- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Folks are always looking for the elusive “dream home.” Not too long after settling into a new dwelling, many residents begin to pick apart the house they just rented or bought.

Someone who really likes the idea of a laundry chute — great, no more carrying dirty clothes to the laundry room — rethinks that idea when they now have to climb up two flights of steps to put away the clothes.

Here are some practical things to think about when you’re looking through the pool of homes you’re hoping to buy.

• Measure your furniture. I mentioned this recently about a couch that wouldn’t fit into my basement once I finished the space. You might say the excitement about the two sleeper sofas dimmed to the degree that I was realizing I couldn’t use them the way I had planned.

Fortunately for me, I had hired the perfect decorator who pointed me back to the furniture manufacturer who directed me to a couple of fellows who dismantle, move and reassemble furniture.

When shopping for a home, don’t forget the measurements of your large furniture: couches, big-screen TVs, mattresses and pianos.

• Why is that conveying? It sounds great that the pool table conveys. Ask yourself why. Why would the owner part with this piece of furniture or extra refrigerator? Play a quick game of pool, see if the refrigerator really freezes and cools. It may be they just won’t have room in the next house for them, or they no longer need them.

Yet it could be they are handing over a white elephant to the next owners.

• What if it breaks? So the hot tub stays? Great. What if it breaks down? Again, is this really a benefit to the house or is it something that has cost the owners hundreds or thousands of dollars a year to maintain? Find out if a large piece of equipment or appliance has had any repair problems.

• What about conveniences? Sure, the house is located deep in the community on a cul-de-sac, but what does that mean when you need a bag of sugar or flour?

Is the shopping just a few minutes down the road or does it mean a 15-minute jaunt down the highway? If it’s a newer development, how long before they will be constructing the business section of the development?

• What kind of wiring? This analysis has become more important as homeowners look more toward broadband, high-speed Internet access for work and pleasure.

When walking through an older home, be sure to really understand what all the coaxial connections really attach to: antenna, cable, digital cable, satellite. In addition, if you’re accustomed to other connections, such as DSL or fiber optics, at least find out if these services are available if the house doesn’t have them connected already.

• Planes, trains and automobiles. If you’re looking for a quiet neighborhood, come by and check out the community during rush hour. It may be convenient to the main thoroughfares, but are those roadways so close that you can hear the traffic — or see it?

How about the sounds from above? I’ve talked with many owners who, aware that the community was near the airport, had no idea they would have to straighten their pictures on the walls after each airplane flew over.

• HOA documents. Don’t just thumb through the homeowners’ association documents. Be sure to really understand your limits under these binding agreements.

In one community near Washington, for instance, no resident can park a pickup truck on his property. Imagine the surprise of a new homeowner who just didn’t notice that limitation.

When I’ve bought properties, I turn to the HOA docs immediately.

More detail is better than the big picture when it comes to selecting your next property. Research, drive by and really get to know your target property before making a final decision. Happy shopping.

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate since 1989. He is the author of “Real Estate Investing Made Simple.” Post questions and comments at his Web log (https://commonsenserealestate.blogspot.com).

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