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Buying a House? Things to Look for When You’re at Showings

When you’re buying a new house, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. You might fall in love with the floor plan, the gorgeous trees in the backyard, or the large master suite.

But, before you get your heart set on that perfect house, take a closer look. Sometimes, even homes that appear to be “perfect” have hidden problems that will cost you later on.

Some minor issues might be okay – like dated appliances or pink wallpaper. But if you don’t want to sink a ton of money into updates and repairs, there are some things to avoid when buying a house. Below are some of the things to look for when you’re at showings.

Things to Look for When You’re at Showings

Old or Damaged Roof

Sometimes a roof needs a simple repair, but many times the damage you see could be more widespread. Roof issues can add up to thousands of dollars in replacement costs or repairs.

Look for:

  • Damaged shingles
  • A wavy, uneven look
  • Discoloration of some areas of the roof
  • Rotted plywood or framing (underneath)
  • Damaged or stained drywall

Cost of repairs/replacement: Small repairs can be anywhere between a few hundred dollars to well over a thousand. The cost of replacing a roof varies, depending on the size, work, and materials needed. The average range of the cost of a new roof is $5000-$15,000.

Ancient HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning)

While an old HVAC isn’t necessarily a problem, it could be soon. If the house is otherwise an excellent fit for you but has an ancient HVAC system, make sure you can replace it when the time comes.

You could negotiate a lower price for the home based on the age of the HVAC. Alternatively, you could ask the seller to provide a home warranty to cover the costs of replacement.

Cost of a new HVAC system: $3000-$7000+

Water Issues

Water is one of the biggest problems homeowners can encounter. Water damage can come from a variety of sources, like a leaky roof, flooding, poor drainage outside of the home, leaky sinks and more.

Do you see evidence that the home has had water issues or flooded? If so, what problems did the water cause? And have the original water issues been resolved?

Look for evidence of water issues:

  • Mold
  • Musty smell
  • Water spots/discoloration on floors, walls, or ceilings
  • Rotted wood
  • “Waterline” on the wall or floor of the basement
  • Rotted wood or water spots in cabinets under sinks

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the source of a water issue and ask for evidence that it’s been resolved.

Costs of water damage: The cost depends on where the problem originated and what caused it. Unresolved water issues can create extensive damage and cost thousands of dollars. Also, if the home is in an area that experiences flooding the cost of insurance could be a dealbreaker. When it comes to water issues, it pays to get to the bottom of it before signing on the dotted line.

Old Plumbing and/or Wiring

In older houses where the plumbing and wiring haven’t been updated, you can expect these systems to need upgrading at some point.

Old wiring can be a fire hazard. And old plumbing can cause a multitude of issues – from sewer back up, to leaks, to flooding.*

What to look for:

  • Exposed wires that don’t lead anywhere
  • Old fuse box
  • Slow drains
  • Toilets that don’t flush right
  • Low water pressure
  • Old water heater

*Note: Electrical and plumbing issues can be hard to detect and should be left to the experts. An inspector, plumber, and/or electrician should take a look at the electrical and/or plumbing in the house, especially if you have any concerns.

Cost of updating electrical or plumbing systems: The cost to rewire a home can range from $3000 on up to $10,000+, depending on the house. Plumbing issues can run into thousands of dollars in repairs, with major repairs of up to $10,000 or more.

Foundation Issues

Your entire house rests on the foundation, making it one of the most critical parts of your home. It’s also one of the most expensive to fix.

Look for:

  • Large cracks in foundation or walls of the basement (most hairline cracks are normal)
  • Bulging
  • Uneven or sloping floors
  • Sticking windows and doors (misaligned)
  • Cracks in the walls above windows and doors
  • Cracked chimney
  • Leaning or ineffective posts/beams

Even if the problems appear to have been remedied, it’s always best to get an inspection to verify the work was done properly.

Cost of repairing foundation: The average cost to repair foundation is around $4000, but can range up to $12,000 or more, depending on the severity of the problem.

Other things to think about…

Deferred maintenance and/or cleaning

Is the house clean for the showing? Are there minor repairs that are obvious – such as leaky faucets, running toilets, or holes in the drywall? If there are several tasks the original homeowner left undone, it’s a red flag. There could be other, less visible maintenance issues that have been ignored as well.

If the condition of the home is less than desirable, take a closer look before buying it.

What’s in your neighborhood?

The condition of your neighbor’s houses can affect your resale value. If resale is important to you, take a look at the homes in the neighborhood (resale should be important, even if you don’t plan to move anytime soon).

Are the houses well cared for? Are the lawns relatively well-kept? Do you notice any noise that could become bothersome (traffic, trains, dogs)?

It’s a good idea to get an idea of who your neighbors are before you buy a home. While most neighbors are great, you get a few that can make life a little more challenging.

Things to do to get to know the neighborhood:

  • Take a walk through the neighborhood at different times of the day
  • Introduce yourself to neighbors
  • Ask about/attend neighborhood groups
  • Notice how many homes are for sale
  • Talk to your realtor about the neighborhood

You’ll want to have an inspection

When you make an offer on a house, the cost of an inspection is worth it. A few hundred dollars spent now ($300-$500) could save you thousands in repair costs later. No inspection is an absolute guarantee, but you will be more informed of potential problems than you would be without it.

Also, if you do decide to buy a house with some “issues,” get a quote on the work that needs to be done while you’re still in the inspection period.

If during the inspection period, you find more issues with the home, you can either walk away from the home or negotiate with the seller. You can then ask the seller to discount the price or take care of the repairs before closing.

List of things to look for during a showing

Old or Damaged Roof

  • Damaged shingles
  • A wavy, uneven look
  • Discoloration of some areas of the roof
  • Rotted plywood or framing (underneath)
  • Damaged or stained drywall

Poor drainage around the outside of the home

  • The ground should slope slightly away from the house for proper drainage. Same with any concrete. Is water directed away from the home?
  • Are gutters and eaves well maintained and adequate?

Nearby water “features”?

  • If the house is close to a lake, river, or even a creek, is there the potential of flooding?
  • Is it in a designated flood zone? (If so, flood insurance will be required)

Signs of water damage

  • Discolored or damaged ceilings or walls
  • Rotting wood
    • Outside – look at siding, soffits, and fascia boards
    • Inside – look at framing in attic and/or basement, under sinks
  • Strong smells (even good ones)
    • Moldy
    • Musty
    • Cover up?

Foundation problems

  • Large cracks in foundation or walls of the basement (most hairline cracks are normal)
  • Bulging
  • Uneven or sloping floors
  • Sticking windows and doors (misaligned)
  • Cracks in the walls above windows and doors
  • Cracked chimney
  • Settling
  • Leaning or ineffective posts/beams

Electrical issues

  • Light switches don’t work
  • Old “knob and tube” wiring (you may need to replace this to get insurance)
  • Exposed wires that don’t lead anywhere
  • Old fuse box

Plumbing issues

  • Slow drains
  • Toilets that don’t flush right
  • Low water pressure
  • Old water heater

Other issues to look for

  • Sump pump (working? proper draining?)
  • Cracked tiles
  • Weather-stripping on doors/drafts
  • Lack of adequate insulation
  • Asbestos-containing materials, such as tile or siding
  • History of the house (drugs, deaths, etc.)
  • City zoning restrictions/issues
  • Homeowner’s Association restrictions/costs
Click here for our “Things To Look For During a Showing” printable!

 

Whether you’re selling or buying a home, the process can feel intimidating and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to. At Coluzzi Real Estate, we answer all your questions and simplify the process. We’re here for you every step of the way. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today!

2019-03-27T11:45:28-05:00

About the Author:

Amanda has lived in the Des Moines area since 1999, where she and her husband have bought and sold a handful of homes over the years, including a recent flip. Amanda enjoys writing, obsesses about personal finance and is fond of looking at houses. She loves sharing useful tips and info to make life easier for anyone wanting to buy or sell a home. In her spare time, Amanda cherishes time with her family, volunteers with IHYC, gardens, hikes, and practices TaeKwonDo.