Choosing a home is exciting, exhausting,
and confusing. Once your offer is accepted, you become "the
buyer." Before you sign the purchase and sale contract, you
are likely to have many questions and concerns about the property
that must be addressed. Let's look at some of the most common
Do we need a new roof?
On an asphalt roof, telltale
signs of age are curled, cracked or broken shingles, and shingles
missing gravel. One sign of a leaky roof may be stains in the
ceiling below. Stains can be tested with a moisture meter for
dampness. If the attic is accessible, the sheathing may be
Are the gutters and downspouts working?
A clogged or disconnected downspout
can allow roof water to run down the side of the house. This
may cause peeling paint, and wood decay nearby. At the ground
level, you will probably see soil erosion.
Are the foundation cracks serious?
The answer to this question
is rarely "yes." Uneven settlement, shrinkage and expansion
can all cause cracks in concrete walls. Old stone foundation
walls often have powdery mortar, large voids, and stones that
have shifted. For serious problems, you may have to consult
with a structural engineer.
Are there signs of basement water?
Most older basements feel damp.
The thin cement floors often have dark, moist spots. The walls
may have water droplets on them. A basement that actually wets
with water periodically may have high water-mark stains and
Will we have heat?
Old cast iron boilers are intimidating,
but can last over 50 years. Old or new, there are some simple
checks for heat systems. Every radiator or register should
have heat, and each zone should operate independently. Around
any boiler, one trouble sign to look for is water leakage.
What is the water pressure like?
If pipes are clogged, the water
pressure and flow may fall steeply as you open more faucets.
If running two faucets simultaneously in a bathroom can supply
satisfactory flow, the pressure is probably adequate.
Is there hot water?
Most older single and small
multi-family homes have 30-gallon hot water heaters. Newer
homes may have 40- or 50-gallon tanks. For a family of 4, with
a washing machine and dishwasher, a 30-gallon tank may not
be adequate. Tanks must be replaced when they start to leak,
every 5 or 10 years, depending on quality.
Are the drains functioning?
If the water in a sink or tub
does not drain quickly, then a pipe may be clogged. In older
dwellings, slow drainage is very common. Sometimes the conditions
can be corrected by pipe clearing. Other options include either
replacing a pipe or living with the condition.