Buyer Beware: Things To Look Into When Buying A House

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By Sherene Cole
August 27th Edition

Planning on buying a house? Taking the time to learn about your prospective home could save you both the headache and expense of unexpected maintenance costs that in some instances would not be covered by a home insurance policy. To get you started, here are nine things you should definitely look into about the house, ideally before you sign on the dotted line.

INTERIOR
Are there stains on the ceiling, walls and floors? Look specifically in the corners of the upper floors for signs of roof leaks. Ceiling damage on the lower level is a sign of plumbing or fixture leaks on upper levels. A bright flashlight shone on walls, floors and ceilings will often reveal signs of imperfections and staining.

What is the condition of the plumbing fixtures? Are there signs of deterioration in and around plumbing fixtures? Flush the toilets to make sure water runs properly. Look in sinks for stains and signs of leaky faucets. Check under and around sinks for leaks or previous water damage.
Are the “details” in the home well maintained? Sure, the floors are clean and the walls are freshly painted, but what is the condition of the caulk around the tub, shower stall and sink? Deteriorated or mildewed caulking can allow water to gradually work its way behind plumbing fixtures and into the walls. Check for fresh caulking where counters meet back splashes or walls.

BASEMENT
What is the age of the hot water heater? This is important since most have an average life of 10 to 13 years. There’s usually a metal label on the heater that is date stamped. If not, the first four digits of the serial number represent the month and year it was manufactured.

Is there a potential for a pipe burst due to freezing? In colder climates, water supply lines in unheated areas of the home may freeze and rupture. Although insulating these lines may keep them from freezing, a more extensive solution may be necessary.

Is the basement dry? Check the basement area for dryness. Stains on walls are one indicator, but the existence of a sump pump is a sign that ground water is a possibility. Ask if the pump is in working order or require a demonstration by having water poured into the pit to ensure the pump is functional.

EXTERIOR
Are the gutters and downspouts clear of leaves and other debris? Clogged gutters may cause rainwater to spill over, which results in water entering the home either through the roof or basement.

Have you visually inspected the roof shingles, overhangs, siding and windowsills? Asphalt shingles or wood shakes on the roof that show signs of curling or cupping may be indicative of poor ventilation or improperly installed insulation in the attic. Peeling paint or signs of rot on roof overhangs, trim boards, sidings or windowsills may indicate excess moisture in these areas.

Is the property properly graded? Ground that does not allow water to drain away from the foundation during a heavy rain storm or after a big snowstorm may result in the water seeping down along the foundation and ultimately into the basement. Also, if the property is lower than the neighbor’s, be sure any water runoff from surrounding properties is diverted away from the foundation.

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