Was this House Remodeled? How to Spot Home Repairs When You’re House Hunting

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Searching for that perfect fixer-upper to call home can be a bit overwhelming, can’t it? As a prospective buyer you’re really forced into some heavy duty priority juggling. Neighborhood, sale price, house features, yard features, cost of improvements and as-is condition are just a few of the big ones.

What about identifying problematic old repairs? What was done? Was it done right? Is something being covered up?

Even if you have a real estate professional on your side, and you should, the decision as to when and where to make an offer falls squarely on your shoulders. Once you’ve made your offer and the seller has accepted it, chances are you’re in for some expenses. Home inspectors, termite tests, surveys and more are usually at the buyer’s expense.

What if you had a little bit of knowledge that could help you narrow the field? What if you could recognize potential problem areas before making the offer and investing in an inspection?
While certainly not a comprehensive list, there are a few things that might alert you to a previous repair.

Wall or Ceiling Texture
Wall and ceiling surfaces can be very hard to match exactly. Look closely at the texture on the walls and ceilings, both within a room and from room to room. If you see a difference, you’ll know that someone did some wall or ceiling replacement somewhere along the line.

Mismatched Floorboards
Another hard-to-match surface is hardwood floors. Pay close attention to the floors as you walk through a prospective purchase. Look for “lines of demarcation” that show a difference in flooring. Look at the color, the wood grain, width of planks, visible nails, etc. Even a perfectly repaired floor usually leaves some telltale sign.

Newer Electrical Switches and Outlets
Also take a look at components like electrical outlets and switches. Are they different from one room to the next. If so, it’s a sure sign some remodeling or repair work has been done.

New Roofing
Sometimes it pays to have a closer look at things that are seemingly “wonderful upgrades,” such as a new roof, new siding, etc. These are certainly good things in and of themselves, but not if they are merely a Band-Aid atop a more serious problem.

What You Want to Know
You may be wondering what the point of all this is. The bottom line is that these little indications just give you something to ask about. They give you a reason to learn more about the house itself and the work that has been done. The more you know before you make your offer, the less likely you’ll be to get into a contract on a house that you really don’t want.

If there’s been a new roof, ask if there were leaks. Ask to see up in the attic and look for large sections of replaced roof decking. If you see that, look closer for rotten framing or damaged ceilings below.

If a wall or ceiling looks to have been repaired, ask why. What was done? Was there damage repaired or was it a remodel? Was the contractor who performed the repairs licensed and did he or she offer any sort of warranty on the work? Is that warranty transferable to a new owner?

Avoid Putting Sellers on the Defensive
One word of caution: Be careful not to sound like you’re just looking for a problem for the purpose of beating the price down or making trouble. It’s a fine art to ask about these things without putting the seller on the defensive. Once that happens, the deal can go south very quickly.

It’s worth the risk, however, to really know what has gone on and why. So keep your eyes and ears open! Previous repairs and remodels are part of a house’s history (if it’s more than a few years old), so don’t let your newfound eye for detail turn you away. Just enjoy the process of learning the history of a house.

~Tim Layton, RealEstate.com

What to Expect from a Home Inspection

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You’ve finally found what seems to be the perfect home. It’s got all your must-haves and some of your nice-to-haves, too. It looks like it’s in excellent condition, but merely looking like it’s in good condition is not enough when it comes to such a huge financial decision.

To make sure you’re not buying a money pit, you need a professional home inspection before you commit. An inspection should uncover any potential issues so you have a complete picture of what you’re buying.

Finding a Home Inspector

Many first-time home buyers don’t realize that it’s their responsibility to hire a home inspector. Make sure you make your offer conditional upon inspection or get one done before you make a bid.

To find a home inspector, people often turn to recommendations from trusted friends and family members. Your broker might also have an inspector to recommend. While other people’s opinions are helpful, what’s paramount is that you hire someone who is qualified.

Some states require home inspectors to have certifications. For those that don’t, membership in organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors can give you some assurance about an inspector’s professionalism.

Interview potential inspectors before hiring one. Ask about their experience and whether they’re familiar with the type of home you’re buying. Find out what will be included in the inspection and report.

What the Inspector Should Look At

During a home inspection, the inspector should thoroughly evaluate the physical structure of the home as well as critical internal systems. You should make sure the examination includes the following:

● Electrical system ● Plumbing system ● Heating and cooling systems ● Radon detection equipment, if applicable ● Walls, ceiling and flooring ● Windows and doors ● Roofing ● Foundation ● Basement ●Attic ● Insulation

 

What Should You Do During the Inspection?

You should make every effort to be present when the inspection is taking place. You can follow the inspector around the house and ask questions so you can learn more about your potential new home. If you can’t make it for the inspection, you should meet with the inspector to go over the report in detail.

If you have questions about potential issues or how to take care of parts of the home, feel free to ask the evaluator. Take care, however, not to get in the inspector’s way. Don’t start inspecting the home yourself, either. If you test a sink while the inspector is testing a shower, for example, you might alter the results.

It’s also important to remember that “an inspection is only a snapshot in time on the day of the inspection,” said John Bodrozic, a co-founder of HomeZada. So if you’re buying a house in the middle of summer, try to consider how the home might perform in different conditions, like the winter or fall.

A Home’s Report Card

Once the inspector completes an evaluation, you will receive a report with the inspector’s findings. Don’t be alarmed if you see a lot of deficiencies noted. Home inspections are detailed, so reports often include between 50 and 100 issues, most of which are relatively small.

The report should include information about how severe each listed problem is, plus estimates on how much it would cost to fix each problem. Ask the inspector for clarifications on this if necessary.

If the inspection finds more problems than you’re comfortable dealing with, you can choose to back out of the sale or try to negotiate to have the seller make the repairs or lower the price. If you’re satisfied with the condition of the home or the shape it will be in after the seller meets the arrangements of your negotiations, you can move into your new home with more peace of mind.

~Megan Wild, New York Times