Reader Question: We looked at a home that we are considering making an offer for. When our friends at dinner asked us about the house, there were questions that came up we couldn’t answer. We then realized that we were focused on the floor plan and how our furniture and decorating accessories could fit, and probably overlooked important items. We are going back to look again. What do you recommend we check out? Randy and Heather C.
Monty’s Answer: Going back is a wise decision. One aspect of viewing a home that is difficult for many people, unless they have a construction background of some kind, is understanding the actual condition of a home. A home can be very neat and clean, and well appointed, but have some serious or expensive to repair condition issues. It is also possible that the seller is unaware of them as well. Just owning a home does not qualify a person to judge condition issues.
Keep things in perspective
Remember not to expect new when you are buying used. Keep in mind that most homes have some sign of wear or at least the possibility of condition issues. Your expectations should be proportionate with the complete picture when evaluating the home’s condition. Most condition concerns that are understood and properly valued should not prevent you from purchasing the home and being happy in it.
Do not wait until you have been damaged
The condition of a home is a significant consideration in most real estate transactions. A high percentage of the complaints voiced by buyers against home sellers involve the condition of the property. Condition issues that are not corrected in a timely manner can in some cases, worsen. Understanding the significance of these problems helps both parties evaluate the home’s value. Here are some common condition concerns and questions to ask to help put them into the proper perspective.
Conditions that count
The importance of considering the effect on the value of a condition becomes greater the more it costs to repair, replace or correct. Here are some examples of condition problems that can be serious:
- Leaky, bowed or unsound foundation or dry-rot weakened truss systems
- Sagging, leaky or deteriorated roof. Remember, if there is a leak somewhere – carpenter ants and other wood eating insects need water
- Aging furnace, water heater, well pump, septic system, inadequate electric voltage and other items expensive to replace
- Faulty or aging major appliances
- Deteriorating, damp, cracked or rotted siding, stucco or exterior insulation and finishing systems (EFIS)
- Rotting fascia and exterior trim boards
- Pet damage like scratched doors and woodwork; feline territory markings
The list could include such items as windows, carpeting, landscape drainage and more.
Questions to ask
When involved with condition concerns, be sure to gather as much information as possible. Both buyer and seller should clarify descriptions and facts regarding condition concerns by asking questions before signing an offer to purchase. Here are some general questions that offer clues regarding condition.
- When was the last time the problem occurred?
- How often does it happen?
- How long has it been like this?
- Does it need to be replaced or can it be repaired?
- Did they already try to repair it?
- If not corrected, will it cause further damage to other areas of the home?
- Do they still manufacture it or will a substitute work?
- What will it cost to repair it?
- What are the qualifications of the person that has inspected the problem?
People often gauge a home’s overall condition on the age of the home. Unfortunately, youth makes no guarantees. Although there is often less maintenance with a newer home, it can sometimes be subject to construction and material flaws. As for an older home, it may be a better buy or have fewer flaws because it has stood the test of time. The home’s age can be a deceptive indicator of its condition.
The bottom line
This information is in no way a replacement for a home inspection. This is meant only to help you get a sense of what to look for and then questions to ask that helps you to gauge the seriousness of a condition issue. We strongly recommend that the home be inspected. The home inspector offers an independent, unbiased opinion, and many homes inspections to practice the training they undertook to qualify them for inspection work. Their results help you make sound purchase decisions.