How to be a savvy Sierra Nevada home buyer

If you have been considering a change from your current home to another or you are a first time buyer to the Truckee/Lake Tahoe/Reno region, you most likely will be living with your final buying decision for many years to come. Your choice will have a long-term effect on the future enjoyment of your new location. With hundreds of homes to choose from, the choices can easily become overwhelming. Minimize your risk by locating a local Realtor who is an expert in the market, listens and understands your needs and is focused on your success.

You will benefit by having a practical approach when searching for your future home. It is important to understand that a perfect home is impossible to find. Consider that 80-90 percent of all your housing requirements is sufficient. Perhaps several key components will not be compromised upon.

Here are some tips to become a savvy buyer in the Sierra Nevada Mountains region:

Dream: Set parameters for yourself and narrow your search to perhaps 6-15 properties. How big of a house do I want? Where is my ideal location? Do I want to be in a forested setting or have a great mountain or water view? Does it have to be new construction or is an older home OK? What price range am I comfortable within? These are just a few of the questions that you need define while formulating your goals and objectives. Inevitably the buying decision has an emotional element. Does the house feel good? Is my family going to be safe? Am I really going to be happy here?

Natural Ambient Light: Natural light is a very personal component of any home. Houses with a south, southwest or west exposure receive much more natural ambient light than those with an east or northern exposure. Watch out, if you have massive south facing windows. It’s possible to get too much light and that summer sun can make the temperature in the house uncomfortable. The intensity of the sun can fade furniture, photographs, natural wood floors and more.

Up-sloping Lot: A substantial “Bird’s Eye” view may be part of the allure for this kind of lot. Many of these homes have a reverse floorplan where the main living areas and kitchen are on the second story. People and cars from the street below can not see in through the windows very well. An up-sloping lot means an up-sloping driveway. If the driveway is facing south, southwest or west it will get maximum sun and help melt away the snow in winter. An up-sloping lot often mean stairs up to the house. Be prepared to deal with hauling those groceries up a flight or two. Exterior activities on the property can be limited do to the severity of the slope.

Down-sloping Lot: Once again magnificent views can be obtained from these kinds of lots. These properties can have a level driveway right into the garage. Once again, the reverse floorplan is popular. Great rooms and the master bedroom can be located on the top floor and the lower level may have a walkout feature to the backyard. The severity of the slope can limit outdoor activities.

Level Lots: If stairs are out of the question, outdoor activities are important and easy entry into and out of the garage are important to you, then a level or gentle sloping lot may be desirable. If the lot is heavily treed expect to be challenged in the natural ambient light category.

Snow Shedding: In the winter the mountains can get a LOT of snow. Therefore think about how the snow- melt is going to effect your enjoyment of the home. Does the roof shed right onto the driveway? How about the entry? Will you need to board up the lower windows on the north side of the house? In the Sierra Nevada it typically will freeze at night and thaw during the day. If you have an asphalt roof you will get the perpetual drip from the roof eve and then that water will freeze on the ground at night. Asphalt roofs tend to hold the snow. If it is a metal roof, the snow tends to continually shed or creep down. Sometimes a metal roof will literally avalanche creating a dangerous situation if it is releasing onto a walkway, deck or driveway. If you are buying in the summer, don’t forget to consider snow-shedding issues.

Newer Homes: Newer homes have the latest building codes that are implemented into the design and construction. These homes probably have higher snow loads for the roof compared to older homes and therefore need to be cleared of snow less in the big years. Their insulation is substantial. A brand new home will have appliance and material guarantees and a contractor’s guarantee as well. New homes typically do not require any immediate maintenance and can give the absentee owner “Piece of Mind” when they’re out of the area. When buying a new home prior to completion you will likely have an opportunity to customize your fit and finishes such as flooring, granite/tile, stains and paints. Be wary to make sure that you have an agreed upon specific material and labor specifications list as an addendum to your purchase contract.

Older Homes: A home requires more maintenance as it gets older. When viewing an older home think ahead 3-7 years. Is the roof at or near the end of its life? How about the kitchen appliances? Is the exterior ready for paint or stain? How about the interior? How old are the furnace and water heater? This list goes on and on. Take into consideration these denominators in your purchasing decision and plan ahead for future expenses

Inspections Reports: The more knowledge that you have about the condition of the home you are buying the greater your perspective and confidence in your decision to remove inspection contingencies associated with your purchase. A physical inspection report by a licensed home inspector and a structural pest control inspection is a great place to start. Additional inspections may be prudent from trade specialists such as an electrician or roofing contractor.

When you purchase your home, be a savvy buyer. Your home selection is a highly personal and emotional purchase, but it pays dividends with enjoyment to be practical. There are positives and negatives to every home. The greater your perspective when previewing homes, the greater your chances are that you will enjoy your purchase for many years to come.

Rick Raduziner is a senior broker with Sierra Sotheby’s International Realty. He has been representing buyers and sellers and has developed homes in the Truckee/Tahoe region for over 24 years. Rick can be reached at 530-308-1628. Search his website for all available properties at


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