Here are some tips to provide a better home buying experience.
As a home buyer, you are looking for the right neighborhood, the right floor plan, and the right price. It’s easy to be “wowed” by granite countertops, built-in bookcases, and a bonus room over the garage. But, before you make an offer on a house, it might be good to look beyond the mahoghany front door.
1. Take a peek at the air filters. It’s a simple task but can tell a lot about how well the owners have maintained their home. While easy to correct, if the homeowners didn’t change the filters before listing the house, what else in the way of home maintenance have they not considered important enough to do. You would be amazed at the number of houses I inspect that have dirty filters.
2. Look beyond the fresh paint on the exterior of the house. While new paint revives almost every space, new paint could be hiding defects. At the instruction of owners, painters often paint right over rotted hardboard siding or rotted wood trim on a house. Siding that is rotted to the point that you can poke a hole in it with your finger should be replaced not painted. Rot occurs from the inside out. So, if there is visible rot on the siding or trim, you can be assured that it’s rotted all the way through. The concern is whether the rot extends to the house’s rough framing.
3. Look up. When inside the house you are looking to buy, check out the ceilings of all the rooms. Look for brown marks outlining water leaks from roofs or from plumbing fixtures such as toilets or showers. Active leaks may have been painted over. Use a flashlight to look more closely for water leaks. They often bleed through a new paint job.
4. Use your nose to check the house for odors. You can’t assume that once the owners move out, the smell will move out with them. Often odors such as smoke, scented candles or perfumes have become embedded in the wall and ceiling surfaces. Don’t assume a new paint job is going to remove these odors. Just like with a house fire, all surfaces have to be specially cleaned and sealed prior to painting again to rid a house of odors such as these.
5. Visit the property when it is raining. Rain storms provide an opportunity to observe how water drains on the property. Does all the water drain toward the house? Does it puddle up anywhere on the property? Are the downspouts directed to an area where the water has no where to go except to run down at the foundation of the house. As a home inspector, my favorite time to inspect houses is in the rain.
6. Ask to see 12 months of utility bills. Even though energy costs will vary according to people’s lifestyles and preferences, a year’s worth of utility bills will give you an idea of how energy efficient or inefficient the house may be. Also, having a full year of information will let you know the seasonal variations.
7. Check the publicized square footage of the house against the square footage listed in the city or county public tax records. The publicized square footage of the home may substantially disagree with the city or county public records for the house. While exact matches are not expected because of differences in the way various housing industry professions measure square footage, there should not be discrepancies of hundreds of square feet or more. There are several scenarios to explain a discrepancy. One scenario is “unpermitted space.” Look for evidence of modifications at the house after the original construction date. This work may not have been constructed to building code in effect at the time and may exhibit poor workmanship.
To learn more about unpermitted additions, click here. What other tips have I left out?