How to find the perfect home

It isn't the one that has everything. It's the one with more of what you want and less of what you don't. This system can guide you to it.

Define 'acceptable' condition
Unless you're buying brand new, expect your home to need some upgrades. Just be sure the issues aren't structural (such as those under "red light" below, which your home inspector can help you identify). Fixing these could run as much as $30,000, says New Jersey builder Jay Cipriani.

Better to go with a home needing cosmetic work ("green light") or at least a less extensive overhaul ("yellow light"). The investment you make in resolving these will improve your quality of life while living there and increase the resale value.
RED LIGHT
These problems can be incredible costly. Run away.
YELLOW LIGHT
These issues may be fixable. Consult a pro to determine.
GREEN LIGHT
Fixing these problems will return at least some of your investment.
Major cracks in the foundation
To fix major foundation cracks, the house often needs to be propped up.
Leaking or sagging roof
Ask the roofer if you can plop on a new one (cheaper) or if you must strip the old (more costly).
Too few bathrooms
A half bath could run $15,000 but it can increase the home’s value by 12%.
Sagging stairs
One loose tread is okay, but if the entire staircase bows, you may have foundation problems. It’s a big job - see above.
A 20-year old boiler…
A more modern system (which you will likely have to install within a few years), will cost thousands.
Outdated kitchen
Revamping a kitchen can return 75% to 100% of your investment on resale.
Leaks or water damage
A long-term leak can rot your carpet and your walls, cause mold and require extensive repairs.
Mature trees within 15 feet
Roots can grow into pipes causing leaks or sewage backups.
Too-small rooms
Adding an archway or moving a non-load bearing wall can open the layout at a cost of around $7,000.
Termites
Mud tubes and hollow wood are signs of a serious infestation, particularly worrisome if the house has a wood frame.
High radon levels
To mitigate this lung cancer risk, you must install a ventilation system.
Cracked, drafty or warped windows
New, energy-efficient windows cost as little as $200 each and can make a big difference in appearance and heating bills.
Alison Rogers is the author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."
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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.