How to Look at a House that is For Sale – Part 1 of 3

It’s important to keep in mind that buying an existing home means taking on some maintenance and repairs. What is critical is learning to differentiate between the property that has been cared for and the one that has been let go. A working knowledge of the degree of care of property has received will make you a much more knowledgeable consumer.

When you arrive at the house, it can be difficult to resist the temptation to walk briskly up to the door and start chatting with the owner or realtor and begin looking inside the home.  Rather. I would recommend developing a five minute mental checklist to give you a brief overview before going inside.  It’s important to remember that the bulk of home maintenance and expense is on the exterior.   With practice, you can accurately run through the following protocol in just a few minutes.

First, get a feel for how the home sits on the lot. Is it flat as many are in western New York and at a comparable elevation as the neighbors or is it “sitting low” or “sitting high” with respect to the others? Is there a drop off in the back or front that will help carry away moisture from the foundation area?

Second, step back and sight along the plane of the roof. Are the shingles laying flat or are they curling on the ends? Are any missing? The best way to develop an eye for this is to examine other roofs close by. It won’t be long before you clearly recognize the newer and the older. Talk to someone who knows and learn the difference between a three-in-one and an architectural roof.  As you look up there, check out the chimney – any missing mortar or loose bricks?  You can get a strong clue about mortar integrity if you see an inconsistent pattern of shading between the bricks. The more you try to grasp these differences, the easier this will become.

Are there gutters and downspouts along all of the roof edges? Are they in their proper place or are they hanging out of alignment? Is the electrical service cable from the house to the pole in good condition or is it cracked and frayed.  If there is a disintegrating cable between the electric meter and the house, the responsibility for replacement will fall on the home owner and will likely kick in regulations that will require additional internal electrical upgrades. What about the windows? Are they low maintenance aluminum or vinyl? Will painting be required to keep them looking good? If there is a brick veneer on the exterior, are there any irregularities in the mortar pattern? If so, this may indicate shifting in the foundation.  What about the driveway? Is it smooth or cracked and heaving?  Does it slope away or towards the house? What about the garage – standing straight or leaning?  You really can learn to do this exterior review in a matter of minutes.

Developing a strong, working knowledge of what you are looking at will assist you in making a better decision when the time is right. Once you have performed this brief overview, it’s time to go inside.  Stay tuned  or subscribe to the blog as Part 2 will be published quite soon.

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