Looking for a new home can be exciting and frustrating. You can help alleviate the frustration by paying close attention to five key areas of the homes you’re considering buying; it may save you money in the long run.
Don Walker is an inspector and owner of Ace Home Inspections. He says there are five areas in homes that he frequently reports problems with. They are electrical, foundation, plumbing, the attic, and landscaping.
Electrical Walker says sometimes homeowners assume with newer homes that all will work just fine but that’s often not the case. “I [inspected] a brand new house — four years old but the electrical was all done incorrectly,” says Walker.
Having a complete home inspection will help to rule out any problems and point out any areas of concern. However, even as you’re browsing homes, buyers can start to make note of the key areas that Walker mentioned, such as the foundation.
Foundation Walker says a four-year-old home he inspected recently was already showing trouble signs which could result in a costly repair project. “It was a model home. What [the homeowners] did was plant trees for shade to make it look really nice, but they planted the wrong trees and they’re going to crack the foundation and it’s going to cut the property value down by $50,000,” says Walker.
Walker says in the case of that home, the trees were causing micro-fractures in the tile in various locations of the home. “As you walk through the house, 21 feet in and 30 feet deep, there’s just too much root invasion and it’s going to ruin their tile,” explains Walker.
He says some tell-tale signs with this home were the minor cracks in the foundation that were causing a lifting and separation of the foundation. Also, the windows were not opening and closing properly, “which means the foundation is moving.”
However, just because you see cracks doesn’t mean there is a foundation problem. “Most people don’t understand that there are natural cracks in a house. That’s why when we do an inspection report we have to look at it and say ‘Okay, this is a typical crack and this one is an untypical crack,'” says Walker. He says some cracks may lead to other problems while others won’t.
Plumbing Walker says another big area of concern is the plumbing. It’s an area that you can’t always spot as easily but it can create expensive repairs if plumbing issues go either undetected or are not properly fixed. “Mold forms underneath sinks when people have a leak and they fix the pipe but they don’t take care of the mold,” says Walker.
He says things like caulking the sink can help prevent mold. “That’s my number one thing I always find — bad sinks,” says Walker.
He says that when you look at the sink, look behind it and most of the time you will discover a little crack. “What happens is, when you wash dishes or you wash your hands in the bathroom or the kitchen, the water gets in that crack and seeps down. Once the water gets behind the cabinet it’s in a perfect position to create mold,” says Walker. The dampness, humidity, and lack of light can turn that area beneath the sink into a mold-breeding ground.
Attic “You can tell everything about the house by the attic,” says Walker. He says other areas of the home can be covered up if a repair had occurred. For instance, if there was a leak and it damaged a wall, with the right contractors and repairs it can be made to look like new and, hopefully, function like new. But Walker says the attic is sort of the eyes to the soul of the home. “In the attic you can tell where all the damage has been,” says Walker.
“If you’re in a 20-year-old house and you see that the insulation is brand new, you know that there was a water leak because it had to be replaced,” says Walker. He adds, “You can tell if the roof is good because you can look right at the wood.”
Landscaping “There should not be moisture or plants next to your house,” says Walker. He says there should be a 12 inch barrier between the landscape and the house. Walker says otherwise you run the risk of having the foundation crack and affect the home. What happens is, as the landscape that is too close to the home is watered, the foundation and soil expand. Then, when no watering occurs, the foundation dries up and shrinks and this can cause it to crack.
Remember, knowledge is power, so learning about the home before you close the deal on it will keep you from making a mistake that may cost you extra out-of-pocket money later.