When you are making one of the biggest purchases of your life, you need to know how to properly evaluate the home.
When buying a home, it's important to know the steps in determining the value of a property. There are several "big ticket" items that should be evaluated to help you decide your offer. These include the condition of the roof, the age of the HVAC, water heater, well & septic systems, chimney and overall maintenance of a property.
The website, Building Intelligence Center is a handy website. Take a picture of the serial number on the HVAC and quickly look up the age of the system. This site also has a lookup for the age of water heaters and for recalled units. This is the way to go if the home is being sold "as-is" and/or the sellers are not providing information regarding the major systems in the home.
Lot and location-This is the very first step in evaluating a property. Is the house on a busy, double yellow lined street? Is the lot desirable? Since you cannot change the lot and location of a property, this needs to be the very first thing you consider when buying a home. The double yellow lined street means the road carries a lot of traffic. If you are at all sensitive to noise and traffic volume, a house on a busy road may not be a good choice for you!
Messy neighbors-This is step two in evaluating a property. Sure, neighbors may move but if you're buying a house, make sure the next door neighbors and people living across the street maintain their properties up to your standards. If they don't, and sadly, I know this firsthand, it really impacts your life. If you buy into a neighborhood with an HOA, then your neighbors have to agree to a level of upkeep with their yard and homes. If you are not buying into an HOA, you are on your own and this could mean living next door to a yard full of gazing balls and quirky lawn ornaments (sigh....welcome to my world)
Roof & exterior of the home- You and your buyer agent are not home inspectors but you should be able to determine if a roof is really old. Look for missing shingles, waves in the roof and/or curling shingles. Is there moss growing on the roof? Are the gutters clear or packed with sticks & leaves? Again, you are not expected to do the work of a home inspector but before you make an offer on a house, have a general idea of the age of the roof. When evaluating the exterior of a house, look for cracks, bulges in bricks and any signs of moisture. Where there is a crack, there is an opportunity for water to get in so you'll want to make sure that cracks are sealed and the foundation is straight. Also, check for low areas in the yard where water may pool. As a general rule, dirt should be higher next to the house and sloped in such a way as to direct water away from the foundation.
HVAC, water heater & appliances - How old are all the systems in the house? If the seller isn't providing this information in the disclosures, take pictures of serial numbers and look them up. If there are new appliances and systems, be sure to get the paperwork from the seller so you can take advantage of the warranty.
Porches & Decks- I'm fortunate to have learned so much from excellent home inspectorsin the Washington DC area! I've taken videos of some of our home inspections and learned it's important to ask lots of questions! One inspector says deck posts should be built on cement foundations, not in the dirt. They should be securely fastened to the house to avoid deck failure. A qualified licensed home inspector will provide the best evaluation of the condition of a deck. Porches should be properly sealed.
Chimney evaluation - Take a good look at the condition of the chimney cap and screen. If you can see cracks, these will need to be filled by a licensed contractor. You may also consider having a chimney evaluated by a chimney sweep company. Most of the companies will recommend lining the chimney and should provide a video of the inside of the chimney.
Choose to find your home with a true buyers agent - You need an advocate on your sideas you navigate the home buying process. Consider all your options so you can move confidently ahead as you find your home!