Most of us are naturally inclined to purchase a house based on a pure gut and heart reaction. “It feels like home.” Right? However, finding that “feeling” can be an exercise in patience and frustration, just like dating.
Speed dating was originally designed to condense the exhaustive searching period into one tidy session. The matchmaking process is refined by time and poignant questions that filter out the “one.” Why don’t we do this with houses too?
Here are 10 questions that can help guide you in finding your ideal match.
1. Are you low maintenance?
Take a general sweep of a potential house and its property. Are the gardens filled with perennials? How big is the lawn? What’s the roof warranty? A metal roof can last up to 50 years while asphalt shingles will need to be replaced every 10 to 30 years (depending on the shingles) in areas that experience heavy snowfall and precipitation. Is the house constructed with a resilient material like Hardie board? Insects, weather and curious woodpeckers can make quick work of a log or wood home and require ongoing maintenance.
2. Are you quiet?
Spend some quality time at the house and observe traffic at different periods of the day. Do the neighbours have a barking dog or young children who love their trampoline? Are you close to a firehall where sirens will be a constant soundtrack? Are there train tracks nearby? Are you on a major bus route? At an intersection? Beside a restaurant with outdoor dining? Is there a quarry nearby? Get to know the neighbourhood and everything in its radius.
3. Are you warm?
While gas fireplaces are instant and convenient, they can also be inefficient depending on their age and BTU rating. Wood-burning fireplaces will require the care of a chimney sweep and a little lumberjack labour but are undeniably romantic. Pellet stoves have a high combustion and provide one of the cleanest burning fuel options but can pose an issue if you lose power (unless you have a battery back-up) as they still rely on electricity.
Propane, gas and electric heat (baseboards, forced-air furnace) have their pros and cons with delivery fees and time-of-use rates. Boiler systems are commonplace in older homes but new technology has modernized the traditional radiator’s appearance and efficiency.
And don’t forget about heat loss — are the windows new? Do they need to be replaced? The R-value of a house’s windows and insulation can make for a cozy night or give you the cold shoulder.
4. Are you flexible? Willing to grow?
If your family is planning to grow (dog, child or in-law suite?), will the house and/or zoning permit expansion? Is there an unfinished basement? Is it possible to add another bathroom? A detached garage? Main floor laundry? Will there be space for the art studio or kitchen island you’ve always dreamed of?
5. Are you outdoorsy?
Is the house located near trails? Dog parks? What exposure does the house have? North-facing windows can pose a challenge, but there are certain plants that will thrive with a little research. Will you see the sun rise or set? Is there enough storage or space for a shed, deck and/or hot tub? Are the trees surrounding the house healthy? In areas where the ash borer beetle is a concern, your woodsy backyard can suddenly become an expensive (and sparse) one when it comes to removal.
6. Are you financially sound?
Is the house in a desirable location? A home in a gentrifying neighbourhood or bedroom community will likely increase in value but buying a boat access-only property or three-season cottage can hamper resale value. Consider budgeting for costs like monthly condo fees, parking, commuting, grass cutting and snow removal, septic pump-outs or the cost of replacing aging appliances. The majority of this information will be available in the MLS® listing or easily accessible with the help of your REALTOR®.
7. Are you charming?
What’s the story behind the house? If it’s a heritage home, visit your local city hall to investigate the archives. Maybe your dream farmhouse is part of The Barn Quilt Trail — you might be the next stop! A growing interest in schoolhouse and church conversions has helped preserve history while providing a reliable rental income for the savvy entrepreneur.
8. Are you a people person?
Does the house realistically meet your entertainment requirements? Is there a soundproof room for the kiddos and their PlayStation? Will the dining table seat the entire family? Is there space to put in a pool? Pool table? How many guest bedrooms?
9. Are you stable?
The foundation is where everything began. If you’re considering an older home, invest in a structural engineer for the house inspection. Be aware of erosion and high-water levels with riverfront or lakefront properties. Check basements and ceilings for signs of leaks and mould and chimneys for integrity (and bats!).
10. Are you willing to change?
While a house may appear 100% perfect after the first starry-eyed visit, there will be inevitable changes that you’ll want to make. Are they possible? What can you sacrifice? What are your non-negotiables? Are they cosmetic changes (paint, lighting) or beyond-the-budget renovations?
If you’re intrigued and interested in a second date, be sure to lean on your REALTOR® to help point out any red flags or better yet, more reasons why you should love the house and call it home! Consider them your essential matchmaker to help you navigate your search for “the one.”