There are many reasons for choosing a particular house to purchase. This brochure is meant as a guide to help in that selection. It will tell you what to look for first before you make a selection, then assist you in how to view that selection when going through the property.
This is probably the most important factor in buying a home. Buying a home is the single most expensive investment a family makes and it should be thought of as such, an investment. You must look at being able to increase your investment and be able to get a return on that investment when, if ever, you wish to resell the property. Make your own personal observations in selecting a location, but also consult with others such as real estate agent, local governments, friends, or homeowners already in the area you’re considering.
Age of Home
The age of the home is a factor many people overlook. The older the house, the more maintenance will be required and more items need to be replaced immediately or in the future. For example, the physical life expectancy of a heating system is generally 16 years, a water heater 7 years, and a roof 20 years. Faulty or inadequate home systems can be dangerous to live with and expensive to replace. Also, there have been large improvements in the energy efficiency of more modern appliances and furnaces, so operating older units can dramatically increase your annual energy costs.
Size of Home
Another important factor to consider is the size of the dwelling. Is it adequate for your family size and will it house you well into the future or will you outgrow it in five years? Does it have adequate bedrooms, bathrooms, as well as dining and living areas? Does it have several levels or a basement for future expansion? What are the locations of the stairs? Is there adequate storage room and closets in each room? Check the ceiling heights of the basement level as well as the main level. Is there adequate lighting on the outside? Is there a garage or car storage area?
Does the landscape fit the area? Does the lot slope away from the house indicating good drainage? Do adjacent streets and yards slope toward or away from the house? Is the house built on or near a steep slope? Is the yard size adequate and is there privacy from the neighbors? Are there trees to provide shade in summer and protection from the wind in the winter? Constantly exposed to wind weather, the exterior of every home requires seasonal or periodic maintenance. Exterior upkeep can be a big-ticket expense, more so for some homes than others. If you make a careful assessment of outside building materials and landscaping features before you buy, you will avoid expensive surprises later.
Follow a Checklist
When you consider a home for purchase, use the following checklist as a guide of what to look for when viewing a home.
1. DOORS: Make sure that exterior doors are insulated. Check for fit, does it close properly, do handles and locks work properly.
2. WINDOWS: Check for fit (is it loose), does it open and close properly, is it double or single pane glass. Check trim and moldings for water damage. Don’t just look at window interior, also check exterior for any type of damage or problem. Are the windows caulked and is there a drip cap installed above the window?
3. FOUNDATION: What type of foundation is it. Look for settling, cracks in walls, moisture damage. Ask if there is drain tile around the foundation. Ask what the water table is in the area. Is the basement insulated and is there a sump pump. Check the condition and size of the basement windows.
4. STEPS OR PORCHES: Check for settling, loose boards, dry rot, cracks in concrete, worn out or rough finish in concrete. If wood, is it treated wood. Is porch attached to house? Are handrails safe and adequate?
5. CHIMNEY: What type is it - block, brick, metal, PVC or asbestos? If there is a wood furnace, the chimney must be block and have a clay liner . There must be separate chimneys for each heating source. If possible look for clean-outs and check for build-up in chimney.
6. ROOF: What type of roof - flat, peaked, asphalt, cedar shake, or tarred. Look for vents to make sure of adequate ventilation. If shingles, what condition or age. Does it leak? Check the condition of the flashings. Look for sagging rooflines.
7. EXTERIOR WALLS: What is the type of siding. Does it need paint or stain, does it need replacing, and is it sealed around doors and windows? Are the walls 2 x 4 or 2 x 6 and are they well insulated.
8. BATHROOM: Check plumbing for type (copper, plastic or galvanized). If the plumbing is galvanized, replacement should be considered. Does it leak, what shape are the toilet, tub, and sink in. Is there GFI’s installed? Look for moisture damage around the fixtures and under the sink. Is there an exhaust fan? Are the walls wainscoted with tile?
9. KITCHEN: What type of plumbing (copper, plastic, or galvanized). If the plumbing is galvanized, replacement should be considered. Check for leaks and moisture damage. Is there a sufficient electrical outlet for your needs? Are there adequate cabinets and are they in good condition? Are the appliances installed, properly vented, and in good working condition? Review the condition of the flooring. Are there bubbles, wear spots, tears or stains?
10. LAUNDRY: Where is the laundry located? What type of plumbing? Is it wired for an electric dryer and is there an outside dryer vent?
11. WATER HEATER: What is the size of the water heater? Is it adequate for your family size? Is it electric, LP or fuel oil? How old is it and is it well insulated? What is the annual cost for electricity? Is it on an off-peak rate?
12. WATER SUPPLY: What type of water source - drilled well, shallow well, sand point, hand pump, or community service. Where is it located? Make sure there is adequate separation between the well and the sewer system. What type of pump is there and what is its age and condition? Is there iron in the water or does it have a bad smell? Is there a water softener? If so, what is the annual cost to use?
13. SANITARY SEWER: Find out what type of sewer system the home has. If a city hook-up, there is not much to look for. If an individual sewer, you should determine where it is located and the size of the tank and drain field. Is it adequate for your family size? Ask for a maintenance schedule, when it was installed, and it must meet County compliance.
14. FURNACE: Look at what type of furnace (gas, oil, wood or electric). Ask the age and if they have a maintenance schedule on it. Ask how much fuel is used annually and what is the annual cost?
15. DUCT-WORK: Look at duct work for air leaks. Does it have duct work to all rooms. Are the cold air returns adequate? What type of material used, galvanized or flex tubing.
16. ELECTRICAL: How big is the breaker (100, 150 or 200 amp. Service). Does it appear the box has been properly installed or are wires hanging out from all over? Look at the wire, is it new or old style wire. Are there breakers or fuses? Is there an off-peak system?
17. OUTLETS: Make sure there are enough outlets to serve your usage. Make sure covers are on and there are ground fault outlets within 6 feet of a water source.
18. FIXTURES: Are there enough fixtures to serve your needs and do they all work?
19. INTERIOR WALLS: Look at what type of walls (paneled, sheetrock, wall paper, or plaster). What condition are they in. Do they need painting or are there holes?
20. INTERIOR CELINGS: Look at what type of material (sheetrock or plaster). Is it painted, textured or ceiling tiles? Are there cracks, sags, or water spots?
21. INTERIOR FLOORS: Look at the type and condition of the floors. Are there squeaks, sags, nails sticking through. How old is the linoleum, tile, vinyl, or carpeting. Are there worn traffic areas? Will it match your furniture?
22. CEILING INSULATION: What type of insulation is used. If possible, look at insulation for thickness, it should be R34 or at least 18 inches. Is there adequate ventilation in the attic?
23. WALL INSULATION: Ask what type used and how thick. Check for mold on walls, which would indicate air leaks in the vapor barrier.
24. STORM DOORS: Do doors fit, are they insulated, do the handles work, are there screens and storm windows? Check for weather stripping.
25. STORM WINDOWS: What are used, do they fit tight. Check for holes in the screens or glass.
26. SMOKE DETECTORS: There should be at least one smoke detector on each level of the home and one in every bedroom. Test them to make sure they all work.
The Housing Corporation’s Construction Specialists will do a complete property inspection of the home you wish to purchase. They have been trained in evaluating properties and figuring appraised values. This guide is not meant as a replacement for their assistance, but as a tool to help you find a home that most suits your family and will give you the most for your investment.