10 Things to Look For at Every House Showing

Shopping for a home is an exciting activity, but it’s easy to get caught up in the wrong details or overlook some important ones.

Whenever I tour a house, I try and make sure I look at (or ask about) the following 10 things:

  1. The Roof: You probably won’t be able to see the roof, but you can ask about the last time it was replaced. If the seller owned the home for a long time and never replaced the roof, it could indicate a higher likelihood that the roof is worn and in need of repairs or replacement.If the home has stains on the ceilings, that may also be a sign of a leaky roof (or leaky plumbing), which is something you should bring up with a licensed roofer or inspector if you decide to pursue the issue further.
  2. The Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Systems: An HVAC system regulates your home’s climate and can last for anywhere from 10 – 25 years. In some cases, the manufacture date is printed on a sticker that’s placed on the unit. Replacing an HVAC system isn’t the most expensive home repair, but you can expect a new one to cost you around $5,000 – $11,000.
  3. The Electrical Panel: A home’s electrical panel is a critical component of any house, transferring electricity from your local utility company to the different power sources throughout your house. Your electrical panel is also home to breakers, which help reduce the risk of short-circuiting and fires.
  4. The Kitchen Appliances: You don’t need to be a certified inspector or appraiser to do a quick check on the kitchen appliances. Do all the cooktop elements work? Do the dishwasher and fridge look like they’re on their last legs? When I look at the appliances, I’m not doing a formal inspection for functionality. Instead, I just want to know whether or not they’re likely going to need replacing in the very near future so I can take that expense under consideration.
  5. The Water Heater: Water heaters often hold 50+ gallons of water, which, deposited on the floor of your home, can wreak absolute havoc. Traditional (non-tankless) water heaters have a lifespan of around 8 – 10 years. If you aren’t sure of the age, look for clues that the water heater is nearing the end of its useful life. These include corrosion, leaks, and (obviously) an inability to produce hot water.
  6. The Windows and Doors: Drafts that penetrate your windows and doors can seriously compromise the energy efficiency of your home, costing you hundreds of dollars in wasted heating and cooling. Most of the time, you can tell if windows and doors need replacing simply by looking at them and feeling around for drafts.
  7. The Floors: Sloping or sagging floors can be a major red flag and may point to structural issues with the home. If you’re looking at a home with uneven floors, consult a structural engineer before moving forward with your purchase.
  8. The Siding: The siding of a home can offer additional clues about the structural integrity of the home. If the home has stucco, brick, or stone siding, are there cracks, bulges, or areas where the material is missing? Again, these issues are present, evaluating them and estimating the costs to repair them are best left to licensed professionals.
  9. The Plumbing: There are all sorts of different types of plumbing in homes, from cast iron and copper to lead, steel, and PVC. Lead pipes can contaminate drinking water and be harmful to human health, so if a home has lead pipes, you may need to replace them. Some of the best types of plumbing materials used today include PVC, PEX, polypropylene, and copper.
  10. The Layout: Changing a home’s layout is possible, but it’s typically very difficult and expensive. You can make all sorts of renovations to match your stylistic preferences, but altering the layout isn’t so easy. Therefore, it’s important to take a good look at the size and shape of the rooms and make sure you can see yourself happily living in the space.

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