Buying a home is probably the biggest and most important investment you'll ever make. When you are shopping for a new place to call home, you want to make sure you're making a good buy and not going to get stuck with a lot of repairs which could end up costing you a lot of money. Of course, you'll have a realtor to guide you along the way and you should have a professional inspection done but here is a list of some of the things you should look at before you make an offer on your dream home.
This is the first thing you see from the street so it shouldn't be hard to spot any serious problems. Ask when the last time the roof was replaced if the house is older than 20 years old. A roof typically lasts 20 to 25 years. A professional inspection will be able to see smaller signs of problems with the roof. Key indicators would be water stains on the ceiling of the top floor in the house or near the chimney. These show that water has been leaking in and damaging the insulation and drywall.
Brickwork and Chimney
Look at any brickwork to check for signs of trouble such as crumbling, turning to powder, or mortar breaking up. This could be a sign of serious issues and possibly expensive to repair. Make sure to have the chimney thoroughly inspected to ensure that it's in good, stable shape and clean.
Decks and Porches
Some homeowners will slap a fresh coat of paint over rotting and crumbling wood to make it look better for selling the house rather than going to the expense of replacing it. If you see soft spots or splintering, this is a red flag that there could be widespread issues with the wood.
Ideally, your home should have double paned windows for the best energy efficiency. Many older homes will have just single pane windows which means you'll probably need to upgrade them at some point. Check the seals around the panes and the window, look for cracks and make sure any wood frames don't have damage.
If the house has hardwood floors, don't worry too much if they need to be refinished. Refinishing wood floors is fairly inexpensive and easy to do. If there is carpet that is worn and needing to be replaced, find out if there is hardwood underneath. Whatever you plan to do regarding flooring, it's best to plan ahead and have it completed before you move in while the rooms are still empty.
Older homes will sometimes still have old electrical panels. They aren't dangerous necessarily but they won't be able to meet the electricity needs of a modern family. You want a service of 200 amps. If the panel says it's 60 or 100 amps, you'll need to upgrade it.
Be sure to ask how old the furnace is and what kind of fuel it uses. Natural gas is the least expensive but you'll sometimes find a home that uses oil or electricity. These are more expensive so find out if natural gas is available in your area and if you are able to upgrade the furnace.
Insulation doesn't just keep your home warm in winter, it also keeps you cool in summer by keeping cool air in and heat out. Older homes may not have as much insulation as newer homes and it can be expensive to have new insulation blown in. However, the expense will be worth it in the long run with big savings on your monthly bills.
The modern standard for pipes is PVC and sometimes copper with copper soldering. If the house you are looking at still has lead pipes, you'll want to plan to replace the plumbing and that can be a very expensive process.
Make sure a qualified inspector checks the sewer system and drains to ensure they are working properly and if the sewage service from the street has been upgraded recently.
Remember, your real estate agent is there to help you and should be able to answer all of your questions or get the information you need. Also, hire an inspector to thoroughly check every point of the house. Doing an inspection can prevent even a small issue from costing you big money later.