A Home Buyer’s Check List: Phone Jacks, Outlets and Other Necessities

A couple of years ago, my wife and I went out looking to buy our first house. And, last September, we purchased one.

A lot of people have asked me exactly why it took us more than a year to find our house. And, my answer to them is simple; I’m a bit pickier than many other home buyers.

Because of my job, I talk to new homeowners on an almost daily basis; both when they first buy their house and a few months after moving into it. More often than not, those homeowners discovered something they hated about the house shortly after moving it; something they overlooked when they were deciding to buy it.

As a result, when I started shopping for my house, I compiled a list of items they overlooked and that list, while making it a bit more difficult to find a home that fit my criteria, helped me avoid some major headaches.

Look for phone jacks and electrical outlets and test them to see if they work. The very first house my wife and I looked at was beautiful. It had four bedrooms, was in a decent neighborhood and, since the previous owner had died and left it as an estate, it was in our price range. We were all set to go to make an offer when my wife and I talked about where we would put our computer. I liked the room off of the main hall way, she wanted to put it in one of the bedrooms. In arguing my case, I realized there was no phone jack in the room I wanted (we were still using dial up Internet at the time) and, after looking around a little more, I also noticed there wasn’t an electrical outlet. We then looked at the room my wife wanted and it was the same way.

In fact, we searched the entire house and found just three outlets and no phone jacks. We later learned the owners had started to remodel some of the rooms (to make the house more attractive) and apparently forgot about those. I’m not very handy around the house and, after buying the house, we wouldn’t have been able to afford an electrician so we said no right then and there.

We also had a similar house that had plenty of outlets but, when we had an inspector come in, we discovered that most of those no longer worked.

Where are your water shut-offs? This is actually something we didn’t have on our list and missed on our current home. When we bought the house, we intended on replacing the faucets in the kitchen and bathroom. We later discovered the sinks didn’t have a shut off valve and, to replace the faucets, we first will have to shut off the water to the entire house. It’s not a huge deal but it is a bit of an inconvenience.

If you plan on keeping your furniture, take along a tape measure. Like many people, I planned on keeping my furniture when I moved; at least until I had the money to eventually replace it. Unlike many people, I had the presence of mind to measure key pieces of that furniture; like my couch and bed. And, I’m glad I did this. My wife and I fell in love with a house that, again, was absolutely beautiful and in our price range. The first time we went there, I had forgotten my tape measure. But, I remembered to bring it along on the second trip. We were standing in the master bedroom of the house talking about the view from the window when I realized the room was actually a bit narrow. After doing some measuring, I realized our queen-sized bed wouldn’t fit. In fact, I don’t think any of the bedrooms of that house would fit more than a full or twin-sized bed; both of which would be too small for us.

Take a few minutes to test the furnace, hot water, etc. Living in Wisconsin, I am shocked by the number of people who will buy a house and not check to see if their furnace works first. It’s one thing if you have a home warranty but many sellers don’t offer that. We didn’t find any houses with issues with their furnace. But, we did turn on the hot water at one house and found it took several minutes to warm up. I wasn’t in the mood to replace a hot water heater shortly after buying the house so I turned that one down.

If you’re moving to a different city, did you research your utilities? I stayed in town when I moved so I didn’t have to do this. But, I come across people all the time that will move to some of the smaller surrounding communities, hoping to save on property taxes. The taxes are cheaper in those areas, but most only have one phone company to choose from and none have cable television or high speed internet access. That doesn’t sound like a place I would want to live at and I know, from talking to those people, they regret that decision as well.

Like I said before, being slightly pickier when you look at homes to buy might reduce the number of homes to choose from. But, if you can avoid a potential headache or even a large expense, isn’t it worth it?

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