You ve found a home that seems perfect. The rooms are the right size and the neighborhood ideal. But appearances can be deceiving, so before making an offer, take a closer look. Here are some suggestions on where to look:
Lawn and landscaping. This is where most interior water problems begin, with poor water drainage. The slope of the lawn should be away from the house. Low areas near the foundation are an indication of a potentially wet basement. Do mature trees appear healthy? Do the shrubs and plants appear full and green or brown and lifeless?
Driveways and walkways. Are they in good repair or cracked and crumbling? Look closely at the slope. Do they slope toward the house or away? Poor water drainage is the leading cause of driveway deterioration and can also ruin the foundation of a home.
Home exterior. Is the brick in good repair? Are there loose bricks or mortar? Is the siding wood, aluminum or vinyl? For wood siding, check several locations along the siding near the ground for rotting boards. Is the paint chipping? Although aluminum and vinyl siding won t rot or rust, check for pitting, dents or loose pieces. Also look for caulking where any two different materials join, such as where the siding meets the foundation and around windows and doors. Caulking should seal the gap and prevent moisture damage.
Foundation. A good foundation is critical. Look for signs of cracking, decay or moisture. This area should get special attention from a professional home inspector.
Porches and decks. A major selling point can be a porch or deck if it s in good repair. Concrete porches should be free from cracks and broken concrete. Wooden porches and decks need to be checked for rotten or loose floorboards or railings. Again, check for sloping away from the foundation.
Roof and chimney. The basic concern here is if quality materials were used and the age of those materials. Southern and southwestern exposures get the most weather abuse, so check there first. By just looking up, you can determine if shingles are missing or rippled. Is the shingling consistent throughout? Areas with different shingles could be an indication of patching. Is the roof sagging?
Garage. It should be sturdy and free from damage and decay. Check the doors and windows the same as you would the house. Look for a floor drain. Is lighting adequate?
Miscellaneous exterior concerns. Gutters and downspouts should be in good repair and adequate to carry water away from the foundation. Fences should be in good repair. Check wooden ones for rotted or missing boards. Keep in mind that wooden fences are high maintenance and may require painting every few years. Gates should open and close easily no matter what type of construction. Exterior lighting should be functional and in good repair. Are the fixtures clean as well? A clean light fixture is an indication of a well-maintained home. What about the other homes in the neighborhood? Do they look well cared for?
Interior rooms: As you walk through the house, look to see if the floors are flat and level. Are the wood floors in good condition? Are tiles cracked or broken? Is the carpet worn? Look for cracks in the walls and patches on the ceiling. Is the molding and trim in good repair? Discoloration in the wood around windows indicates moisture. Do the windows open and close easily? Does each room have adequate lighting? Are doors and hardware in good repair? Do they work properly? Is the bathroom in good general condition? Is there evidence of water leakage on the floor or around faucets? Is the kitchen of adequate size? Chances are you ll be spending more time in the kitchen than in the bedroom, so make sure it has a layout you can live with. Is there enough counter space for food preparation? Do the appliances work? Are you satisfied with the location of the refrigerator, range, dishwasher, etc.? Will the storage space be adequate?
Although very few homes you view will be perfect, experts highly recommend hiring a professional home inspector before closing the deal. Go ahead and make your offer. You can even agree to the purchase and sign a contract as long as you include the stipulation that the home be inspected by the licensed home inspector of your choice. The professional inspector is trained to look at the electrical and plumbing systems, heating and air conditioning, wells and septic systems, the home s construction and insulation, roofs, chimneys and fireplaces, as well as living areas, basements and attics. They will do a thorough inspection of the interior and exterior of the home, pointing out potential problem areas and making recommendations. You will not be held to the purchase contract if the home fails the inspection.
Unless you have unlimited funds, don t buy a home with major structural defects. A certain degree of minor updating or decorating is to be expected in most older homes. But if you aren t willing to do that, keep looking. When buying a home, choosing one that has been well maintained makes sense.