That’s what I tell my buyer clients as well as sellers who are preparing to put their homes on the market. “Impossible!” you say. “You’re not even a home inspector!”

Evaluate I said, not fully inspect. I’m not passing myself off as a licensed plumber either, but simply offering an insight into how I can evaluate an entire home—not just its furnace—in a matter of seconds.

As I walk up to a home, and once I step through the front door, I’m immediately looking for clues to what else I’ll find inside. I quickly take in the condition of the front door itself, the hardware on it, the condition of the window frames on the outside and the shape of the wood porch if there is one. Once inside, my eyes go to the floor in the foyer, the walls and ceiling and any items of furniture or decoration nearby.

All this I do in about thirty seconds, but it gives me a wealth of information about the home. Is the condition of the wood and paint pristine and smooth, or tired and worn? Is the door hardware fresh-looking and gleaming, or stained and dinged up? Is the foyer floor a pleasant tile or elegant hardwood, or shabby carpet or chipped laminate? Is there crown molding along the ceiling? Are the doorframes painted a gloss white in contrast to walls that are freshly painted in a flat, neutral color? Is the ceiling—please no!—covered with gloss paint?

These details immediately tell me a lot about the owners, how they feel about their home, how they take care of it, how much effort they put into making it look tasteful and inviting. Needless to say, this directly translates into how they maintain the rest of the house: the roof, the appliances, the electrical and plumbing systems, and yes, the furnace, air conditioning and water heater.

As I walk through the home with my clients, my initial impressions of a well-kept home are virtually always borne out. Every room is clean and neat, the kitchen is usually upgraded and pristine, the woodwork is gleaming and the baths are immaculate.

The opposite, of course, goes for a home where my first impressions are of neglect and lack of care. Seeing the actual HVAC unit itself may be anticlimactic, as a home in poor shape can in fact have a newer furnace. But I’d bet that the air ducts were never cleaned and the furnace filter is only changed to coincide with the opening ceremonies of the winter Olympics.

That’s what I see as a real estate agent. You can bet that buyers are looking at the same things, and if you’re a buyer, you should definitely observe small details to evaluate the entire home. You know what they say about getting only one chance to make a first impression. If you’re a seller, don’t let your front door and foyer throw shade on the poor furnace in the basement.

Bo Twerdowsky

Real estate agent, self-professed computer geek, grammar policeman, proud father of two. Opinionated, questioning, intolerant of stuffy sorts devoid of a sense of humor.