Let’s face it; unless you are buying a house that was just built, it is a used home. It may be beautiful and just what you are looking for, but it may have a defect of some sort. It is estimated that more than 40% of them have one or more defect such as a crack in the slab, some dry rot, or an older hot water heater that needs to be replaced. Should this stop you from buying the home? The kind of home you have been dreaming about? Certainly not.
Every home has some room for improvement or repair. But, it is important when you are considering buying it, that you know what you are getting and plan both financially and temporally to make your home your castle.
So, what kinds of things should you look out for?
- Heater exchange – this is a piece of equipment used in the home’s HVAC system. They can crack and need to be replaced.
- Air-conditioning compressor – This is the main part of an AC unit that works to cool your home. They do have a working life and need to be replaced occasionally.
- Environmental hazards – Chief among these is the use of lead based paints. When buying a home built before 1978, there may be lead paints on the walls.
- Roof – A roof has a useful life of about 20 years, less if it is a new roof put on top of an old one (without having been torn off).
- Insects – Part of the buying and selling a house is almost always a termite inspection. The seller typically pays for and repairs ‘Section 1’ items – treating active infestations.
- Mixed plumbing – Occasionally we see the mixing of both galvanized steel and copper pipes. At the joint where these are joined a process called electrolysis can corrode the joint making it weaker and prone to leaks.
- Aluminum wiring – This is an older form of wiring that can pose a fire risk if the connections to switches and outlets get deteriorated.
- Foundation cracks – Most of our homes in this area are built on slabs, but the foundation can crack from settlement. Whether slab or raised foundation, it is the base for your house and you need to know what kind of condition it is in.
- Chimney settling – Just like a foundation, the chimney can settle too and crack. Many times these are cosmetic, but it can be more serious and prevent the proper operation of the fireplace.
- Undersized electrical system – Older homes tend to have less amp capacity than newer homes. This can be a problem when you try to run your hair dryer, TV, washing machine and microwave at the same time.
For example, if you need a new air conditioning compressor, it may cost you more than $1,000 to repair. Maybe you didn’t budget for that. A roof can be expensive, several thousands of dollars, and maybe that cost in the near term is a deal breaker for you.
These can all be repaired, but it is the cost that must be considered. When you buy your home, you’ll typically have an ‘Inspection Contingency’. This is the time when you can bring a home inspector to look at the house and identify any defects it may have. You’ll then take this information and decide whether you want the house, and if you still want to purchase for the offered price.
There are solutions available though:
You and your Realtor may work on a document called a ‘Request for Repairs’ where you ask the seller to either repair the items or give you a credit off the sales price. Your seller doesn’t have to accept the request and you’d have to decide if you still want it.
So how do we find these defects? A home inspector can help. A qualified inspector costs between $300 and $500 and they are worth every penny. They will examine, often with you present, ever system and part of your potential new home, explain what they find, and give tips about what may be costing you down the road. As a Realtor who is looking out for you, I like to be there too. In fact I can count the number of times I haven’t been there on one hand.
You may love the house, but an inspection and looking for potential defects and money-sinks is the best time and money spent.