What to Look for on your First Walk-thru in a Home
So, you are ready to look at your possible new home. Your research is complete, you have found the home that meets your family’s needs and is in your price and payment range. The real estate agent meets you at the home and shows you all of the items most people like, updated kitchen, new bathroom, fresh paint, and clean carpets. You start walking around on your own leaving the agent to finish a phone call. “What is it I should be looking at now?” you ask yourself. You love the house and the yard is great for kids, the schools are fine, crime rate is low, you have checked all that out. Still, you ask yourself, “What is going to cost money right after we purchase?”
Many new home buyers rely on a home inspector to find potential problems with their new home. This is great, since it is the business I am in, but by the time an inspector is called, an offer has been made and accepted and somebody is in love with the new home! The hypothetical buyer in the above scenario is asking themselves a good a couple of good questions and they are :
What should I be looking at?
What is going to cost us money after we buy the property?
This is what I recommend to any potential home buyer and their agents
Walk around the exterior of the home
Look for type of siding i.e.. vinyl, brick, wood planking. Check for cracks in mortar joints, peeling paint or damaged siding. Cracks in the mortar could be from settling or poor mortar maintenance. Bubbling paint on wood siding could be from moisture.
Look at the roof and gutters if installed. Are all shingles in place? Are there ripples or waves in the roof covering? Is the roof ridge line straight? This could be from a possible structural problem. Are any trees rubbing the roof material? If gutters are installed are the downspouts connected and extended well past the foundation keeping moisture away from the building.
Open and shut doors. Look at the door jamb. When the door is shut can you see light from outside? Are there rub marks at one location such as the bottom or top indicating a door is not plumb?
Look at the windows. Open and shut a couple. Do they stick? Can you see a hazy film between the panes and are screens in place? Also look at the window sills do they show moisture damage?
Turn light switches on and off. A light that does not turn on could be as simple as a burned out bulb, but could indicate a larger electrical problem.
Flush the toilets and run the sinks and shower. Look for good drainage in the sinks and tubs. Run the faucets, checking to see how long it takes for the hot water to get to the fixture. Look under the cabinets and check to see if there has been leaks from the drains or piping. This can be seen as bubbled paint, mildew on the surface or just plain puddles of standing water. Often there is so much stuff under the cabinets
After running the hot water for a while find the water heater and see if it has come on. Listen to it. If it is cracking or popping it may indicate a layer of sediment on the bottom.
Heating and Air Conditioning
This is hard to tell if it is in good shape or working properly for the average person. Look for evidence of recent service, like a sticker with a date, a clean filter and check to see if the surface of the unit is clean? A competent service technician will wipe the unit down and date the filters.
How old does it look? If it is new the agent will have been advised of that information. Even a unit a few years old is considered “recent updated mechanicals” in most real estate advertising.
And last but not least- does the unit come on?
Plumbing, structural, moisture and HVAC problems are all items that cost money to replace. For instance:
New furnace and A/C: $4000-6000
Water Heater: $1200
Tuck-pointing (mortar repair): $2,000-$20,000 depending on the extent of the damage.
*the above are rough estimates based on my experience with repairs
Finally, when you are ready and have an accepted offer, call a licensed and certified Real Estate Home Inspector. This professional will be able to determine which items that you may have concern about are real problems and may find more potential defects. Be an informed buyer. Your home inspector is like taking a vehicle for a test drive. One more thought, and it is not original "The one thing that really works in an old house, is you!"