Buying a House? Here’s What to Look For

Blog Author - Ryan Tremblay
Ryan Tremblay

When daffodils and “For Sale” signs appear in front yards in equal numbers, it’s officially house-buying season in the northeast. It’s an exciting time!

a closeup of a child's hand holding up a paper cutout of a house and four members of a family on a green lawn

Hunting for the perfect house can be a lot of fun, but it can also be nerve wracking. You’re making one of the biggest financial decisions of your life! How will you know which one is the “right” one? What secrets might a lovely exterior be hiding? It’s enough to drive a house buyer bonkers.

The interesting thing about buying a house is that you probably have a limited understanding of what you’re looking at. You can tell if a house has the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you want, and if the kitchen has the kind of countertops and appliances you prefer. But what do you know about foundations and roofs, plumbing and boilers, windows and insulation? If you’re like most people, not much.

Of course, that’s why you never buy a house without getting a professional home inspection.  

However, you don’t have to be a professional to know whether a house might have serious issues. There are some things you can learn to look for and questions that anyone can ask.

  • The foundation. You can judge the relative structural soundness of a foundation by looking for cracks in the interior walls. A few hairline cracks here and there do not indicate a serious problem. Big cracks do. Look especially around windows and where extensions join.
  • The roof. Aside from the foundation, the roof is the most important structural element of a house. Walk the perimeter of the house and take a good look at the roof. Is it missing any shingles? Does it appear weather beaten? Ask your realtor how old it is.
  • The attic. It’s more than just empty space between the ceiling and the roof. You want to know how well insulated it is, how easy it is to access, and how much room is up there for storage.
  • Plumbing. Look under the sinks and check for leaks, signs of water damage, and mold. Run every faucet. Flush every toilet. And don’t be afraid to ask questions, such as how old the boiler is, if the pipes are insulated, and what the pipes are made of.
  • Windows. Examine windows both inside and out. Look for cracked paint, rotting wood, and whether double glazing remains intact. If you see condensation between double-glazed window panes, the windows are not working properly.
  • Water damage. Look for brown water marks on the walls and ceilings, and trust your nose. If you don’t see any signs of water damage but you detect a damp or moldy odor, water damage may be hiding under a fresh coat of paint.

There’s a lot to think about when buying a new home! Check out our blog on the different things to consider, from finances to the future, when deciding on your new house. Happy hunting!



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