What should I look for when checking out a home's condition?

May 29, 2011

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 the offer to purchase is signed. Here are some items to look at and general questions regarding condition.

Unless consumers are somehow familiar with construction methods and techniques, knowing which signals require follow-up when viewing or selling a home can be difficult. Here is some general information for both buyers and sellers regarding what to look for with a home’s condition. For example; It is not unusual for home sellers (who were once buyers) to have never visited their attic.

The basic point to keep in mind is the home inspector is trained, and experienced many inspections. This information in no way replaces the home inspector.

Do Not Wait Until You Have Been Damaged

The condition of a home is a significant consideration in most real estate transactions. As a matter of fact, a very high percentage of the complaints voiced by buyers against home sellers, address 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 either party evaluate the home’s value. Our goal is to describe some common condition concerns and help put them into the proper perspective.

Advice to the Seller

Sellers often find difficulty seeking a top price when the property is not in top condition. It is best to consider correcting any condition flaws before placing the home on the market.Since today’s society is somewhat prone to engage in lawsuits, the seller is better off allowing the inspector to weigh-in on a home’s condition. Upfront disclosure will prevent last minute obstacles and mistrust. Condition problems that are corrected and disclosed, when understood and considered in valuing a home, should not prevent or delay the sale of a home.

Advice to the Buyer

Buyers should remember not to expect new when they are buying used. Keep in mind, every home usually has some sign of wear or at least the possibility of condition issues. Your expectations should be proportionate with the complete picture, evaluating all aspects of the home. A total evaluation will help to keep condition issues in their proper perspective. Most condition concerns that are understood and properly valued will not prevent buyers from purchasing a home and being happy with it.

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, cracked, dented or rotted siding or stucco
  • Rotting fascia and exterior trim boards
  • Pet damage like scratched doors and woodwork; feline territory marking

The list goes on and on to 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?

No Guarantees

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

In order to more fully understand the condition of a particular home, we strongly recommend that the home be inspected, preferably before placing it on the market. The bottom line is, even if you are fully qualified and understand all aspects of building components, systems and structure, you should utilize the services of an expert. The home inspector offers an independent, unbiased opinion that can offer a cushion of comfort to both parties. All too often, the buyer and seller are just too close to the situation, or their opinions are based on “a feel­ing” or other emotional impression of the home. A written home inspection by a qualified inspector will provide valuable information for your decision-making process.

In situations where mechanical and appliances are reaching the end of their expected life, a home warranty can provide an additional level of comfort and protection. The buyer or the seller can purchase protection from the high cost of repairing major mechanical systems or appliance failures.

No Generalities

There are no generalities to depend on when it comes to evaluating a home’s condition. Information obtained from experts such as home inspectors or specialty contractors is particularly valuable. Both buyer and seller need to be aware of and fully understand all condition issues and its impact on the value. This understanding will facilitate more confident and successful real estate decisions.

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