You just found the perfect home – great neighborhood, perfect layout and most importantly all of this fits into your budget...but it gets better! You have your agent present an offer and pre-approval to the sellers and a few days later you get a call that your offer has been accepted! Things are going so smoothly that you start second-guessing if all those horror stories you've ever heard from your family and friends about purchasing a home were ever true.
Fast-forward to a year later, you are in over your head and find yourself with thousands of dollars in repairs and renovation costs. Unfortunately, this is an all too common scenario for many homeowners who begin the home buying process unprepared and overwhelmed. Television shows on HGTV and others make it seems like home repairs can be done in a matter of a few minute segments but don't focus on the daily ins & outs of homeownership. However – DON'T LOSE HOPE! – by educating yourself and working with a valuable real estate professional you will be on your way towards making a well-informed decision in purchasing that home you had in mind.
Walkthrough With Confidence
Whether you are buying an older move-in ready home or a fixer upper, utilities such as electrical and mechanical can be leave a dent in your wallet should any of them not be properly functioning or toward the end of their lifecycle. To name a few, a water heater is an important appliance in all residential homes. Unfortunately, they do not last forever, it's important to know the installation date to determine if it's time to replace it completely or in the near future. Most modern water heaters will display a sticker that shows the installation date; on older models, you can determine the age of your unit by decoding the water heater serial number. Some manufacturers make it easy by incorporating the month and year built into the first 4 digits of the serial number. Verifying the installation date doesn't necessarily prove the age of the water heater but it does help with making an educated home improvement decision.
If you are purchasing an older home with an existing furnace make sure to do your research; a furnace often needs replacement after 15 to 20 years, so knowing its age is helpful in determining if a new furnace should be factored into your budget. Newer units may have a manufacturer's date listed somewhere on the furnace as older furnaces require some investigative work, similar to the water heater, by looking at the serial number.
It doesn’t take long to figure out that the electrical needs of present day homes far surpass those of homes that were built in the early 1900's and beyond. It is common to find electrical systems that are outdated and can't safely handle today’s electrical standards. If you are looking at older homes you may find that 60 Amp electrical systems are standard and were sufficient for occupants in that era. Currently, 200 Amp/240 Volt service has been the norm for the average single family homes built in the last two decades and at times a 100 Amp/240 Volt service may do – mostly in townhomes, condos, or homes which have natural gas appliances. If needed, make sure to check with an electrical professional to get an estimate on what a service conversion will entail and factor that into your price.
Knowing the early warning signs of foundation problems can offset costs of tens of thousands of dollars. The sooner you identify potential problems, the easier — and less expensive – it is to fix them. On the outside, check to see if your foundation is straight by sighting down the length of your foundation wall from each corner. Check for signs of leaning walls or for any horizontal cracks; it is common to find vertical cracks in a foundation especially in older homes, however if the cracks are large (i.e.: width of a finger) it is something to take note of and fix as over time water will get in between your foundation to create more issues and/or basement (if the property has one) water issues. Any bulges in either a block foundation or a poured concrete wall could signal that there is possible shifting in the foundation and/or that the soil around your foundation may be expanding and contracting, putting pressure on walls.
There are also other factors to consider with the foundation system besides the perimeter walls, make sure to look for posts and concrete supports in the basement or crawl space(s). Posts should stand straight and be firmly planted underneath the beams they support. Bottoms of posts should rest firmly on concrete piers, if they are not or shifting is present this is a sign of possible future issues.Water or any moisture in the basement or crawl space(s) may indicate poor drainage around the perimeter foundation so make sure that soil slopes away from the foundation to make sure water is draining away from the home as this will cause further damage.
A solid roof above your head is pretty crucial to ensure a leak-free home. Make sure to notice all aspects of a roof when looking at a house; shingle cupping, which happens when the edges of the shingles turn upward and shingle clawing, which is when the edges stay flat and the middle begins to raise are both signs of weathering, with potential leaks on the horizon. Many times shingles covered in moss or algae don't look aesthetically pleasing but it is not a major issue. Some owners may choose to replace the roof just because they don't like the way it looks and newer shingles are algae-resistant, whatever your solution, do not take matters into your own hands by power washing or scraping as it is a good way to chip off all the granules which will make your shingles useless. Roof sagging is something that should be red flag to any potential buyers, as a sagging roof is an indication of possible structural issues. There could be a problem with the decking in the attic or even with the supports in the foundation. This is something that's a lot easier to take care when found early or when localized.
Knowledge is Home Buying Power
The only ways to face the unknown is to be well-informed in order to make the best educated decision. This starts with gaining an understanding of how a house is put together. Don't be overwhelmed if you aren't a home renovation expert when buying a home and the good new is – you don't have to be! All the above mentioned issues and more will be verified for you via a qualified home inspector of your choosing during the purchase process but it is always good to have a decent understanding and knowledge of knowing what to look for so when you are ready to hire an expert you aren't taken for a ride, both on the scope of work as well as financially.
As always confirm all repairs and scope of work needed with a qualified professional in the specific field of service. They will be able to provide you with estimates, best possible solutions and work within your budget to get things done correctly.
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