- Real Estate
Buying Your 1st House: More Red Flags
As you look to acquire your first new or previously-owned house, there are many red flags to watch out for. Here are but a few that you might encounter before you even enter the house:
Get the lay of the land; home sites with extreme slopes or contours, or with unusual configurations of tree stands and landscaping can present you with either unique living opportunities or particular homeowner headaches. You can visit my related articles on understanding the land and noting the trees for more in-depth information.
Note your neighbors as well. How close are other nearby houses? Are your neighbors’ prime outdoor entertainment areas adjacent to your bedroom windows? Can their pets easily invade your yard? Will you have sufficiently private outdoor areas for your own entertainment and enjoyment? Are there any troublesome overhanging trees or unsightly fences or unkempt yards about you? Can the property accommodate your desired pool, garden, pet run, play equipment, vehicles, or basketball hoop?
Examine the overall condition of the yard, as well as its trees, shrubs, landscaping, fences and ancillary structures (such as sheds, greenhouses, gazebos, play equipment, etc.). Will they require significant investment or ongoing long-term maintenance you are willing and able to provide? Can you envision your eventual dream yard emerging from the raw material before you? Note especially any sunken areas of yard or lawn, as they may be indication of a water or sewer line or underground drain tile in need of repair or replacement. Find out all you can about any in-ground septic system: year of initial installation, layout, capacity, past maintenance and emptying or cleaning, recommended maintenance or service company, service contracts, etc. Are exterior yard lights in good working order?
Make sure that all gutters and downspouts appear to be in good condition, are working properly, and are draining water away from the house and its basement or foundation walls. Inspect all exterior brickwork for chalky efflorescence, and all siding for damage, deterioration, voids, and insect infestation. Visually scan all roofs for straightness and lack of sag, as well as for any discoloration or ‘splotchiness’ of shingling (which may indicate wear or water penetration). Chimneys should be in good condition, and should have any required spark arrestors.
Scan a keen eye across all walks, drives, aprons, patios, decks and stairs. Look for any dilapidation, deterioration, settling, cracking, spalling, warping, discoloration, mold, moss, peeling paint, etc. The costs of repair, replacement and periodic maintenance of such outdoor features can often escalate very rapidly. Make sure that any walks, ramps, stairs, doors, and handrails used for access to and from the house and any outdoor living areas — especially those that are to be used by any elderly, infirm or disabled persons — are all in full compliance with the local codes and in good condition.
With the right amount of scrutiny and curiosity, you can alert yourself to potential problems before you buy.
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