Buying your Muskoka Home with your eyes wide open!

Buyer Tips Karen ActonAs you make plans to purchase a new Muskoka Home you will most likely plan to have an inspection to make sure you have a roof that won’t leak, a solid foundation, proper wiring and so on. But what about the things not covered by the inspection?  In my experience as a Muskoka Realtor, it is the less obvious factors that end up making the biggest impact on the day-to-day enjoyment of your home. Here are some of the things I would suggest that you keep your “eyes open” for when house hunting.  Some may be things that you can possibly change, like flow and room size; but some like privacy, you may not be able to do anything about. So consider them carefully before you sign on the dotted line!

Interior-Exterior flow.  Enjoying your home and property will have a lot to do with how easily you can “come and go”. If you love to garden but cannot step out to the back gardens easily you may get frustrated. If you have little ones who come in and out a dozen times a day, do you need tile at the threshold instead of carpet?  Is there a handy washroom? Think about the ease with which you can move from indoor to outdoor living areas and back again. Make sure you have sufficient doors leading from the main living spaces to the outdoors.
Room size.  Not many of us can envision a room filled with our own furnishings when the seller’s furnishings are still in place. However, it is necessary to imagine setting up your own furniture in the rooms as you walk through — bring measurements if you can of the larger pieces to help you with the process. You don’t need to do this in every home you view but once you narrow down your choices to one or two, this is information that will help you make the best choice.

Room flow. Like interior-exterior flow, the floor plan, can have a big effect on your daily life. Walk through the rooms imagining your typical day.  If you have little ones can you see them playing in the den easily from the kitchen? If you have family members with mobility issues, will they be able to access bathrooms and other primary living spaces with ease? Is there a natural, easy flow from one room to the next?

The lay of the land.  The grade and geography of the lot is, in some ways, even more important than its size.  In Muskoka many homes are on large lots but if the land is too steep or too swampy or too densely treed to actually use, what good is a large lot? Think about not just what you want today but what you might want in the future. If, in the future, you decided you wanted to add a deck, an extra room, or a backyard studio, would that be possible on your lot?

It’s all about natural light. This really is a big one but it often gets overlooked when attending showings. I recommend that once you have a few homes on your short list; have a second look at a different time of day. This will give you a better picture of what the light is like in the home.

Whether the weather. Muskoka is a snow belt area so expect of lot of winter snow. You may want to include covered entrances, an easy-to-shovel driveway, or an attached garage on your checklist! Remember our lots are often bigger here than in the city, so driveways can be long. Be sure how much you want to deal with after a snow storm.

Staircase steepness and length. You may not have the slightest problem with stairs — but this is one of those times it’s helpful to think about the future. If you think you might ever want or need to take in an elderly relative, or you plan to live in your new home into your retirement years, a long, steep staircase may not be the best feature.

Special features. Great architectural details like exposed beams, beautiful molding and mantels, vaulted ceilings with window walls will make everything else you do to your home look even better. However, some of these features need special cleaning and maintenance so ensure you are up for it. Exposed beams get dusty and window walls can be hard to clean. You may even need the help of professionals.

Laundry location. Is the laundry in a convenient spot or is it hidden away in a dark corner of the basement? Since this is a chore that usually needs to be done frequently, having a laundry near a main living area can make life easier.

Kitchen features. Kitchens are often renovated to look “good” prior to a sale however you should look at a kitchen with a practical eye. Absorb the layout from the point of view of day-to-day use. Consider its shape, natural light, number of sinks, storage area and overall size. Is there gas available if that is what you prefer to use? Have whoever does most of the cooking in your household make a wish list for the kitchen.

Bathrooms. Adding a bathroom is expensive and not always possible if you are on a septic system, so choose a home with enough baths to meet your family’s needs. Even if you are a household of only one or two people, an extra powder room on the main floor can be a big boon.

Zoning. If you think you may want to build a workshop or garage in the future you need to be sure your lot size and zoning will allow for that.  If you think you may one day want to start a business or have backyard chickens or another unconventional pet, check with the municipality before committing to a house or you may never realize the dreams you have your heart set on.

The neighborhood. This is most likely where you started your search, but have you really thought about all aspects of your potential new neighborhood? Schools are of course important for families with children, and proximity to work, shopping and family are other important reasons for selecting a particular area. But you may also want to look into how close you are to churches, community centres and walking and biking trails.

My numerous personal moves combined with years of selling real estate have allowed me to learn a lot about the things people are looking for in a new home. Call me if you are looking for a Muskoka home and let me share my experience with you.