A Contractor’s Take on What to Look for in Buying a home

Through a Contractor’s Eyes:

Being involved with residential construction over the past 10 years I have gained a deeper awareness of what to look for and what to address when looking at real estate.  Below is a list of the TOP 5 items I look for when addressing potential future problems.  There are a number of other items I address when looking at a home but these are the ones that tend to cause the most trouble down the road if not addressed right away.

#1 Site / Grading Conditions Around the Home

Upon arriving at any home the very first thing I look at is the grade around the house.  Water infiltration is the leading cause of damages to a home and most of the time the signs of it are right in front of you.  The thing I look for is to verify that the grade around the house slopes away from all walls and that the water has a way to drain out of the yard and into a ditch or wood line.  Signs of water damage can be as obvious as brown stains inside the foundation walls but they can also be as subtle as small dips in the grade against the house, peeling paint or finishes close to the ground, drywall tape peeling, or missing gutter downspouts.

#2 Roof Condition

This goes hand in hand with the above and trying to avoid dealing with water problems down the road.  The average roofing life expectancy on a home is anywhere from 12 – 20 years.  I know some higher end shingles say 25 years on them but with my experience most roofs start to fail around 15 – 17 years. With that being said I also always ask for proof of when the latest roof on the property was installed or replaced.  This can then lead into the idea of if the cost to replace the roof is included in the sales price or if some sort of negotiation needs to take place to offset the current state of the roof.  Poor / old roof conditions are fairly easy to spot and generally show up in curling shingles, grain missing from the shingles, missing shingles in spots, storm damage / patch work, and also moss or mold growing on the shingles.

#3  Mechanical / Plumbing Systems

After looking at the exterior condition of the homes I go straight to the mechanical room.  Here I am looking for how old the HVAC, AC and plumbing systems are in the home.  If anything is older than 15 years I go through the same questioning of when is the system likely to fail, how has it been maintained, who has it been maintained by (contractor or home owner), and depending on the brand; can you still get new parts for it.  This is a lot for an owner to look at because typically as long as the heating, ac and water works they do not look too far into the condition of the units.  The struggle that I see is when the house changes hands and then a system fails within the first few years.  A new HVAC and AC update can run anywhere from $3,500 – $10,000 and can be a large, unexpected expenditure if not addressed at closing.  Be sure to double check pressure tanks, water heaters, pressure switches, furnace, ac units, and any other mechanical system in the home prior to closing.

#4 Doors and Windows Operating Correctly

This is a hard one to remember because most people do not want to walk around and check every single window in the house. I urge all my customers to do this because it is very easy to overlook a failing window frame that has been re painted several times to cover up any mushy spots.  Go through each and every window and confirm that the window opens correctly, closes correctly and locks correctly.  Make sure window parts and hardware look in good operating order and double check that there is no extra moisture build up on the insides of the windows.  Broken and non operating windows are a very easy line item to address in real estate sales since it is a hard thing to argue against.  Either the window in question is working or it is not.

#5 The Neighborhood

I know this one may seem like a bit of a shock that a contractor actually looks at something other than the house but I am a big believer that even the nicest of homes can be a bad investment if in the wrong neighborhood.  I like to help my clients find the right house in the right neighborhood so that they can live peacefully and enjoy their biggest investment.  I always take people for a drive around the neighborhood so to speak to look at if people have garbage or crap in the yards, are the properties around well maintained or do they look rough and not in order, do the neighbors wave and seem friendly or do they look as if they want to start confrontations.  All of these play into whether or not I advice my customers to look further into the home.

All in all the above mentioned items are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to evaluating homes for my customers but it is a good place to start for those weekend warriors who are house shopping on their own.  Keep these big 5 items on your checklist and you are bound to have a better experience on your next real estate transaction.

Happy House Hunting

Bos Realty Group Team