Buyer Beware! What To Look For When Buying A Home
Pre-owned home buying checklist to help you know where to look for hidden gotchas.
Most home buyers are searching for the pre-owned market and not building from scratch. When looking at houses you need to pay attention to more than the layout.
Imagine buying what you think is your dream home, only to find out it has hidden plumbing or electrical problems! Thankfully, a lot of issues can be avoided if you know what to look for. Here are some of the most important things to check when viewing a pre-owned home.
1. Look For Signs Of Recent Water Damage
Signs of recent water damage that you can look for include puddles or wet spots around sinks or toilets, and wet or dark spots on the wall or the ceiling. If the ceilings are painted, look for air bubbles or bulging under the paint’s surface, a surefire sign there’s been a leak at some point.
Water damage can come from flooding, or from leaking pipes. A good place to check for hidden water damage is the garage ceiling, as that's a place most people don't bother to repair. Water damage can end up being very costly to fix. It can cause damage to the electronics and plumbing systems, and even cause dangerous mold growth.
For information on how to protect your new home from future water damage, check out our guides on how to protect your home from flooding and signs that pipes might need repairs.
2. Check The HVAC Unit
A super important thing to look at when viewing a home is the HVAC unit. Check the age of the unit – older units tend to be less efficient, are more prone to breaking down and can end up costing you a lot of money in the long run. If the system is over 10years old, start a savings account for the eventual replacement.
If possible, ask the realtor when the unit had its last tune-up. A system that's maintained regularly will last longer and work better. If the system hasn't had a tune-up in a while, it's more likely to be clogged by dirt and dust. Again, this means it will break down faster (because more stress is being put on the unit), and the HVAC unit might not work properly when you move in. Checking the HVAC unit can pay dividends in the long run!
For information on what to look for in an HVAC unit, check out our guide on when to repair or replace your HVAC unit.
3. Check The Water Heater
Much like the HVAC unit, the age of your potential new water heater is important to consider. Older water heaters often take longer to produce hot water – and they use more energy while they're doing it.
Older models also need higher levels of maintenance, as they're more likely to break down than their newer counterparts. A good way to check how well the water heater works is to see how long it takes to get hot water to the master bathroom. If it's taking a while, that might mean that the water heater is struggling.
4. Ask To See Maintenance Records
Maintenance records are a good indication of how well the plumbing and air conditioning systems are being looked after. They’ll also give you an idea as to what sort of conditions they're currently in.
Consistent maintenance of both plumbing and HVAC systems is absolutely vital – it means that the plumbing and air conditioning works better, with fewer issues. Well maintained systems last longer than systems that are simply left alone. It's a lot like mowing the lawn, being consistent with looking after it makes it a lot easier to deal with!
Another good thing to check when looking at maintenance records is to see if any of the systems are still under warranty. If they are, in the event of any issues, they'll be a lot cheaper to fix. Looking at maintenance records can really be a big help if you're trying to decide whether or not to purchase a home.
5. Look At The Breaker Panel
Have a look at the home's breaker panel. How does it look? Is it messy and disorganized, or is it clearly labeled and well laid out? You can actually tell a lot just from how the panel looks.
A messy breaker panel is a dangerous breaker panel, as it won't shut off when overloaded. If your home is using too much electricity, the only thing standing between you and an electrical fire is your breaker panel! It's so important to keep it clear, easy to decipher and to keep it in good working order as well.
For more about breaker panel maintenance, have a look at our webpage page on electrical panels. We offer services that will keep the panel in good working order – keeping you and your family safe and sound.
6. Decide what issues are points of negotiation, and what issues are deal-breakers.
At the end of the day, no home can be perfect. Most, if not every house will have some kind of issue with one system or another, however minor.
What's up to you is which issues are points of negotiation during the purchasing and which issues are deal-breakers that could stop you from purchasing the house. A good idea is to decide ahead of time what you're willing to deal with. For example, while a leaky pipe could be a point of negotiation, severe water damage would probably be a deal-breaker.
We hope you find this home buying checklist helpful. The bottom line is to pay attention to the details. Pick up things on the counters to make sure they are not trying to hide scorch marks with a cutting board. Look at the ceiling, look for cracks and stains. Look up, look down, be focused on more than aesthetics. Treat your home search like buying a used car. There are amazing deals out there that you can turn into a home for your family.
A new home is exciting, but it can also be stressful. Knowing what to look out for can make things a lot easier, and hopefully reduce some of your stress!