What to Look for When Buying a House: 5 Things to Check Off Your List at Every Viewing

Posted by Kent Braaten on Tuesday, January 14th, 2020 at 1:34pm.

Easily one of the most common questions I get when working with new buyers is “What should I be looking for when buying a house?” And rightfully so; buying a home is one of the largest purchases you are going to make in your lifetime! You want to be sure you’re getting what you want and need! So what should you be looking for?

#1: Ownership History

The house you’re looking at may seem to check off every box on your list, but there may be something you can’t see that you’re missing. The easiest way to tell? Look at the ownership turnover! If the house has passed hands every couple of years for the last decade, that may be a pretty good indicator that there’s something pushing owners out. 

When looking at houses to buy in Saskatoon, my recommendation is always to ask why the current owner is selling. If their answer is for work or lifestyle changes, you may not have anything to worry about. But if it’s because of a poor location or noise, you should be aware before you continue looking.

#2: How is the Foundation?

One of the key elements to look for when buying a house is structural integrity. After all, there’s a reason they say “the house don’t fall when the bones are good.” It can be easy to get stuck on the paint job and the decor, but think of that as the outfit you put on at the end of the day. It may look good, but it doesn’t eliminate a desperate need for a trip to the chiropractor.

Paint can chip away and be changed with just a few hours of work, but if foundational repairs are needed, you could be looking at a very costly repair within the first few years of owning your home. Keep an eye out for buckling walls or ceilings and any visible cracks in the foundation. Uneven or bouncy floors can also be indicators of structural concern.

#3: Define Your Dealbreakers

When buying a new home, you’re not just looking for a place to rest your head and cook your meals—you’re looking for a place that fits your lifestyle! Do you need a fenced backyard where the kids and the dogs can play safely? Do you need extra bedrooms for frequent houseguests? Do you need lots of natural light and a view that keeps you connected with nature?

Before you go into the viewing process, it’s important to define what is most important to you when buying a house. It may be tempting to want to keep as much of an open mind as possible, but the more you narrow down your wants and needs, the happier you’ll be with your long-term investment! 

#4: Is Maintenance Needed?

As any good real estate agent will tell you, there’s more to buying a house than just the purchase price. There are closing costs, insurances, and, of course, maintenance and upkeep. And by identifying any necessary maintenance in the viewing process, you can minimize the costs you may have to deal with after sale.

Here are just some of the things that may need maintenance you should look for when buying a house to keep as much money in your pocket up front.:

  • Roof repairs can be some of the most costly expenses for homeowners and can drive insurance rates sky high. Don’t be afraid to ask how old the roof is and check for signs that it may be sinking in. 

  • Heating and Cooling Systems are an essential part of keeping comfortable in our sometimes extreme Saskatoon weather. But, if they are out-of-date or inefficient, they can drive up utility bills and be costly to repair. Look for newer systems with a good efficiency rating.

  • Plumbing problems are not just an annoyance, they can also be cause for serious concern. Water damage can mean not only cosmetic and structural issues, but also health risks if mold is present! Always feel free to go under the hood and take a look at the pipes. And keep an eye around window sills and baseboards for signs that damage may have been painted over.

  • Smells may seem easy to get rid of, but some scents, like sewage, gas, pet odours, or mildew, shouldn’t be taken lightly. Sewage, gas, and mildew may indicate underlying issues that need to be addressed, while pet odours can be quite costly to treat. And if things maybe smell too good—like freshly sprayed air freshener or odour eliminators in every room—you may want to ask yourself if there may be something they’re trying to hide.

  • Working Fixtures and Appliances might be something you would assume when spending six figures on a home, but you can never be too careful! Check everything. Flip the lightswitches, open the windows and doors, flush the toilets, test the outlets, check the faucets, and inspect the appliances.


#5: Get a Lay of the Land

Your home isn’t just what lies within the four walls, it’s also the land it stands on. Take a step outside and look at the landscape: does the property slope toward the house? Ask if flooding is a concern. Is the fence warped or windswept? Ask when it was installed. Is the driveway steep? You may have an unwanted ski slope in the winter. How’s the traffic? Is the driveway shared? What is the view like? These are all questions to ask yourself as you tour not just the interior, but also the exterior of the property when viewing. 


To save yourself time and money both before and after possession, it’s important to know what to look for when buying a house. Of course, there are a few things that should always be checked by a professional, which is why a home inspection is crucial. Not only will they be able to verify your initial assessment, they’ll also check that everything is up to code and in working order so you can turn the key on your new property absolutely stress-free!

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