Buying a New Home? Do Your “Homework”

Buying a New Home? Do Your “Homework”

Before you buy a new home, it pays to do some investigation to avoid taking on problems that may not be covered by your homeowners insurance. When contemplating the purchase of property, a home inspection is the first important step. A professional inspector will be familiar with building codes and can determine if any problems exist, and if the house is “up to code.” Plan to accompany the inspector to your prospective new home and be sure the following often-overlooked areas are examined:

Pipes. One telltale sign of problem pipes is bits of residual metal in the bottom of a plugged sink after you have filled it with hot water. These metallic specks usually reflect light, even in metal sinks, and they may be an indication of corroded, galvanized, metal pipes or a rusting water heater. Check the water pressure by running all faucets and flushing all toilets. If the water flow is weak, a plumber can determine the cause of the problem.

Furnace/Water Heater. Check for moisture at the base of the water heater and look for holes in the heat exchanger of the furnace. Even a small hole could allow toxic exhaust to spread through the house. Many gas companies will check heat exchangers at no charge. The attic should also be inspected for loose pipes or air leaks.

Electrical Outlets. Each outlet should be inspected after removing the cover plate. To avoid shock or electrical fire, don’t attempt this unless all outlets have been grounded. Look for ground fault interrupter (GFI) circuitry in all bathrooms, as well as in the kitchen. A GFI quickly cuts off power if an electrical appliance, such as a hair dryer or radio, comes in contact with water. If your prospective home is older and doesn’t have GFI circuitry, it will need to be installed.

Water Drainage. Be alert for water in the basement or under the house, slightly depressed damp spots on the ground around the house, and watermarks above floor or ground level on the basement’s foundation walls. Clogged gutters or poor grading of the property may be obstructing drainage, and re- grading can be costly. If re-grading isn’t necessary, a pump may be sufficient to draw out water below grade level. As a condition of the sale, you might require the owner to bear this cost.

Dry Rot. Inspect under tile, linoleum, decks, and support beams under the house. Look for a coating on the wood, which may be black or yellow in color. When wood is infected, it is often soft and yielding to a prod from a screwdriver. Be sure to lift the edge of any loose tiles and linoleum corners to check for dry rot.

Floors. Peel back the carpets to check for defects. Extensive cracks in a cement floor, or uneven or otherwise damaged wood floors, may be lurking beneath carpeting. Being on your toes, literally, may help pinpoint problems. Walking carefully over the entire floor in stocking feet may help you detect separations and cracks in the floor. Floor supports can be inspected from underneath, either through a crawlspace or from the basement. Check the joists and columns under the house for dry rot, cracks, or loose beams.

Key Concerns

Remember to take advantage of a professional inspector’s expertise when considering the purchase of your prospective home. Give us a call. We can help you determine the appropriate amount of insurance coverage to help protect your family, and your new home.