Take advantage of winter when buying your home

Real Estate Agent

One of the many things that I look for when I walk the Lincoln Square and surrounding neighborhoods are "issues" that I spot that most buyers might not notice when looking for their new home.

Snow, cold and winter are your biggest helpers when looking to buy a home.  Here's why:

  • Ice Cycles - Look for the ice cycles on the homes.  That will tell you where the heat is escaping or there isn't proper insulation.
  • Cold Drafts - this will tell you if there is adequate insulation around your widows, minimal around your electrical outlets, in the basement at the top outside walls as most finished basements are sealed/insulated properly and the cold air just comes right in.
  • Windows - you can have new windows but it depends upon the type of windows you are using to replace the old wooden windows with the dummy weights.
    • Let's talk replacement windows real quick here.  There are vinyl replacement windows with different levels of strength, interior framing.  I have seen and witnessed and am not a happy camper with vinyl windows because within two to three years, when one opens those windows, in the center, they begin to warp!  No joke.  I have seen it and I am not an advocate of vinyl replacement windows.  However, if you are careful and open the windows properly, they can last longer with fewer problems.  My favorite are the wood with aluminum wrap windows.  Not cheap but more energy efficient, well maintained, no warp issues and you can stain or paint the insides of your windows.  The ones I do not like at all are the thinner framed windows that run flush with the home where there is no attached trim work.  While they work, they hold the lowest and hurt the resale value in most homes.  How do I know?  I have watched three homes recently here in Lincoln Square take a bath in selling price because of the windows.  It effects the curb appeal.  It's kind of like me going outside without any makeup on ... (I call it my Halloween Costume) but the appeal isn't wonderful.  (just being honest about it).  Bottom is, some of these cheaper windows are going to cost you, the buyer alot more money down the road because the size will have to be custom, dealing with the siding if there is no trim package, etc. 
  • Vents - the outside vents are critical.  Most are put on the side of the house but the pitch, where the exhaust/steam releases can also affect your home as well as your neighbors.  Is there a back flow?  When you walk around the homes, look at the vents and see if ice cycles are coming down from them.  Then look to see if there are homes with vents (not the roof top ones, btw) are pitched up.  If they are, make sure that there is not a back flow of water or moisture going back into your home.
  • Ever notice when a roof looks wet?  Something isn't just right and you want to get it inspected.  It doesn't happen on every roof but I see them every once in a while ... There is water coming down some place underneath those shingles. 
  • Side walks - this isn't funny but I have seen it happen but you really need to look at the pitch of your front and side walks.  The front walks, if they are lower then the rest of the neighbors - you will have your very own ice rink across the front of your yard and no getting around it but to remove and buildup and replace.  Look at the pitch of the side walk along the side of your home.  See which way it pitches because if it pitches towards the inside of the home ... water travels naturally and you stand a good chance of potential water leaking into your basement.  Also, make sure that there is a way that the water can flow away from the house as well.
  • Years back, I sold a home to a great family up in Lake Forest.  The kids were young at the time and they relocated from Pennsylvania.  One of the things my grandfather taught me was that if you put your hand near the top of the outside walls of your home and bring it down to the floor, you will be able to tell if your insulation has sagged (if it is open face batting, single face batting or blown in).  I literally took those kids and picked them up and they would check to see where the change in temperature was in the walls!  This doesn't mean you don't buy a house because of the situation, but one must carefully learn the options of installing additional insulation into the critical areas of the home where the home gets the most wind and thus, by doing so, you will minimize your heat loss.

Some of these things, a home inspector doesn't look for and winter is the perfect time to be checking out homes because this gives you fewer surprises after you purchase your home.

Sage words of advice:  Opa, my grandfather, always used to say:  "If there are three things about a home that you don't like that you can't change, then you don't buy it." 


Food for Thought:  Just a photo to prove my point.



Take advantage of winter - you can learn alot about a home

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Vickie Nagy
Palm Springs, CA

It's interesting to read posts about other areas. There are so many differences. Homes in the northeast tend to be so much older!

Jan 24, 2011 12:43 PM #1
Barb Van Stensel
Chicago, IL

Vickie - yes, homes in the midwest, especially Chicago, are older but so full of character and charm.  Can't deny it.

Jan 24, 2011 01:05 PM #2
Cindy Marchant
Keller Williams Indy NE 317-290-7775 www.marchantteam.com - Carmel, IN
"Cindy in Indy" , Realtor, Fishers Real Estate

This is an excellent post...reminds me of how I love to show homes in the pouring down rain to assess water issues!  I've seen water in basements during a rain storm that otherwise might go undetected until the new buyer is all settled in!

Cindy in Indy

Jan 25, 2011 08:28 AM #3
Barb Van Stensel
Chicago, IL

Cindy . you have me chuckling because it reminds me of a story when my Dad was appraising in Grand Rapids, Michigan and he asked the lady of the home if she ever flooded in her basement?  She denied it and Dad said it was so evident but he needed to ask her.  He then said, her young son (had to be 5 or 6) Dad said, and he volunteered and said "Mom, don't you remember that everything is always floating in the basement?!" 

I love the weather .... especially when it rains, snows, etc., because that lends great insight.


Jan 25, 2011 09:15 AM #4
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