Hot Tips for First Time Home Buyers

House hunting can get overwhelming, especially, if you are a first time home buyer. I know that I am prone to get distracted by the simplest things, shiny objects included, and this could easily transpire into focusing on the wrong things while real estate shopping. It is easy to miss what a home really has to offer. I sat down with, Sharele Cook, an Interior Design Consultant who will walk us through what we should focus on in the interior of a home when house hunting. This week, she will explain the top five things that you want to make sure a house already has so that you can avoid spending thousands of dollars in remodeling.  Next week, she will explain the top five things that tend to deter prospective homeowners, but should not be considered deal breakers. These will be things that can be easily changed over time and will cost less than extensive remodeling. For now, lets discuss the must haves.

 1.  Light and Windows

6756WOODROW (106)Lighting has an effect on our mood and how we view things. Lighting can be natural or artificial.  Outlets are important too, but make sure actual built-in light fixtures are there and sufficient enough. Since windows are necessary for providing natural light, you want to ensure that there enough windows in the rooms and that they are big enough.  Adding windows can be expensive and it is not always possible to add them, depending on the design of the house.

2. Flow and Space

540 VERNON AV-PRO (3)What is the layout of the house?  Is the house a maze with strange wall divisions or is it open and airy?  Walls can be expensive to take down and they might be load bearing, if they are supporting your house, adjusting or changing them can be very costly.  Flow and space is important to consider for numerous reasons, including but not limiting to furniture placement.  Will all of  your furniture fit comfortably or will it be cluttered?  Do you think that you and your family will be able to grow there or will you quickly outgrow it?  Does the house have potential for an expanding family?

3. Energy Efficiency

HomePerformanceES_LogoIn Southern California, we are very spoiled when it comes to weather, but let’s face it, when it does get down to 50 degrees in the winter, we don’t want to freeze to death and when it reaches 85 in the summer, we don’t want to melt. You want to make sure that the home can be cooled and heated efficiently. Is there central air or are there window units? Is there a furnace or heat pump? Windows also play a huge factor in energy efficiency. Are they double paned? Are they sealed well?  Again, to update or replace windows can be expensive and besides affecting lighting, it can affect temperature.  Windows, if old and outdated, can cause rooms to be drafty, or vice versa, windows can also cause a room to be very hot, if they are facing direct sunlight.    You also want to make sure the home is well insulated.

4. Closet and Storage Space

509 SANTA CLARA PRO-sm (24)Whether you have an amazing shoe collection or an extensive movie collection, you will need a place to store and organize them.  Maybe, you are a chef in the kitchen, and in this case, you will want to make sure there is space for your pots, pans, juicer, and blender, not to mention, all of your exotic spices. You have to remember with closets and storage that there are never too many closets or cabinets.  You may not fill them all up at first, but as your family grows you can fit more comfortably into the home.   Is there a garage or carport for your BMW, Jet Ski and wood shop?  You have to consider where all of this will end up if there is no garage.  It will cost more to store them elsewhere. You might not be able to build a garage on for zoning purposes.   A lack of space is something that cannot be remedied without major renovations and sometimes, it cannot be fixed at all.

5. Materials and Finishes

509 SANTA CLARA PRO-sm (25)You might think that this would be the part about the paint and trim, but those will be mentioned next week. Now that you have looked and found a home that has the other necessary qualities listed, let’s move on to the materials and finishes. Are the cabinets in good condition? Is the ceiling dropped or is it a popcorn ceiling?  A popcorn ceiling, for example, can run in the thousands just to be removed.  Finishes are not easy to change, either.  Is the bathroom covered in mint green tile?  Are the counter tops laminate or marble?  Is the floor hardwood or carpet?  These are all preferences but costly ones.  To redo an entire house filled with carpet to hardwood is labor intensive, and is expensive.

Stayed tuned…

Next week Sharele will discuss the top five things that you CAN initially look past and slowly change over time. One thing to always keep in mind is the structure of the house is going to cost more to change, but if the bones are great, the cosmetics can be changed later at a lower cost.



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Suzy Frank is an expert on Venice Real Estate as well as L.A.'s entire Westside.

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