If you’re in the market for a new home, you may very well know it’s very competitive right now. Things move fast and you need to be very strategic in order to get an offer accepted on a home. The last thing you want is to spend your time on a property that will not work out in the long term, nor do you want to spend your money on inspections that will not go well. Here are some things to consider that anyone can look for when house shopping.
Obvious Structural Problems – When you stand back and look at a home, there are many times obvious structural issues are noticeable. This happens on inspections all the time and many clients are more focused on the benefits of a home while shopping. Take the time to look for obvious clues. From across the street look at the home and look for any obvious structural settlement. Look for cracking walls, racked window or door openings, and sloped floors on the interior. Look for rotted, damaged, or altered framing in any unfinished areas. You would be surprised how obvious a structural issue can be.
Check Mechanicals – You don’t have to understand many mechanical components to get an idea of the condition. If the electrical system has messy unorganized wires or looks like it is all old it probably is. If the boiler or water heater looks ancient, they probably are. If the plumbing system has corrosion, alterations, and leakage, there are probably problems. Many clients can look at some really tidy wiring and get an overall feel for how things have been kept.
Consider Age – Buying an old home? Old homes have their advantages, but there are also things that are likely to come up that you should be aware of. Homes before 1978 have a high likelihood of lead paint or lead materials unless they have been deleaded. Homes before 1990 may have asbestos in various materials. While many asbestos products were used drastically less in the 80s, asbestos was used for practically anything that wasn’t wood, metal, or glass. Outdated wiring, outdated plumbing, and numerous other components are also typically present. The homes were also not designed to have dry basements or high-quality insulation so there are numerous concerns for moisture with modern use.
Look for Moisture Issues – Moisture problems often are visible by staining, mold, unusual coloring, or other identifiable cues. Check around windows, on exterior walls, on ceilings (particularly on the top floor). Look at staining and drainage on the exterior as they may show areas of significant moisture damage. In basements and crawlspaces use your senses. Do you smell moisture? Do you see mold staining, a flood line, dampness or staining on the floor and walls, or even efflorescence and other indications of moisture? Most homes in New England have indications of moisture and many are obvious.
What is the Design of the House? – This one is a little trickier but some design flaws are also obvious. The biggest one that comes to mind is when your house is built in a hole. If all the land slopes toward the home and all of the wood siding is in contact with the soil mother nature will take its course. Other things like complicated rooflines, roof surfaces going toward each other or toward sidewalls can also create problems. Homes built on complicated terrain often have obvious signs of related problems. The more interesting the home looks and the location is, there are usually more problems that are created. You can build any type of home properly, but a simple home is often less challenging. With poor design comes inevitable moisture problems, insect problems, building science challenges, and other problems.
With all that said, you still need a home inspection. A trained eye can catch less obvious problems, like the potential for a UST (underground oil storage tank), termite activity, electrical issues in the panel, problems that have been made less obvious. These problems can present huge costs and are missed by most. The purpose of this article is to help you spot obvious issues. It really all comes down to one thing. Putting your home inspector hat on while you tour homes and spending even just a short time looking specifically for issues is going to help you get a better feel for the overall condition of the home. Take some time to focus on just the problems and it will help you focus on the homes that are best for you and your family.