It doesn’t matter if your budget is $300,000 or $3 million, there are some important items that are often overlooked when buying a house in Park City. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the obvious things like location and square footage, but the little things are what can really get under your skin once you move in.
Not all of these elements are included or even necessary in every home. It’s just a short list of things that you might want to consider as you’re house hunting in a mountain town like Park City.
These 23 seemingly little things could add up…
1. Ceiling Height— Ceiling height might not seem like a big deal, but keep in mind when you move in your family’s antique hutch or the annual Christmas tree. According to the New York Times, sometime in the late 90’s or early 2000’s, 9 feet replaced 8 feet as the most common ceiling height. And buyers are pushing the heights higher and higher. Especially with the open concept trend, extra tall ceilings are on point and in demand.
2. Water Damage— Water damage can signal the obvious things, like leaking pipes and the potential for mold. But keep an eye in doorways for signs of damage and north facing roof areas for signs of ice dam buildups. Your home inspector should identify any signs of previous water damage.
3. Number and Location of Bathrooms— Bathrooms may seem like a no-brainer but they can pose a number of problems. Watch for odd placements, like bathrooms too close to dining spaces. As for quantity, a good rule of thumb is at least one bathroom per every 2 bedrooms.
4. Lights— Does your new home have adequate lighting? If not, you may need to bring in extra lamps, install more lights or even upgrade with a sky light. As you do your walk through, rooms with too many added lights such as canned ceiling lights might indicate low natural lighting, so keep that in mind. If the lights aren’t a style you like, factor this into your potential immediate upgrade cost.
5. Outlets— Make sure there are enough outlets for your devices and small appliances without a cord stretching across the floor or room. Be sure to peek behind dressers and large pieces of furniture. Rooms should have an electrical outlet every 12 feet, so that you never have to stretch a cord more than 6 feet in any direction.
6. Pets— Check for pet damage. Does the carpet have any stains or unpleasant odors that could be fixed by a thorough cleaning or would the flooring need to be replaced? Are there scratches or scrapes along the floorboards, doors or door frames? These can be signs of other pet damage that isn’t immediately apparent.
7. Cabinet Height— Consider how high you want your cabinets to be. Similar to the high ceilings, high cabinets may look stunning, but you may need to keep a ladder or step-stool nearby for top shelf access. This may not be a problem for some; but for the vertically challenged like me, a small ladder is a necessity in my kitchen.
8. Doors— Look at the quality of the interior and exterior doors. Are they hollow or solid? Think about how sound will carry through a closed door and throughout the house overall. Come football season or a few years down the road, you might want those solid doors.
9. Sun Exposure— Sun exposure is important in our mountain community. Too little sun can be depressing, especially during our long winters. Too much of it can make your home HOT, not to mention fade furniture, pictures and carpets. Generally, the homes with south-facing exposure receive the most sun. This was an important issue for me as I moved to Park City from sunny California. Some people prefer the eastern, morning sun or the western sunsets.
10. Mud Room— Mud rooms are much loved by the people that have them. They say they are great for storage and tend to keep the house cleaner. Between skiing, hiking and mountain biking in Park City, this would be a definite bonus. If you don’t have one, is it a deal breaker? Perhaps some clever shelving and storage hooks in the garage can suffice.
11. Fireplace— A fireplace can be considered an amenity but the type of fireplace can dictate a lot. A gas fireplace that flips on with a switch doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, yet depending on the type, can be more decorative than functional. Alternatively, a wood burning fireplace creates ambiance but requires wood sourcing, storage and can be messy.
12. Insulation— Insulation can be tricky to determine, but if you are seeing a home mid-winter and there are a high number of space heaters, there may not have adequate insulation. This can also be an issue in log homes which can be more drafty. If you are looking for heat efficiency, you will also want to check the insulation in the attic and in the crawl space as these can be costly upgrades. Most home inspectors will test for insulation.
13. Creaky Floors— Creaky floors may not seem like a big deal, but they can be difficult to remedy. Do you think the noise will bother you 5 or 10 years down the road? What if you have a sleeping child or house guest? A noisy floor in a high traffic area can affect others in the home. On the other hand, it is a part of home ownership and some like the charm of a “worn in” home. I have learned through experience that creaky floors may also be signs of other things, like previous water damage.
14. Garage and Parking— Garage space is a big deal in our fun ski, bike and hike town. You need to make sure there is enough space for all of your toys. Now that we have the important stuff under cover, you’ll also likely need to fit a car or two in there. If you have children, they will eventually become teenagers who may try to commandeer another parking spot, so keep that in mind.
15. Driveway— Driveways are a big deal in Park City. The length and slope of your driveway can make a big difference in you getting to work on time after a large snow fall. Of course, there are snow blowers and plow services that will help you out, but make sure to plan in advance. Many Park City homes also offer heated driveways which can save your back but not your pocketbook. If you do decide to shovel yourself you will get in a good workout but you might want to find yourself a trusted massage therapist. I have found that people from the northeast are much more tolerant of longer driveways.
16. Snow Build-Up— Depending on the snowfall, this might not be a problem. However, in the case of an epic winter, it can be difficult to find a place to pile all of the snow up. This can particularly be a problem for Old Town homes with smaller lots as well as homes on a hillside with limited driveway space. Survey the front yard and ask neighbors what they have done in the past.
17. Drainage— Did you know that many homes in Park City are on a floodplain? This is not a huge deal, in terms of actual flooding, but you will need flood insurance if you are financing the home. If there is a basement or crawl space, are sump pumps installed? Where do they drain to? Drainage can be a challenge in the spring. Take a look at the lay of the land and try to imagine any water build up or mud issues that might occur.
18. Trees— Look at the type of trees on the property and the condition that they are in. These trees may provide a nice amount of shade now, but will lose leaves in the fall. Some may fall ill and need to be removed. The quantity and type of trees is simply something to think about when looking into a new home. Also, check your neighbor’s trees. Those pretty little evergreens may block your view one day.
19. Lawn/Sprinkler System— Similar to the condition of the trees, check out the condition of the lawn, and whether or not there is a functioning sprinkler system. While many Park City homes feature xeriscaping, there are also plenty with grass and that requires sprinkler system upkeep
20. Exterior Lights— Exterior lights can go a long way in making a home look inviting at night and they are a great security measure as well. Ensure the home has ample exterior lights and that they actually function. If you plan to renovate with exterior lights, just be aware of any limitations the neighborhood’s HOA might have on brightness.
21. Fencing— There can be tight regulations regarding fencing depending on the neighborhood. If you are purchasing a home without a fence and you plan to make the addition, make sure and check in advance with the governing HOA and get their approval in writing.
22. Steepness— The steepness of the road you are on can become challenging, especially in the winter. Whether you are skilled at driving in the snow or not, others on the road may not have safe snow driving habits (think out of town visitors). Also, if you like to bike or walk around your neighborhood, take a good look at walkability, sidewalks and outdoor lighting.
23. HOA— Many Park City neighborhoods are governed by a Homeowners Association (HOA). It is always a good idea to check into the financial health of the HOA by requesting a copy of their balance sheet. A cash reserve equal or greater to 3 months of operating expenses is a good indication that the HOA is being managed properly and that they won’t be running out of funds in the short-term. This will be provided to you as part of the sellers’ disclosures.
We’ve put this list together so you don’t have to. If you’ve purchased a home in Park City, is there something that irked you when you first moved in? Hindsight is 20/20, but if you share it with us in the comments your experience might truly help another Park City home buyer!