When previewing homes at open houses or privately with your real estate broker, you will be getting an initial gut feeling about the home. You might get extremely excited about a home, but there are specific areas you need to examine to get a sense of the condition of the home.
Here is a list of what to look for in a home:
- Flooring will often hint at poor plumbing. Are there dips or sagging near the bathrooms? That may indicate a plumbing issue. Is there sagging in other areas? It may indicate structural issues.
- Large or discolored cracks in the wall may indicate the home has experienced unwanted movement due to structural issues.
- Fresh paint may be covering up a problem. Know the neighborhood you're looking in. Some areas are prone to flooding while others are not. Some areas are prone to damage from insects like termites or carpenter ants while others are not. If the home hasn't undergone many improvements, but there is fresh paint or sheetrock in areas like the cellar or basement, there may be underlying problems.
- In the Pacific Northwest and the Puget Sound areas, rain is a frequent weather element through much of the year. If it is raining or it has recently rained, check the bottom floor or basement for water. If it is dry, you've got a secure home. If it hasn't been raining lately and the floor is damp or wet, you may have a leaky home.
- Cheap or unsealed windows can drive up heating and cooling costs and increase your exposure to mold. Check all the windows. It may be cost-effective to replace a few of them, but if you would need to replace the majority of windows, that may be cost-prohibitive.
- How old is the roof? Older homes will likely have many layers of roofing, with the older layers possibly containing asbestos. If it looks like you would need to repair or replace the roof in the near future, it could be a costly endeavor. You may need an expert to inspect the roof if there are questions about its condition. Find out when the roof was installed and ask for proof of a warranty for the roof.
- How close are outside trees to electrical wires or the home? An ill-placed tree may be damaging the home or acting as an access point for racoons, mice, or other infestations. Removing trees can be expensive depending on the regulations of the property's town or city.
- The electrical panel should look clean and secure. Exposed wiring or piecemeal installations may indicate the home has electrical issues that could be cost-prohibitive. If the home is older, ask the homeowner if they have knob and tube wiring. Knob and tube wiring is outdated and will likely need to be replaced at some point.
- Use a public records search in the county assessor's website to investigate the history of the home. You can see how long the current homeowners have owned the home. If it is a short time, they may be flipping the home and overlooking important-to-you repairs or updates. As your broker to find out about any repairs or updates from the homeowners. Ask about warranties and whether they extend to the home or just the homeowner.
- Make sure the home does not have violations or missing permits. Do your due diligence. The homeowners may not know everything about their home and can claim so on the Form 17 disclosure. If there are marks on the disclosure form where the homeowners indicated they did not know the answer, that is an aspect you will want to investigate.