It has been my experience that home buyers follow their hearts. They should, of course, because they are making a huge purchase for their family. It’s an important decision and not one you make every day. However, sometimes it is important to set aside emotions and make a clear thinking decision and make sure your dream home is not a money pit.
Always hire a professional inspector to inspect the home you choose before you complete the sale, even if it’s a foreclosure or short sale. There are five key areas to determine if the home has serious problems; roof, foundation, piping, flooding, and unapproved work.

1. Roof – A new roof can cost between $5,000-$15,000 depending on the type.
• A quick method to determine if the roof is leaking is to look in the attic. Warning – don’t climb into the attic yourself, unless you know how to simply open the attic access panel and look inside.
• With a flashlight check the rafters. They should not show water stains, which indicate leaking.
• With the flashlight off, look up at the roof
• Any pintpoints of light shining through indicate a worn roof.

2. Foundation – A cracked foundation is a serious matter. It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix it, and, in severe cases, may not be fixable. Keep an eye out for these potential warning signs:
• V-shaped cracks (larger at the top than at the bottom) around the perimeter of the house.
• Cracks in interior walls near corners of doors or windows. Look at all the corners of windows and doors, and at joints where walls meet walls, ceilings, or doors for signs that they are pulling away from each other.
• Doors that stick and squeak.
• Leaks and cracks in and around the fireplace.
• Obvious cracks in the brick and mortar.

3. Piping – Copper piping rarely corrodes and is the plumbing of choice these days, but many older homes have galvanized steel plumbing. After 30 years or so it tends to rust out and leak. Replacing it can cost $5,000 or more, so it’s something you’ll want to watch out for. Call a plumber if you have specific questions.

4. Flooding – If a house is poorly situated on its lot, flooding can occur under the house, which can seriously damage the home. In the basement, check for water stains on the foundation indicating flooding during rainly periods. If you find these, call in a soils engineer to confirm the problem and suggest solutions.

5. Unapproved work – All improvements to the property should have been done with permits from the local building department. Work done without permit may be substandard and , if discovered later, may beed to be ripped out. Go down to your local building department and request copies of permits for all work that was done at the property address. Compare these with any additions or replacements done by the seller. If work was not done by permit, you may ask the seller to obtain permits for the work and bring it up to building-code standards before you purchase.

Copyright 2004 by the Texas Association of Realtors, all rights reserved.

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