Five costly problems to avoid when buying a home
As you are out searching for homes or browsing online, keep in mind some simple tips to help you avoid being stuck with buying someone else’s problem. And I say simple tips, because they are – many major and costly problems with a home can easily be avoided from knowing what to look for, and by also asking the right questions. It is also important to note that major repairs are often negotiated, and home sellers are usually anticipating that they will have to cover at least some, if not all of the expense. So in a nutshell, be careful not to overlook a big problem but also don’t assume the problem should be a deal breaker. So let’s talk about five costly problems to be mindful of:
- Foundation and exterior walls
You want to determine that there is no obvious damage due to a crumbling foundation, water damage, failed siding or overall neglect. Give a good visual inspection of the exterior walls and foundation, is the foundation poured concrete, concrete block, or slab? Poured concrete will have a smooth outward finish and will be visible from the base, concrete block will be blocks with seams, and a slab is simply a concrete pad that is not raised. If it is a raised foundation, does the concrete look solid, or are there cracks and breaks? Does anything about the foundation appear odd? Are there any pools of water or spongy soil around the edge of the home? For the siding, how does the paint look, are there any chips or peeling? Does the siding look clean and straight, or do you see any unusual bows or depressions? Are the edges of the siding and trim caulked and sealed? You should note any areas of concern, and bring them up with your inspector.
- Mold and moisture damage
The most common areas to find moisture and mold are around the roof, basement, inside walls, kitchen, bathrooms, and anywhere you may find plumbing that could leak. What causes moisture damage is leaking in the roof and/or around chimney flashing, ground moisture not being diverted appropriately from the home and causing a flood in the basement or crawl space, improper caulking around vulnerable areas in bathrooms on the floor, and leaking pipes that are out of site. Check for soft, spongy floors around the toilet and bath areas with your foot, be mindful of any mold smells, and be concerned if the owner has a lot of fragrance going on as they may be hiding another odor.
- Windows and Doors
You want to be concerned about heating and cooling efficiency, being sealed from the elements, and security of the home. Look closely at the windows, do you see two window panes or one? If there are two panes, do you see any condensation in between the panes? What do the frames look like, are they plastic, wood, metal or something you can’t identify? Can you feel the temperature outside coming through the window if you stand close to it? Do all the windows in the house match? Look closely at the exterior doors, is there a clean seal when the door is closed? Look at the strike plate where the door knob secures the door closed, is there any cracking or damage around that area? If you step back to inspect the door and frame, can you see through cracks, and/or does the door look uneven?
- Heating sources
Homes may have forced air furnaces, heat pumps, fireplaces, wall heaters, inserts, free standing stoves, and other sources. Find the furnace and see if there’s a track record of maintenance. When was the last time it was serviced? How old is the furnace? If it’s more than 15 years old, it should be replaced soon. If the home has a wood burning fireplace, is there a burnt smell around it? Do you see black marks anywhere around the outside of the fireplace? If the home has wall heaters, how old are they? There’s been at least one manufacturer recall for a common wall heater model.
- Roofing and gutters
Bring your binoculars when you look at a home, that’s the best way to visually inspect a roof from the ground. What kind of shingles are on the roof? Is it cedar shake, tile, composition, or something else? What is the overall appearance of the roof? Find out the roof’s age, and the recommendations for the shelf life of the material. For gutters and downspouts, visually inspect and confirm that they are all connected with no parts or pieces missing around the home. Look at how the gutters and downspouts are mounted on the house, do you see any evidence of moisture build up against the house around them? Where are the downspouts diverting the water to? Can a heavy downpour of rainwater be effectively channeled away from the house with the current system in place?
A good overall visual inspection of a home before you offer to purchase it can help you determine what you may be in for when it comes to repairs. This is not a substitute for getting the home inspected, but it is a start in your efforts for due diligence. Following these simple steps and having conversations with your home inspector will save you a lot of grief in the near and distant future as a new homeowner.
Are you in the market to buy, and are not committed to an agent? I have many years of experience in Residential Real Estate, we should meet soon and discuss your plans for the near future.