I have the pleasure of working with a lot of buyers – many of them first time home owners, and I often sit back and watch how easily some can turn a blind eye to obvious defects in a home because of falling victim to their emotions! As a Realtor, it is my duty to ensure that my clients see both the good AND the bad in a home. When visiting a house for the first time, it is so important to look past the fresh paint and home staging and dissect what is actually going on in the home. Home inspectors are great at doing this, but some things can be detected before you get to that stage, which could save you time, money and heartbreak down the road. Here are some common home defects to pay attention for when touring the possible house of your dreams.
Lack of Maintenance to Appliances and HVAC
Many people forget that part of purchasing a home, is purchasing the items that come included with it. The kitchen Appliances, Laundry machines and even the Furnace and A/C unit are all items that can add value or possibly decrease the value of a home. When was the last time you opened the dryer and looked at the lint trap or took a peek in the stove to see if it has ever been cleaned? More importantly – whenever your water heater or HVAC items are serviced there will always be a record of the service kept on them. Would you not prefer to know there was servicing done last year vs. 12 years ago? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered individuals who didn’t even know that a Furnace had a filter that requires being changed. The Maintenance of the appliances in the home will help to maintain the life of them – what a shame it would be to move into your new home only to have out of warranty appliances to start failing months into your move.
It can be assumed that the longer a person has lived in their home, the higher the chances are that they have conducted some DIY repairs around the house. Patching a wall or fixing a baseboard are not items that we need concern ourselves with – but often these repairs come in the form of Electrical and Plumbing and could cause some serious issues. When these things are not performed by a professional, building codes are often not followed and could fail or cause further damage down the road. Spotting these things as an untrained professional can be hard but if you question the exposed light in the new stand up shower or the live wiring peeking out in the cabinet – be sure to bring these things to the attention of your Real Estate Agent and in turn a Home Inspector should you get to that stage with this home.
Roof Problems & Poor Ventilation
Again, not something we can always see right away, but roof problems can be costly problems to fix. You will always get a detailed roof and attic inspection done by a Home Inspector, however – there are some ways to know what is going on up there without physically getting on the roof. Watch for;
Lifting Shingles: Buckling Shingles: Broken Shingles: Missing Shingles:
Flashing is also prone to damage just due to general expansion and contraction, watch for lifting or separating of the flashing especially around chimneys and skylights. If you are viewing the home in the winter – snow can also tell you a lot about the roof and the insulation within it. A home with an even layer of snow on its roof is a sign that the home is properly insulated and the attic floor is reasonably air tight. If you see areas with no snow, or the roof has no snow at all when the neighbors do – this is a huge red flag that there are some insulation issue that would no doubt be reflected in the homeowners heating and cooling bills.
Poor Drainage and Grading
No one likes to come home to an unexpected indoor pool in their basement. Though not as common around here, the storms of July 2013 taught the GTA that we are far from immune to natural disasters and flooding. But we don’t need a big even to cause dampness or flooding in our basements, improper drainage and grading around the house all cause your basement to be more susceptible to these issues. When walking around the house, watch for where the downspouts drain – are they pushed far enough away from the house? In addition to this, grading is super important, does the backyard slope down towards the house? The kids may enjoy sliding down this in the winter but how will you enjoy mopping up the basement in the spring?
Always check a basement for signs of water damage or dampness regardless of the grading or drainage on the outside of the house. If a basement is unfinished, you may sometimes find a white powdery substance on the walls – this is called Efflorescence and is a common residue left from water evaporating from the concrete and is a sure sign there was water in the basement.
Power of Sales/Foreclosed Properties
Everyone is hunting for a deal and for a long time, people thought the best deals came from Power of Sales and Foreclosed properties. These deals are becoming increasingly harder to find in the G.T.A but for those who find them, they can often come with their own source of problems. Due diligence in these properties are of utmost importance as 99.9% of them are sold ‘As Is’ without representations or warranties. In addition to the above things to watch for, you want to be sure that you understand what you are buying up front. If by chance on closing day the furnace doesn’t work, then oops, too bad. Not always, but often, the previous owner knew that the foreclosure was only a matter of time – in these cases we see the house often becomes neglected and sometimes frustrations are taken out on the house itself. The motivation to maintain the house is lost and the next owner can often pay the price for this later even though they seemingly got a good deal up front!
Next time you are looking for a home, don’t forget to put your home inspector hat on and get a better idea of what is really going on in that house. It is so easy to be distracted by the beautiful surface, but it’s everything below the surface that will cost you the big bucks to fix!
Happy house hunting!