Welcome to House Hunting with Direct Energy! In this series, we’ll walk you through the fundamentals of shopping for a house, while also sharing a few crucial insider tips that will increase your knowledge and decrease your stress. We want your home-buying experience a positive one!
It’s the Not-So-Obvious Stuff that Will Get You
House hunting can be one of the most inspired ventures of your adult life, but far too often, a would-be homeowner relies on the knowledge and expertise of a home inspector for insight into the overall health of a home. While we have positive experiences with professional home inspectors, unfortunately, some of our friends haven’t. Too many inspectors stick rigidly to a checklist of major issues without considering some of the details. And it’s these finer points that can end up costing you a lot of money to correct in the future.
So, even though you’re hiring a professional inspector to appraise the home you might buy, we’ve collected seven different areas of the house you’ll want to check before buying.
1) Check the Wiring
Specifically, make sure the kitchen uses 12 gauge copper wire. I’ve seen a number of cases (including my own home) where 14 gauge wire was used in a kitchen with modern appliances and GFCI outlets (the ones with the buttons labeled “Test” and “Reset”). Remove each cover plate and have a look before checking it off the list.
Look at the corresponding fuses in an older home, as it’s not unheard of for someone to update a kitchen with new 12 gauge wiring, only to tie it into old 14 gauge wiring and then connect that to a 20 amp breaker. Here’s a clue – a 14 gauge wire should never be connected to a 20 amp breaker. That’s a recipe for a fire.
If you are unfamiliar with wiring, hire a certified electrician to do a thorough inspection on your behalf.
2) Check the Junctions
Examine the fuse box for junction boxes and the wall/ceiling boxes used as junctions. An overcrowded box is a safety hazard and will need to be addressed quickly.
Again, if you are unfamiliar with wiring, bring in a qualified electrician to do a thorough examination of the home and be sure to point out your concerns.
3) Check the Roof
Check the condition of all flashing and related seals on the roof. Flashing is the barrier, usually metal, placed around vents, skylights, chimneys, and other objects not shingled or extending above the roofline. Poor flashing and seals will very likely lead to roof leaks, and that can become a very expensive problem!
4) Check for Critters
I speak from personal experience. Had our inspector simply lifted all the layers of insulation in the attic, he would have noticed evidence of mice making a cozy winter condo in our attic. And it would have saved me money on repairs.
Look for the telltale signs of unwanted houseguests, including feces and tunnels in the insulation. If you find them, have the seller hire a pest removal professional to find and block all entryways for mice, rats, or other critters that may make their way into your home.
5) Check the Paint Job
This is definitely a not-so-obvious area. Walls are easy to get right, but look at the trim (especially around the windows) for indicators of what may lie ahead. A good paint job will involve a lot of prep, and if you see poor attention to detail around trim and windows, chances are the rest of the paint was treated in the same fashion.
This isn’t a make or break issue for most, but if you’re deciding between a few houses and weighing their pros and cons, bad paint work will add an expensive headache down the road. And it might also be an indication of subpar work done on other parts of the house.
6) Check the Ventilation
Your inspector should give you a good idea of health of your roof, but they may not bring up the efficacy of the ventilation. This is important in areas of the world where summer temperatures can frequently hit the triple digits (like Texas).
The real issue at hand? Adequate air circulation. Having a plethora of vents on a roof, such as a combination of turbine vents and ridge vents, helps to release heat building up just under your shingles. To really make the most out of those top vents, hope for soffit vents, which allow for maximum airflow from the base of your attic up through the roof. Soffit vents are a really inexpensive way to help stave off really costly roof replacements causes by inadequate ventilation.
If these points of inspection seem a bit daunting, don’t worry, let your home-buying journey be a valuable learning experience. Do some research into these and other topics, and where necessary, hire qualified professionals to look for those areas that you’re unsure of. A little time and preparation up front can save you a lot of cash down the road.
Happy house hunting!