Buy Alexandria Real Estate: What Should I Be Looking For in the House?

Alexandria Virginia Real Estate Blog

What Should I Be Looking For in the House?

Common Househunting QuestionsOne of the most common questions homebuyers ask me as we're walking around the inside of homes they're considering is "What Should I Be Looking for in the House?"  This question arises most commonly among first-time buyers who haven't spent much time previously exploring houses.

Since everyone has different interests, needs, and desires, answering this question can be somewhat difficult.

Nevertheless, here's a handy-dandy guide for prospective homebuyers of things you should be looking for and things not to worry about too much while trekking through OPH.

Oh, sorry, OPH stands for Other People's Homes.

All of the following presumes that you already like the location of the house.  Location remains the upmost priority in all home searches.  That's one thing you definitely cannot change.

What Should I Be Looking for in the House?WHAT SHOULD I BE LOOKING FOR IN THE HOUSE?

  • Is there enough space for all your stuff?  That's an important one.  Only you know what you've got.  While moving can be a great time to pare down your belongings and finally throw away some of those trinkets cluttering your closet and weighing down your drawers, the first rule of house is that we accumulate stuff to fill it.  Make sure to Swing Open the Closet Doors!

  • Does the house fit your lifestyle?  If you fancy yourself a gourmet chef, you'd better like the kitchen.  Enjoy catching a few rays of sun?  You're going to want a balcony, deck, patio, or big backyard.  Entertain?  Flow is important.  Trouble with stairs?  You might need a 1st floor master bedroom, a rambler, or an elevator.

  • Will someone else like it?  While this is going to be YOUR home, you always have to consider resale value.  You might think you're going to be in this home forever, but statistics say you'll only be there for 5-7 years tops.  Think about the future.

  • Are there major noticeable problems?  When we walk through homes together, we're looking to see if you like it or not.  We're not conducting a home inspection -- leave that for the home inspector.  However, sometimes you can readily see obvious serious problems with a home.  You'll know it when you see it.  During an initial look, we don't need to test every appliance and system.

  • Do you like it?  Do you love it?  Do you see yourself living there?  This one's a bit more esoteric.  Sometimes you just have to ditch the logic and ask yourself these questions.  Even the most analytical and discriminating home buyers use their emotions.  After all, you're not a Vulcan!  3 years from now you won't remember your housing pros and cons list you painstakingly created but you'll surely be able to tell people why you love your home.


  • Paint and carpet.  Unless it's a total disaster, don't worry about it.  Paint and carpet are typically the first things that go when someone new moves in.  They're easy fixes and relatively inexpensive.  If you love the house but hate the pink bathroom, a can of paint and a Saturday afternoon can work wonders. 

  • Kitchen appliances.  Okay, don't totally ignore them, because you might have to live with them for a while.  As long as they are functional, alright.  While not cheap, you can buy a full set of nice stainless steel appliances for ~$3,500.  You don't like the green fridge?  Nobody else does either, but hey you're a homeowner now and your friends are still renting.

  • Electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling, etc.  The systems.  These are going to be examined thoroughly by the home inspector.  That's why you're paying for a home inspection.  Unless you see a major problem like missing or exposed wires, disconnected pipes, etc., wait for the home inspection to test the systems.  On this trip, we're not going to be in the home long enough to see if the heat pump works.  And, unless you're buying the house as-is, you are protected by Mighty Paragraph 7

  • Their furniture and stuff.  It can sometimes be very hard to ignore especially in a cluttered house or condo.  However, just remember that their stuff does not come with the house.  They'll be emptying it all out before you move in your stuff (see above).  However, seeing how much stuff they have and how well their furniture fits can serve as a guideline for how well yours will. 


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Comment balloon 41 commentsBrian Block • April 05 2010 08:15PM


Well written!  I just wish i could get some of my buyers past the paint and carpet part . . .

Posted by Richard Strahm, Lansdale and North Penn Real Estate (RE/MAX Realty Group - Lansdale, PA) almost 8 years ago

Great guide for the newbies.  Few buyer's can see beyond what is in front of them.  I can keep telling them that it will be different with their own furniture and own paint choices but some people are not visual enough to see beyond the obvious.

Same problem when showing vacant homes....some people are unable to visualize their stuff in it.

Thanks for the breakdown.

Posted by Evelyn Santiago, Managing Broker Heart Realty Group, Inc., Passionate About Real Estate & Our Clients! (Heart Realty Group, Inc..) almost 8 years ago

Hi Brian~  Sometimes the worse a house looks as far as paint and carpet goes, the better the deal that they may get! 

Posted by Vickie McCartney, Broker, Real Estate Agent Owensboro KY (Maverick Realty) almost 8 years ago

Excellent, excellent, excellent! Great breakdown and summary. I agree with Richard, though, too, in that it is difficult to get some to see past the paint and carpet.

Posted by Peggy Wester, Real Estate Agent Ozaukee & Washington County (Realty Executives Integrity) almost 8 years ago

Right on Brian . . . buyers get hung up on things they CAN change and sometimes completely overlook the things they CAN'T. I always tell buyers they should be thinking resale from the get-go, no matter how long they plan to live there.

Posted by Candice A. Donofrio, 928-201-4BHC (4242) call/text (Next Wave RE Investments LLC Bullhead City AZ Commercial RE Broker) almost 8 years ago

Hi Brian -- Great tips.  It is important to see how the home makes you feel.  Cool graphics, what site(s) do you use?

Posted by Chris Olsen, Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate (Olsen Ziegler Realty) almost 8 years ago


I really like your list. It is well-written and considers most everything I'd tell my clients. Thank you!

Posted by Aaron Vaughn | Builder | Investor, If the deal makes sense, the cash will follow. (Conifer Homes) almost 8 years ago

There's lots of good advice in this post, though I find that it's difficult for many buyers to look past paint and carpet.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) almost 8 years ago

Great overview for buyers, Brian, especially the new ones.  I agree with Richard's and Christine's comments, though. Some folks focus too much on the things that are easily changed and miss the big picture. Especially true in a market where there is a fair amount of inventory and, thus, the feeling there will be something better.



Posted by Jeff Dowler, The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad (Solutions Real Estate ) almost 8 years ago


It can be so helpful with clients ask for professional wisdom. They can't possibly know what an agent knows that does this for a living. They're paying for the service they should get all the insight that agent has available.


Posted by Steve, Joel & Steve A. Chain (Chain Real Estate Investments & Mortgage, Steve & Joel Chain) almost 8 years ago

Well thought list Brian. It always amazes me how small things are deal killers and things I think are huge are not an issue. This list will help buyers make those calls.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) almost 8 years ago

Congratulations on being featured. Some buyers start out by asking how much did they pay for the house and why are they moving? Before deciding if they like the house they want to see how much of a bargain they can get.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) almost 8 years ago

Perfection is seldom found either in homes or people! It's something we have to strive for not expect.  So many people do get caught up in the things that shouldn't matter because they can be changed.  It's the stuff you can't change that needs to be the best.


Posted by Kristal Kraft, Selling Metro Denver Real Estate - 303-589-2022 (The Berkshire Group Realtors) almost 8 years ago

Yeah, the paint and carpet are way bigger obstacles than they should be - and some people just won't compromise on anything.

Posted by Pam Turner, REALTOR®, e-PRO®, SFR (Century 21 Belk Realtors Dalton GA) almost 8 years ago

nicely written, thank you for sharing!

Posted by Erika Hansen, CRS (Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group) almost 8 years ago

Sometimes it can be difficult working with buyers that don't have vision.

Posted by Charita Cadenhead, Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama) (Keller Williams Realty) almost 8 years ago


Using a checklist like this is a great brainstorming technique for helping new buyers. They really have to consider their own lifestyle and budget as well.


Posted by Claudette Millette, Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass (The Buyers' Counsel) almost 8 years ago

Yeah, this is a handy dandy guide. Covers most of what I also tell buyers. No home is perfect and minor things don't stop the deal.

Posted by Bernadine Hunter, SFR, ACRE, "Finding Solution to Your Real Estate Needs" (Keller Williams Greater Columbus Realty) almost 8 years ago

sometimes its not the house its the location. where does the rain water go? how often does the train go by or how low do the planes fly? what's the neighborhood like once the kids are out of school? Is that vegetable garden really over the septic system? The grass maybe greener for good reason.

Posted by Gregory Bain, For Homes on the Jersey Shore (Mezzina Real Estate & Insurance) almost 8 years ago

This is a PERFECT list for the folks out looking for their new home!  Yeah!

Posted by Eleanor Thorne, Equity Resources 919-649-5058 (Equity Resources) almost 8 years ago

Very well stated and very good advice.


Posted by Doug Maynard (ReMax North Country Realty Inc.) almost 8 years ago

Great post, Brian.  Common-sensical list that will make sense to buyers. I cover these things verbally, but having them presented like this is great. -- Tanya in Montreal

Posted by Tanya Nouwens, Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager (RE/MAX ROYAL (JORDAN) INC. / Tanya Nouwens Inc. almost 8 years ago

You are absolutely right, thanks for the refresher.

Posted by Cindy Roeschen (Tricon Homes) almost 8 years ago

It's all aboout visuals. If I see a house that is move in ready and looks like a place that doesn't need my spare time I will consider it. Homes that are dirty and need carpet and paint I'll leave for someone else to buy. The homes that are showcased and look top notch sell faster.

Posted by Anonymous almost 8 years ago

This is a great list, Brian, and not just for home buyers, but for savvy home sellers, as well. As a home stager, I'm interested in all the comments from Realtors about how hard it is to get their clients to look past the paint and carpet. That's why we tell sellers over and over that they really need to paint and replace carpet if they want to sell quickly -- buyers have no vision for possibilities. Sellers have to give them what they're looking for. Thanks for this post!

Posted by Laurie Calhoun, Seminole County FL Home Stager (Gloria Home Staging, Inc.) almost 8 years ago

A lot of people have trouble ignoring those things that they should ignore.  That is why stagers have jobs.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) almost 8 years ago

This is a good list of things we can use to help our buyers have vision - for some that comes much easier than others. One thing I might mention on painting - one objection I have had is that even though the buyer realizes this is not expensive - if there is a lot of painting to be done (not necessarily due to condition, but colors that just won't work), I have had several buyers with small children that major painting projects become a major obstacle with how they are going to get this project done with little ones underfoot.

Posted by Susan Thompson-Solomons, MD Real Estate (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services McNelis Group Properties) almost 8 years ago

Well said, I will re-blog. I have a client who does a home inspection as we go along. And no, he is not a home inspector. Thank you.

Posted by DONNA SINGH (Royal LePage Connect Realty) almost 8 years ago

Brian!  GREAT BLOG and this reblog will save me a lot of time from doing a post of this quality.  Thanks!

Posted by Damon Gettier, Broker/Owner ABRM, GRI, CDPE (Damon Gettier & Associates, REALTORS- Roanoke Va Short Sale Expert) almost 8 years ago

In general, I think that my personal opinion as a buyer's agent is not always very relevant for the buyers. If they like the house for some reason that they think they are important for them. I just let them be happy with their choice, simply because I do not want to step in the hornet's nest of insulting their personal taste and preference.

However if I see some structure or technical problems that can be of any minor or larger defect, I point the defect and make them aware of the problem.

Realtor Timo Kansas City

Posted by Timo Yannopoulos, Buying and Selling Kansas City Homes (Platinum Realty Licensed in Missouri) almost 8 years ago


All good points and should be discussed with buyers before heading out.


Posted by Ty Lacroix (Envelope Real Estate Brokerage Inc) almost 8 years ago

Brian - "Will someone else like it?"  This is a big one in my book and something I remind my clients all the time.  So many buyer's fall in love with the house that they don't always think about what other buyer's will eventually think down the road.

Posted by Michelle Gibson, REALTOR (Hansen Real Estate Group Inc. ) almost 8 years ago

I liked your post today very much and the graphics.  Where did you get the graphics?

Thanks so much.

Patricia/Seacoast NH

Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) almost 8 years ago

Consider your lifestyle and what home says "Home" to you are my favorite concepts on your post.

Posted by Cheryl Ritchie, Southern Maryland 301-980-7566 (RE/MAX Leading Edge almost 8 years ago

You hit the nail on the head! Great post!

Posted by Jamie King, Sandusky, OH (Hoty Enterprises, Inc.) almost 8 years ago

Great post Brian, reblogged it.  

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg IL Area Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) almost 8 years ago

Good post. Good list. We all know these things, but it never hurts to be reminded.

Posted by Tom Bailey (Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc.) almost 8 years ago

Hello Brian,

What an excellent post!  Great advice!  Thank you!



Posted by Rita Minion (O'Brien Realty) almost 8 years ago

Good way to help people focus on the particulars. People read so much online and get so much advice it's hard for them to focus in sometimes and not be nervous.

Posted by Beverly of Bev & Bob Meaux, Where Buying & Selling Works (Keller Williams Suburban Realty) almost 8 years ago

That's a good list Brian. Not many people can see past bad carpet or strong colors. They say they can, but they really can't.

Posted by Wayne B. Pruner, Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI (Oregon First) almost 8 years ago

Just reviewing some of the great featured posts of the past today looking for inspiration and ideas for writing some new content for my lethbridge real estate blog.  This was a great featured post and good advice for a home buyer.  


Ignore the cosmetics, you will change them in every house you buy.  Pay attention to the potential the home has, the mechanical and structural condition, and think about how easy it would be to sell should your life take you in a different direction.  That is what a smart buyer does.

Posted by Robert May, Real estate consulting (Robert W May - Lethbridge Real Estate) over 7 years ago