Feel It Before You Buy It: 3 Clues That a House Might Be (Un)comfortable

Let’s say you’ve been looking for houses—and you’ve finally found what you want for your family. It’s in your price range. It could use some updates, but buying it feels like a good decision.

Great! Before you say yes to this house, ask yourself a question: do you know how good it will feel when your family is living in it?

You can look for these three clues to learn how comfortable—and even how healthy—this house could be for your family. We’ll help you translate the clues so you know how to start turning the house you buy into the home you want.

Clue #1 The air inside feels humid.

A humid house won’t feel great to you, but it’s the perfect environment for mold and mildew. When mold and mildew start growing, they can generate unpleasant odors, trigger allergic reactions, and worsen asthma symptoms. If a family member suffers from any respiratory issues, good moisture control can be even more important for keeping them comfortable. (Learn more about how the air inside your home can affect your family’s health—and what you can do about it.) 


What you notice:
What it means:

The air in each room feels a little sticky, as if you were outside in humid air.   

The home’s ventilation system may need to be cleaned or updated. It may also mean the house is missing a vapor retarder inside the walls. (A vapor retarder is a thin film that lets moisture you generate indoors from cooking, laundry, etc. escape from the house, while blocking outdoor moisture from coming in.)

You see signs of mildew, peeling paint, or moisture-damaged wood in the bathroom, kitchen, or laundry area.

Fans in the bathroom and above the stove, or the exhaust line for the dryer, may not be properly vented to the outside.

Clue #2 The temperature doesn’t feel consistent across the house.

You’ve been looking over the appliances in the kitchen. The temperature felt fine in there. But when you step into the bedroom, do you notice a difference? How about the bathroom? If different rooms feel significantly warmer or colder, that will definitely affect your family’s comfort, not to mention your utility costs.


What you notice:
What it means:

You asked to see the past year’s utility bills for this house. You notice the costs vary dramatically by month.

The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system may be old and struggle to work properly in extreme temperatures. The house likely doesn’t have the right amount of insulation in every wall. Ask the seller or real estate agent what they can tell you about these two things.

You feel hot or cold outdoor air sneaking in around the edges of doors, windows, and plumbing fixtures.

There are gaps that need to be sealed with weather stripping or caulk.

Standing by windows, you feel the heat radiating inside.

The house needs double-paned windows or storm windows to help keep summer heat outside.


Clue #3 You feel like the house is too noisy.

A home that blocks outdoor noises from disturbing the indoor peace will add to your family’s comfort. And if it keeps sounds within your home—kids playing, movies blaring, music blasting—from traveling between rooms, that’s even better.


What you notice:
What it means:

While you’re inside, you clearly hear outdoor noises like traffic and barking dogs.

The house probably doesn’t have the right amount of insulation in its exterior walls.

You clearly hear your family members walking or talking from another room. (You can even hear the toilet flush down the hall.)

The house doesn’t have insulation in the walls between rooms or between stories.


Now you know. Now what?

The temperature, moisture, and noise level within the house all influence your family’s overall comfort—and even their health. The energy efficiency of the house influences the temperature, moisture, and noise level. In fact, energy efficiency makes a truly comfortable home possible thanks to updates like high-efficiency HVAC systems, proper insulation, and more.

You can make some low-cost energy efficiency improvements or repairs yourself (take a look at “7 Affordable Projects to Keep You Warmer (and Save Money) This Winter”).

If the house you want to buy feels like it needs a lot of energy improvements, including big ones like a new HVAC system or proper insulation, Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle® Energy Mortgage can help you finance these improvements when purchasing a new home or refinancing your current one. Learn how the HomeStyle® Energy Mortgage helps make energy efficiency more affordable and more convenient.

So, now that you know, talk with your real estate agent or lender about the details you’ve noticed as you tour homes. They can help you gather the information you need to make the best decision for your family’s comfort and health.

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