Home Insight - Property Value and Home Price Check
Look Out for Potential Problems: 9 Things to Check Carefully when House Hunting
Written by: Lankarge/Nahorney for Top Producer

For home buyers, the slowing real estate market offers good news: not only are prices dropping, but with the number of houses on the market rising, so you can take your time, and learn a great deal about the one you want to bid on. You can start by checking out properties online: view homes for sale and find out what homes are selling for by clicking here.

You don't have to be a home repair expert to be sure you won't have to unexpectedly pour thousands into a home you just purchased. Here are nine things to check - they are the big dollar items in a home - so you know exactly what you're bidding on. The goal is to avoid unexpectedly shelling out thousands of dollars to make repairs soon after you move into your new home. Want to know what kind of features listed homes have? Click here to find out about details of properties for sale.

Checklist

1. Kitchen

The most expensive room in the house to remodel is the kitchen. The average kitchen remodel will set you back about $20,000. You'll want to carefully examine the following.

  • Cabinets: painted or stained, solid wood or particle board? Know what you're buying. Inexpensive cabinets can easily cost $4,000 for a small kitchen, and that's not including installation.
  • Counters: laminate or solid surface? Laminates tend to stain and chip easily. Solid surface counters are more durable. But do you like the color?
  • Floor: tile, laminate, or wood? Laminate is the least expensive and is most commonly found it kitchens. Tile is the most durable, but it is cold on your feet and can chip or crack. Wood can create a warm, inviting look, but water can damage it - certainly a consideration if you have children.
  • Appliances: standard or built-in? Most people want matching appliances in their kitchen. Newer models are not as likely to need repairs or replacement anytime soon. Be sure to check the refrigerator carefully; it is the most expensive kitchen appliance.

2. Bathroom

The second most expensive room in the house to remodel is the bathroom. An average bathroom remodel can easily cost $10,000, and it can be quite disruptive for you and your family.

In addition to checking for leaks or cracks in the toilet, tub, and sink, you'll want to check to see if the pipes are leaking. A good way to do that is to look in the access panel behind the tub, and to carefully look at the ceiling below the bathroom. Second floor piping repairs can be especially expensive.


3. Heating System

Old heating systems can be a big expense: they can be expensive to replace and expensive to operate, especially with today's high energy prices.

A new furnace with installation can easily cost $5,000 and often more, depending on the type of system and the size of the home. Furnaces can last 20 years or more, but some models will begin to break down after 10 years or more.

4. Air Conditioning

Central air conditioning units can be costly to repair. They commonly cost several thousand dollars to replace.

Wall or window units are much less costly to replace, but they are more expensive to operate. Additionally, if left in place year round they can often cause water damage that can lead to mold, which can be hazardous to your health. Be sure to examine these units and the area surrounding them.

5. Roof

Properly installed, roofs can last 20 to 25 years. Adding a second layer of roofing is not a very expensive job (a few thousand dollars). Stripping off one or two layers of roofing before adding a new layer can be very costly (easily twice the cost of simply adding a layer). You can visually check the condition of the roof from the ground by looking for cracked, curling, or missing shingles.

6. Windows

Nothing is more annoying than struggling with a hard-to-open window. Newer double-paned windows do add to the value of a home, for their ease of operation, ease of cleaning, and energy efficiency.

The cost of new double-paned glass windows begins at about $300 installed for an average-sized, double-hung unit, so the cost of new windows can easily add up to several thousand dollars in a home.

7. Basement

If you've ever lived in a home with a leaky basement, you probably don't want to ever do so again. Be sure to check carefully for water marks and other signs of a leaky basement. Once water begins to leak into a basement it is usually better to add a system to remove it rather than trying to stop it from coming in (which is often a futile effort).

8. Insulation

With energy prices remaining high, a well-insulated house can help keep you warm in the cooler months, and cooler in the warmer months. Not only is it important to have at least a foot of insulation in the ceiling, insulating the walls will also help reduce energy costs. Adding insulation to the attic can cost about $1,000. Blowing it into the walls adds several thousand dollars to that cost.

9. Driveway and Sidewalks

It is costly to repair driveways and sidewalks, also called "hardscape." Look carefully for cracks and sunken areas - they can end up being trouble down the line.


Home Inspectors

Now you know what to look for so you won't have unpleasant and costly surprises when you move into your new home. It's also important to work with a highly qualified real-estate agent and equally important to hire a quality home inspector.

A quality home inspector will provide you with a detailed home report that might help you know more about the physical condition of the home than the current owner. This detailed report will cover all parts of the home, from the roof to basement floor. Not all home inspectors are created equal - be sure to hire the best one in your area.

What if the House Needs Work?

What happens if you fall in love with a house that needs work? Negotiate a lower price - or insist that the current homeowner make quality repairs prior to you finalizing your offer. With inventory up, home buyers - especially well-qualified ones - are now in the driver's seat.