'll save time in the house-hunting process.What style of home do you like – two story, ranch, split-level, something else?

  • What size of home do you need – number of bedrooms, baths?
  • What are your priorities in home features – garage, gourmet kitchen, fireplace, first-floor family room, formal dining room or other feature?
  • What natural features outside the home are most significant to you – woods, hills, streams, lakes, others?

Choosing Your Home
Contact an Iowa Realty sales associate to help you find the right home through the use of the Home Buyer's Guide. This exclusive, computerized real estate information system allows you to look at homes on the market, inside and out. Our staff photographer takes photos of the exterior of every Iowa Realty home on the market in the Metropolitan Des Moines area, and many agents submit interior photographs.

Your Iowa Realty associate will explain how he or she will represent you in the home buying process.

Many people decide with emotion and justify with facts." Your new home has to feel right, but it has to work right, too. You can evaluate many of the physical features yourself by systematically looking for certain details, outside, inside and throughout the house.

Structural and Mechanical Systems
A professional housing inspector can make sure the house and major mechanical systems are in sound condition. An inspector's report can help you make an informed decision and is well worth the cost.

  • Inspect the quality of materials and craftsmanship
  • Are exposed beams and joists in good condition?
  • Do basement walls have any large cracks that may indicate a shifting foundation?
  • Are there any mildew stains that indicate dampness or flooding?
  • If the basement is not heated, is the ceiling insulated?
  • Is the attic well-insulated?
  • Is there any evidence of water damage from a leaky roof?
  • Are floors springy or are they even and solid?
  • Are walls (especially at door frames and windows) free from large cracks?
  • Do all doors and windows work smoothly?
  • Are bathroom fixtures in good condition?
  • Does the faucet's water flow remain steady when toilets are flushed?
  • Does water drain well? •Are there enough well-placed electrical outlets in the room?
  • Does the service to the house match its electrical needs
  • Is the capacity and recovery time of the water heater adequate for your family?
  • Does the water heater show signs of rust?
  • Do kitchen appliances seem to be in good condition (if included in the sale)?
  • Will your appliances (if you're bringing them with you) fit in the present space?
  • Do the furnace and/or air-conditioning unit(s) appear to be well-serviced?
  • Is the fan quiet?

Outside details
Be very observant as you look around outside the house.

  • Is the outdoor lighting adequate?
  • Are the sidewalks and driveway in good condition?
  • Will water drain off of the sidewalks and driveway?
  • Are there any noticeable sags or dips in the roof?
  • Are the shingles in good condition?
  • Are the gutters in good condition, with tight seams and downspouts that point away from the house?
  • Do the foundation walls have any cracks larger than 14-inch wide?
  • Is the house's exterior surface in good condition?
  • Are there cracks where materials meet at two walls or at windows and walls?
  • Do windows, doors and the chimney sit square and plumb?
  • Do outdoor electrical outlets have ground fault current interrupters to prevent shock?
  • Is the lot sloped for proper drainage?
  • Are there low spots near the house?
  • Does the landscaping appear healthy?
  • Are large trees at least 30 feet from the house?

Inside details
Make a sketch of the floor plan.

  • How many finished/unfinished rooms and bathrooms are on each floor?
  • Does the main entry lead people directly to the living room or make them wonder which way to go?
  • Are eating areas (including any located outdoors) easily accessible from the kitchen?
  • Does traffic through the kitchen flow outside of the work area?
  • Are the stove, sink and refrigerator arranged in an efficient working layout?
  • Are there built-in appliances like a dishwasher, garbage disposal or trash compactor?
  • Do open appliance doors block doorways, cabinets or each other?
  • Is there adequate counter and cupboard space?
  • Are bathrooms accessible without having to cross a bedroom or other living space?
  • Is there adequate counter and storage space in the bathroom?
  • Do bedrooms have two uninterrupted wall surfaces for easy furniture arrangement?
  • Is there adequate closet/storage space?

Financial details
Your sales associated will answer questions about the specific house you are seriously considering. These questions may include:

  • What types of financing can be considered?
  • Will the seller finance the mortgage for you?
  • If so, what are the terms?
  • Is the mortgage presently held on the house assumable?
  • If so, what are the current interest rate and terms?

Choosing a Neighborhood
In many ways, choosing a house is easier than choosing a neighborhood. The neighborhood determines the value of the house. An old real estate maxim says there are three criteria that determine a property's market value: "location, location, location." The fact is that two identical houses built across town from each other can bring a sale price thousands of dollars apart. Your sales associate can give you information about market values of houses in various locations. But you must research to determine the right neighborhood for you.

  • What are your preferences? Consider distance from work, shopping, schools, public transportation and recreation.
  • When you drive around a neighborhood, consider the overall impression.
  • Are other properties near the house you're considering well-maintained?
  • Are business properties mixed in with residences?
  • Are there apartments and condominiums, or only single-family houses?
  • Are there parks, greenbelts, strip malls or outdoor spaces?

While you will form an overall impression by driving by, walking around and talking with other residents in the neighborhood, your sales associate can give you factual information about zoning covenants. These impact such things as allowable commercial and industrial uses, on-street parking availability, and the styles of houses that can be built in the future