10 Austin Home Buying Tips from the Pros
Buying a home can be a tremendous undertaking. In addition to all the financial preparation involved in finding your dream home, you want to ensure you don’t end up with a money pit that consumes all your resources and your sanity.
If you’re on the hunt for a house in Austin, you’re not alone. If you think interior design in Austin is hot, the housing market in Austin is even hotter. In the first quarter of 2018 alone 7,115 home sales closed in the Austin-Round Rock area, according to the Texas Association of Realtors. That’s a 7.7-percent increase over the first quarter of 2017.
We’re here to help you on your home buying journey with advice from the perspective of an Austin interior designer. And to make sure you know exactly what to look for in a potential new home, we’ve enlisted the help of Austin contractor Ashley Wainscott, founder and CEO of Simply Sold. Our combined knowledge of the Austin real estate market will guide you down the right path to home ownership.
Whether you wind up purchasing a fixer-upper that needs to be gutted and rehabbed or you settle on a home that needs a few cosmetic updates, consider working with an Austin interior designer. Austin interior designers can draft a high-quality floorplan that will allow you to revamp your new home. They can also help you make important decisions about the types of materials, paints, and finishes you want to use throughout your home.
1. Pay Attention to the Foundation
Image courtesy of Dwell
If you love the house but don’t love the layout, it’s easier to remodel a pier-and-beam foundation, which is easy to find in Austin. Because the home is raised, it’s easier to access plumbing pipes and other tricky-to-reach components. Homes built on a slab require use of a jackhammer to make major layout changes. Not only is it more work to chisel through a slab foundation, it’s also more expensive. And all that vibration could compromise the structural integrity of the slab in the long run.
2. Scope Out the Home’s Exterior
Image from our Lake Austin Remodel
In general, replacing siding on a home is simple. And if you change or remove windows, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding siding to match. If the exterior is stone, however, and you plan to make major alterations to the outside of the home, it can be difficult to find stone that matches what’s currently in place. Keep that in mind if you plan to make changes that would affect the exterior.
3. Get Creative with Storage
Image from our Westlake Remodel
Did you fall in love with an older home? Chances are the storage space is less than desirable. Try not to sweat it; think outside the box. Consider purchasing an armoire and dresser. If you have the budget, have an open closet system installed along a large wall in one of the bedrooms.
4. Survey the Lot
Image from our LBJ’s Mom’s House Project
If you plan to add square footage to your new Austin home, do some research first. Your property may be subject to one of the state’s many tree preservation and landscape ordinances. Depending on where you live, certain species of trees — known as heritage trees — are protected and can’t be removed or cut down from the property. To be safe, ask an architect or contractor for guidance on the regulations. You may even be able to request a variance to allow removal of a heritage tree.
5. Scan the House from Top to Bottom
Image from our Bryker Woods Flip Project
Wainscott advises homebuyers to get a big-picture view of the home they’re thinking of buying. “Some cracks in walls are normal. They indicate the house is settling. But a large volume of huge cracks can signal a structural problem,” she says. Doors and windows that don’t shut properly can also mean problems with the home’s structure. To get to the bottom of it, be sure to hire a reputable home inspector who can examine the home thoroughly and provide you with a list of concerns that will need to be addressed.
When scanning the bathrooms and kitchen, make a note of where the plumbing connections and electrical outlets are located. “When you start moving plumbing and electrical, that’s when the pricing starts to drastically increase by thousands of dollars,” Wainscott says.
6. Prioritize the Big-Ticket Items
Image courtesy of Handyman How To
Does your future dream home have bowing walls or slanting floors? Is the master bedroom ceiling blemished with water spots? These red flags can really add up once you’ve moved in. Avoid unwanted surprise repairs by having an inspector hone in on the roof, electrical wiring, plumbing, and heating and air conditioning. Wainscott says these are the priciest parts of a home to fix or replace, so if you run into these expenses, think about how they’ll affect your overall budget.
7. Be Willing to Compromise
Are you in love with the idea of transforming a closed layout fixer-upper into an open home that flows seamlessly from room to room? Wainscott says the home’s structure and placement of load-bearing walls will dictate your options.
If you’re able to do a complete open floorplan transformation, Wainscott says you’ll need to have an engineer on-site when walls are being removed. But if a fully open floorplan isn’t possible, you can compromise throughout the house by opening one wall and adding columns or ceiling beams. “The good news is, you usually have an option. It just might not be as desirable as a big, open layout,” she says.
8. Let the Sunshine In
If the home you’re considering buying doesn’t let in a lot of natural light, Wainscott says adding a skylight or a few windows isn’t generally a complicated task. “Window installation isn’t a difficult process, but the details are important. Keep in mind the type of trim and window you want. And think about whether you want it to open and close a certain way,” she advises. Again, the home’s exterior matters. Wainscott says adding windows is tougher on stone and brick homes.
9. On a Budget? Make Little Fixes.
Image from our San Diego Condo Project
You may not have a lot of money to play with after purchasing your new home, but Wainscott says that shouldn’t deter you from making some cosmetic changes. Adding fresh hardware to cabinets, installing modern light fixtures, changing out faucets, and replacing old light switches with toggle switches can make a world of difference without costing a fortune.
10. Tackle One Project at a Time
Image form our East Austin Home Project
If you have the luxury of time, Wainscott recommends taking on the biggest projects first, ideally before you plan to move into your new home. “You don’t want to live in the middle of a renovation,” she says, “so pick the most disruptive project, like a kitchen remodel, to start with before you’re in the house.”
It’s rare to find a home that doesn’t need any interior decorating or design work. Whether you plan to knock down walls and remodel or spruce up the cabinetry with a fresh coat of paint, you could benefit from the experience of an interior designer. Contact J.Fisher Interior Design to revamp and revive your new home from the inside out.
J.Fisher Interiors’ studio is located in east Austin. To schedule your consultation appointment, please fill out the contact form or call us at 512.954.0904. We would love to hear from you!