Be Aware When Buying a Used House

old house


I am not suggesting that one should not buy a used house, I am saying that there are things that you should be aware of when looking at houses. A home inspection by a qualified inspector is highly recommended as a condition in any offer, but there are some areas that you can observe and then decide if you should consider placing an offer or not.

When first walking up to house, look at the final grading. Does it slope towards the house or away? Final grade should always slope away from the house to direct water away from the house.
While observing the grade, pay attention to the foundation. Are there noticeable cracks that water can get into ? This can be a greater issue in northern climates, because when the water freezes it expands, increasing the problem.

Also on the exterior, door and window frames should be looked at for signs of rot and/or termites. Are the frames wood or a newer material that will stand the test of time and insects ?

A quick look at the shingles from the ground can give you a rough idea of condition. Curled asphalt shingles are not good. Their life expectancy at this point is usually short. The home inspector will give you a more detailed report on condition, life expectancy and also condition of the roof flashings.

Inside of the house, examine the ceilings and the corners. You are looking for stains or mould. When these are obvious, the question arises as to why are these here. Water stains on inside window sills are often an indicator of poor management of the blinds or drapes, allowing condensation to form and run down onto the window sills.

Another great place to check out is under the sink cabinets, both in the kitchen and bathrooms. Look to see if the taps or drain have been leaking and if there is any water damage to the floor. Sinks and inside the toilet reservoirs can give you an idea if the water has high iron content by the red staining.

Electrical is usually an area to be checked out by professionals, but one thing that you can do especially if the electrical box looks old, is to check with a home insurance provider and ask if there are any electrical issues that could make this house difficult to insure. Notice if the outlets loos old, and if there are any black scorch marks.

Many times people have pets in their house. They are much loved and often good company. Unfortunately, pets often leave odors. Walk around and see if you can detect pet odors.

If there is carpet in the house and a pet has urinated on it, they will often return to the same spot. Look for stains on the carpets and lower walls. Air fresheners scattered around are a red flag in this respect.  There probably are odor problems if fresheners are evident.

How well has the house been maintained ? Some tells are the kitchen appliances. Is the oven mostly clean? What about the fridge? Is it filthy or clean and neat. Furnace filters are another sign of maintenance. Is it packed with dirt, or has it been changed with the date of change marked on it ? These areas can give you an idea of the level of care and maintenance that has gone into the house.

If the house has a basement, it can be a mixed blessing. More storage space, family rooms and bedrooms are always useful. One of the challenges with basements is moisture. Look at the baseboards and lower walls for signs of water staining.

If there are signs of water, possibly your home inspector can determine what the cause may be. Moisture can also lead to mould. Mould can be a health issue, so this should be looked into to determine the extent.

Also when there are bedrooms in the basement, check the windows.  A basement bedroom needs to have a secondary means of egress (exit) in case of fire.  Some older houses were known for having basement windows that were too small for a person to squeeze out of in an emergency.

Sometimes upgrades and renovations have been done by the homeowner. While often homeowners are very capable with renos, others can have good intentions but the end result might be somewhat lacking.

Regulations differ from area to area, but it may be worth while to check and see if permits have been pulled and inspections done. Once the drywall is finished, it can be very difficult to determine the quality and safety of the work that was done.

Not everyone has the same taste for color so don’t let the color turn you off. Painting is relatively simple and can completely change the look and feel of a house. One caution when doing the painting yourself is to make sure the end result looks professional, or close to it.  Otherwise, hire a painter to do the job.

Wallpaper can be a different matter. It can be a challenge to completely remove. It is often another one of those love it or hate it items.

If the house is obviously needing a lot of upgrades, it is usually best to talk to professionals to determine the costs involved in bringing these areas up to a standard that you would like. This can also help in determining what you are willing to pay for the house.

In summary, use as many of your senses as possible in assessing if this is a house that you would like to purchase. Observe as much as you can, paying attention to the little things as well. Use your nose and try to pick up odors that may be indicators of issues.

Listen while looking around. Are the floors excessively squeaky? Does the furnace or A/C sound like it could fly apart any minute ? Even touch can help. Do those rough walls feel too harsh and need to be refinished ? Does that spot under the cupboards feel damp?

Taking a little extra time, possibly even a second viewing. as well as consulting with professionals can can help you to make a wise decision. Knowing what you are purchasing can help make this an enjoyable and rewarding experience.


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The Complete Guide to Home Inspections