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So you’ve made the decision to purchase your first home. Congratulations! Being a first-time homebuyer can be overwhelming, and you may not know what to look for (and what to avoid) so you’re not stuck with major costs in a few months or years. While your home inspection will deliver a comprehensive report, here are some quick pointers to consider when you’re house hunting:
Take a good look at the general condition of the roof. Are the roof shingles fading, curling up, or cracked? Are you noticing stains on the wood in the attic? Are you seeing an abundance of shingle granules in the gutter?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, the roof will likely need some work in the near future. This means that you may have some leverage on the asking price (or you may decide to forego the home altogether).
When it comes to energy bills, window age and quality can make a major difference. If the home you’re considering is 15+ years old, or if you consistently feel a cold draft while inside, you may be dealing with energy-inefficient windows. Another sign that your windows need updating is the lack of a sound barrier: if you’re indoors and can easily hear noises from the outside, you may consider upgrading the windows.
When you examine the exterior foundation of the house, do you see any cracks in the brick or concrete? If you notice cracks, keep an eye out for a potential termite infestation, as termites can be a byproduct of a poor foundation. Look for differences in elevation of the foundation: are you noticing any uneven parts? If left unattended, this can lead to shifting, which results in sagging floors, ceilings, and cracked windows and walls (read: costly repairs).
Water damage can be a huge expense that has to be immediately addressed (it gets worse with time), so make sure to check for water leakage in the interior. When looking around the house, examine the ceilings of all the bathrooms in the house to see if there are watermarks, which can indicate a leak. While you’re at it, check for watermarks in all of the rooms located directly below each of the bathrooms too.
If a basement is present in a home you’re looking at, make sure to ask your realtor when it was built. If the house was built before the early 2000s, chances are it’s not waterproof. Mold often proliferates in basements that are not waterproof, which you can usually detect with a simple sniff test. If you smell any mold or must, better to leave it than to fix it. Restoring a basement after mold can be an expensive project that could cost you upwards of $40,000! The process could involve cleaning out or replacing the HVAC and/or floors, and testing air quality… it’s an expensive project that can add a lot of upfront cost to your home.
Check out the electrical panels, which can be located in the basement, utility room, or garage. If there are lots of old panels, these will need to be replaced, and replacement can be pricey! Old panels will typically have a burned area or black spot on your circuit breaker panel. Take a look at the electrical outlets throughout the house to see if they are 3-pronged (these prongs have a ground wire while 2-0pronged outlets do not). Without a grounding wire, the circuit breakers on your electrical panel board may not work properly. It isn’t great when a power surge happens. This could damage all of your electronics!
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