Ask about renovation history.
If you spot recent renovations, confirm that they were approved by the appropriate authorities. “The permit history can be obtained from the neighborhood or city’s planning department,” Kahramaner says.
If it wasn’t permitted, there might be safety concerns. Plus, if you purchase a home with unpermitted work, you’ll “inherit all the baggage” of it, Kahramaner notes.
Planning departments have stringent, specific guidelines for everything from the placement of outlets to allowed materials. If an inspector comes by to sign off on your own renovations and spots anything not to code, you’ll be on the hook to fix it.
“A $30,000 kitchen renovation can turn into a $100,000 project where you need to fix everything in order to bring it up to code,” Kahramaner says.
Take note of the smell and feel of the home.
You can tell a lot about a home from pictures, but there’s no replacement for being in the space, the Brokery’s Pontikas says.
“If you get an overwhelming whiff of pets or smoke, you may have to budget for carpet [replacement] or getting the air ducts cleaned,” Pontikas says. That can add up—synthetic carpet can cost up to $4 per square foot, plus installation fees.
As you walk through a house, you can often tell if it's been loved or if it's tired and in need of TLC, Pontikas says. Banged up cabinets and items that are loose and wobbly indicate that the homeowner may have also neglected routine maintenance, such as servicing the HVAC unit or having the roof inspected periodically, she says.